The Côte d'Albâtre (literally the Alabaster Coast) is part of the French coast of the English Channel, corresponding to the coastline of Pays de Caux and forming almost all of the coastline of Seine-Maritime. Since 2009 it has been classified as a Natura 2000 site. It takes its name from the white hue of its high chalk cliffs, including those of Étretat, which stretch for over 120 km, dominating most of the coastline. It is part of the same geological system as the White Cliffs of Dover on the far side of the English Channel.
The Côte runs from the large container port of Le Havre to the small fishing village of Le Tréport, taking in the town of Dieppe, as well as Fécamp (famous for its abbey) and Saint-Valery-en-Caux. Three river valleys punctuate the cliff face, making way for the harbours of Fécamp sheltering on the Valmont river, Dieppe on the Arques, and Tréport on the Bresle.
Artistic, musical and literary associations
From Dieppe to Le Havre the coast presents an uninterrupted cliff, about a hundred metres high and straight as a wall. Here and there that great line of white rocks drops sharply and a little, narrow valley, with steep slopes, shaved turf and maritime rushes, comes down from the cultivated plateau towards a beach of shingle where it ends with a ravine like the bed of a torrent. Nature has made these valleys; the rains of storms have ended with them in the shape of these ravines, trimming what was left of the cliff, excavating down to the sea, the bed of waters which acts as a passage for mankind. Sometimes, a village is snuggled into these valleys, where the wind of the open sea is devoured.
The Côte d’Albâtre was a favourite subject of Impressionist painters, including Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro and Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and was frequented by composers associated with sea such as Claude Debussy and Albert Roussel. Other artists who painted the coastline include Gustave Courbet and Eugène Boudin. The writer Guy de Maupassant grew up on the Côte d'Albâtre at Étretat. His short story "The Englishman of Étretat" (L'Anglais d'Étretat) is based on encounters in 1868 with the English poet Algernon Charles Swinburne, whom he had helped save from drowning.
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