Monet happy returns: Normandy celebrates 150 years of impressionism

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The dramatic coastline of northern France inspired some of the country’s most famous artists. Now their work will appear in shows across the region

“Every day I’m here, the sky and the sea are different,” says Anastasia Kharchenko, as an incessant drizzle patters on our umbrellas. “Sometimes you can’t even see the horizon because it’s so foggy, but in certain months the colours are just breathtaking.”

We’re standing on a grassy bluff above the town of Étretat on Normandy’s wind-sculpted Alabaster coast, its ragged chalk cliffs looking out into the Channel’s wild waters. Kharchenko is the head of cultural partnerships at the Jardins d’Étretat, a collection of intricately designed gardens that twist and curl down the hillside, dotted with quirky neo-futurist art installations. I apologise for bringing the grim English weather, as we look toward Étretat’s famous chalk arch and needle rock formations, extending from the cliffs like an arm leaning lazily into the raging waves below.

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