In my case, discovering  France followed an “almost” geometric pattern.

The first area chosen for exploration was Normandy because it was the closest  and represented the “head” of France. It was a very good choice. Normandy represented for me, a mountaineer, the encounter with another kind of fantastic landscape that was not a mountain. The Normandy Coast actually forms the southern part of the English Channel. Impressive walls, almost vertical and rocky, of varying colors, depending on the angle and intensity of light, border some waters of a perfect blue that seen from  the distance, on clear days, merges seamlessly with the sky in an infinite horizon. But the most impressive thing for me was the high and low tides game I witnessed for the first time. It is impressive to walk along sharp rocks and ephemeral stony beaches, and just after a few hours the place can be completely covered by sometimes turbulent waters but still “forced” to stop in front of the imposing massive geological wall.

In all this fantastic struggle, from place to place, there are some rock formations at a certain distance from the wall, many as sharp as needles, which are the result of the battle between water and stone. The result of this fierce conflict in many cases generates all sorts of hollows on these needles or, on certain portions where these are, or have been, connected to the costal wall. And in this way, all kind of natural architectural masterpieces are born and are represented by various arches under which during the low tide you can walk, like in a citadel. The natural architect that generates a spectacular presentation of the Normandy rocky coast  is the rock-water conflict. The master finish is ensured by the wind that is almost ubiquitous.

One of the most famous places to highlight this particular type of natural architectural portrait is Etretat. There is everything I described above: rocky wall, ephemeral beaches with almost perfectly round stones, needle-like rocks and arches, low and high tide, wind and pelicans. The place is almost a visual paradise. It was an important vantage point for the Impressionist painters, that followed the route of the Seine, from Paris to Le Havre, so they could not resist to deviate here to capture on canvas what nature has created.

At every encounter with Etretat or Normandy, I am overjoyed. It is a place where there is so much visual inspiration that attracts you like a magnet. The visual expression is limitless. You can start from the details of multi-coloured and textured structures then go to the water and the bright-dynamic reflections of the divine sun in the sometimes swirling waves, and easily moving away to capture the magnificent scenery created by those details in which you can always introduce, as dynamic elements, some active pelicans or passing tourists.

In this overview image I managed to capture this spectacular place in the north of France, Etretat. The set designer was the friendly Sun, providing a fantastic chromatic scheme for the scene in that moment.