Deauville’s casino and beaches have long held an allure for the ‘Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know’ crowd. From Coco Chanel, Colette and back again to Francois Sagan, since the fin de siècle wealthy thrill-seekers have been attracted by the sea breeze and the rattle of the roulette wheel.
Sagan famously bet on 8, won 8 million francs and went on to purchase the house she rented near Honfleur at 8am in the morning after a rather profitable Nuite Blanche.
Another whom fortune smiled upon was the grand-daddy of the French casino empire, Lucien Barriere, who founded the scene by opening the Normandie Hotel and Casino. Sister hotel the Royal is where you’ll find the stars staying for the cinema festivals; they celebrate Asian films in March and American in September.
Every August the racing folk arrive for the prestigious summer season and yearling sales. You can still watch racehorses gallop on the sands during this time – if you can haul yourself out of bed at 6am.
To get a sense of the romance of the town, visit the broad expansive beach with its subtly changing skies and light. Follow it up with the classic love story Un Homme Et Une Femme starring Anouk Aimee and directed by Claude Lelouche, which is set in Deauville.
Explore the tiny town centre’s distinctive half-timbered houses (Colombages) of the Pays d’Auge, dating from the early 20th century with their épis de faîtage – the animals, plants, and allegorical figures, which adorn the turrets and the rooftops. You’ll also see Art Nouveau and Art Deco masterpieces, such as Villa Les Abeilles at 9 Boulevard Cornuché and the Modernist B-beach facilities, the Pompeian baths, designed by Charles Adda 1924.
Neighbouring Trouville has stayed closer to its fishing village roots although it is the home of the first Barriere Casino. That being said even the casino is definitely more down to earth, you’d be likely to be admitted even walking in off the beach in your Wellies! Don’t miss the Poissoniere where boats pull up and deliver the catch of the day. The best vantage point for watching is directly opposite at either of the two Trouville institutions brasseries Les Vapeurs or Le Central – completely interchangeable and both great. Whelks and mayo, moules frites and gallons of dry, white wine will give you a taste for the region.
Next stop is Honfleur for at least a couple of nights. This intriguing town, with its long-held maritime traditions and deeply religious sentiment is well worth the detour. ‘You don’t live in Honfleur you live Honfleur’, as the saying goes in French. The town is home to a close community with special traditions linked to a shared way of life. This lifestyle centres around making a living from what the sea provides as well as the collective memory of the Second World War occupation and the tough times that accompanied it.
La Petite Folie is the perfect base for your Honfleur adventures being perfectly situated in the best street in town, which is filled with medieval houses and notable vintage furniture and clothing shops. Designed and owned by Penny Vincent and her French partner, Penny is a font of knowledge about the town and its traditions as well as a generous hostess and talented interior designer.
She will delight in helping you get the best out of your stay as well as give you the low-down on where the best places to eat and spot the colourful town characters are, for example the Octogenarian Honfleuroise who will elbow you out of the way to the shrimp stand at the market and still does her washing by hand, in the street.
Explore the old town and the ancient harbour, see the wooden church and sample the market (organic on Wednesday). Then walk up to the Chapelle La Cote de Grace, scene of the Pentecostal Procession. Meander through the medieval streets, the harbour and take in one of the great museums. Maison Eric Satie honours the pianist and composer – the son of Honfleur, Musée Eugène Boudin focuses on the impressionist landscapes of this painter, and the Normandy Culture and Ethnography Museum is housed in the old prison.
Food wise, its better to stay away from the vieux bassin, but there are plenty of great places to eat that are at a height from which you can be looking down into the old harbour. One of the best is Le Bistrot des Artistes, whose multi-skilled patronesse not only prepares the delicious food but serves and mans the phone. Opening times are irregular but just show up.
SaQuaNa, a two-starred Michelin restaurant is also there for the high flyers but for more simple pleasures the Pays d’Auges and Normandy are famous for of course butter, cream and cheese, the most illustrious being Pont l’Eveque, the robust Livarot, Neufchâtel and the faithful Camembert. Pick up cheeses, cider, Calvados and caramels – Gourmandises Normandes being the best – for delicious, edible souvenirs.
Arrive: Deauville – Trouville (one station serves both towns) – two hours by train from Paris St Lazare
Dupont Chocolate Shop
A genteel setting for a coffee and croissant.
38 rue Jean Mermoz
Ph: 02 31 98 66 22
Popular brasserie in the heart of town
160/162 Quai Fernand Moureaux
Ph: 02 31 88 15 24
Another popular brasserie in the town centre
158 Boulevard Fernand Moureaux
Ph: 02 31 88 42 22
Hôtel Le Fer a Cheval
11 rue Victor Hugo
14360 Trouville sur Mer
Ph: 02 31 98 30 20
La Petite Folie
44 rue Haute
06 74 39 46 46
6 Place Pierre Berthelot
02 31 81 56 91
Le Vintage Café
8 Quai des Passagers
02 31 87 41 47
L’Homme de Bois (restaurant)
30-32 rue L’Homme de Bois
02 31 89 75 27
Le Bistro des Artistes
30 Place Pierre Berthelot
02 31 89 95 90