Images of Étretat, France have been playing in my brain for 38 years—this image in particular! Do you recognize it? It’s from Epcot’s utterly captivating Impressions de France movie, which began playing on opening day back in 1982 (when our family was young) and now holds the Guinness World Record for the “longest running daily screening of a film in the same theater.” There was always something wistfully romantic about this elderly couple meandering along the cliffs beneath a stormy sky . . . the spire of an old stone church above them and the immortal beauty of Monet’s chalky cliffs below. It made me think of my parents, who were about that age, and conjured up images of peace and endurance . . . God, man, and nature in harmony despite the looming clouds and darkness coming on.
So, when we toured France with our two youngest sons a few years ago, Étretat made it into the list of “must sees”. . . and has remained in my heart as one of our “best sees!”
Étretat is a tiny “commune” (French, but we’d call it a village in English) of fewer than 1,300 people.
Étretat is best known for the 300-foot chalk cliffs, graceful arches, and magnificent hiking path. The area was made especially famous by Claude Monet (and other prominent french painters and authors) and retains the atmosphere of a quaint beach resort.
Étretat’s other claim to fame is as the last place in France where “The White Bird” (a 1927 biplane) was last seen. Two World War I war heroes were attempting the first ever non-stop from Paris to New York City, but the plane disappeared over the Atlantic and was never recovered—continuing as one of aviation’s greatest unsolved mysteries.
The morning we arrived was as overcast and grey as the evening scene in The Impressions of France.
The cliffs were enshrouded with low-hanging clouds of mist.
We explored the beaches and walkways above and through the cliffs.
Although we knew that the coast of Normandy had been occupied by the Nazis during World War II, I hadn’t realized that their fortifications extended to Étretat.
How many of their sons lost their lives during the raging wars?
I couldn’t help but consider that the elderly couple in The Impressions de France movie would most likely have lived through both World War I and World War II, just like my own parents.
Although our sons kindly refused to acknowledge that Alan and I have become that elderly couple in The Impressions de France, I couldn’t help but sense that in 38 years, we’ve gone from being a young couple in the midst of having children . . . to an elderly couple on the verge of retirement! We haven’t had to live through nearly as much heartache and world destruction as our parents did, but we are heading into a storm during the twilight years of our life— a world war of disease. As of this morning, there are 4,387,438 confirmed cases of COVID-19 globally with 298,392 deaths, and I think before the year is out, these numbers may seem insignificantly small.
Still, my hope and prayer is that our beautiful world will come through the storms intact. May the Lord have mercy on us and heal us. May we find peace to endure and harmony with God and nature as we pilgrim on. May our heavenly father cause his son’s shine to burn off the misty shrouds of death! And, for those who can’t walk along the mountain top but are forced to walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, may the Lord cast long golden beams of light to brighten your way.
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me” (Psalm 23:1-4).