The walk to Fécamp would be purely delightful if it were not for the fonds. The fonds are the transverse valleys just mentioned - -the channels, for the most part, of small watercourses which discharge themselves into the sea. The downs subside, precipitately, to the level of the beach, and then slowly lift their grassy shoulders on the other side of the gully. As the cliffs are of immense height, these indentations are profound, and drain off a little of the exhilaration of the too elastic pedestrian. The first fonds strike him as delightfully picturesque, and he is down the long slope on one side and up the gigantic hump on the other before he has time to feel hot. But the second is greeted with that tempered empressement with which you bow in the street to an acquaintance with whom you have met half an hour before; the third is a stale repetition; the fourth is decidedly one too many, and the fifth is sensibly exasperating. The fonds, in a word, are very tiresome. It was, if I remember rightly, in the bottom of the last and widest of the series that I discovered the little town of Yport. Every little fishing village on the Norman coast has, within the last ten years, set up in business as a watering-place; and, though one might fancy that Nature had condemned Yport to modest obscurity, it is plain that she has no idea of being out of the fashion. But she is a miniature imitation of her rivals. She has a meagre little wood behind her and an evil-smelling beach, on which bathing is possible only at the highest tide. At the scorching midday hour at which I inspected her she seemed absolutely empty, and the ocean, beyond acres of slippery seaweed, looked very far away. She has everything that a properly appointed station de bains should have, but everything is on a Lilliputian scale. The whole place looked like a huge Nuremburg toy. There is a diminutive hotel, in which, properly, the head waiter should be a pigmy and the chambermaid a sprite, and beside it there is a Casino on the smallest possible scale. Everything about the Casino is so harmoniously undersized that it seems a matter of course that the newspapers in the reading-room should be printed in the very finest type. Of course there is a reading-room, and a dancing-room ,and a café, and a billiard-room, with a bagatelle board instead of a table, and a little terrace on which you may walk up and down with very short steps. I hope the prices are as tiny as everything else, and I suspect, indeed, that Yport honestly claims, not that she is attractive, but that she is cheap.
I toiled up the perpendicular cliff again, and took my way over the grass, for another hour, to Fécamp, where I found the peculiarities of Yport directly reversed. The place is a huge, straggling village, seated along a wide, shallow bay, and adorned, of course, with the classic Casino and the row of hotels. But all this is on a very brave scale, though it is not manifest that the bravery of Fécamp has won a victory; and, indeed, the local attractions did not strike me as irresistible. A pebbly beach of immense length, fenced off from the town by a grassy embankment; a Casino of a bold and unsociable aspect; a principal inn, with an interminable brown façade, suggestive somehow of an asylum or an almshouse - -such are the most striking features of this particular watering-place. There are magnificent cliffs on each side of the hay, but, as the French say, without impropriety, it is the devil to get to them. There was no one in the hotel, in the Casino, or on the beach; the whole town being in the act of climbing the further cliff, to reach the downs on which the races were to be held. The green hillside was black with trudging spectators and the long sky line was fretted with them. When I say there was no one at the inn, I forget the gentleman at the door who informed me positively that he would give me no breakfast; he seemed to have staid at home from the races expressly to give himself this pleasure. But I went further and fared better, and procured a meal of homely succulence, in an unfashionable tavern, in a back street, where the wine was sound, the cutlets tender, and the serving-maid rosy. Then I walked along - -for a mile, it seemed - -through a dreary, grey grand rue, where the sunshine was hot, the odours portentous, and the doorsteps garnished with aged fishwives, retired from business, whose plaited linen coifs looked picturesquely white, and their faces picturesquely brown. I inspected the harbour and it's goodly basin - -with nothing in it - -and certain pink and blue houses, which surround it, and then, joining the last stragglers, I clambered up the side of the cliff to the downs.