Parisians have their tongues only marginally in cheek when they describe Deauville as the 21st arrondissement. This impossibly pretty town on Normandy’s Calvados coast has been attracting the capital’s elite since the Duc de Morny turned a swampy fishing village into a chic resort in 1860.
Attractions including a hippodrome were soon followed by one lavish villa after another. They’re all in typically half-timbered Norman style, but the architects went a bit wild with towers and turrets. The effect is tastefully Gothic, without being gaudy.
In spite of the genteel atmosphere, there’s an egalitarian air about the place. Take a stroll along the two-kilometre sandy beach, and you soon discover that almost all of it is public. Only a few stretches are dotted with Deauville’s trademark multicoloured parasols. As if Deauville wasn’t glamorous enough, the seafront promenade is lined with beach huts with the names of every film star and director who has attended the late-summer Deauville American Film Festival (www.festival-deauville.com). The film festival, unlike many others in Europe, is open to the public.
A comfortable bed
Le Royal BarriÃ¨re (www.lucienbarriere.com) is the grande dame of Deauville hotels – a palatial pile with glorious sea views. There’s classically French decor throughout this five-star property, along with a discreet outdoor pool and supremely elegant dining at Le CôtÃ© Royal. Double rooms cost from €275 (Dh1,143).
A few minutes’ walk from the Hippodrome de la Touques is the charming three-star Hôtel Augeval (www.augeval.com), housed in two Norman-style villas. Cosy rooms have French country furnishings and lots of brocade, and most of the rooms have balconies. The heated pool in the fragrant garden is a bonus. Doubles cost from €95 (Dh395).
The newest five-star addition to the hotel scene is across the River Touques in neighbouring Trouville. Les Cures Marines (www.lescuresmarines.com) takes up a large wing of a sprawling 1912 casino, with breezy modern rooms and sea views. There’s an enormous thalassotherapy spa, as well as a classy bar and restaurant. Doubles cost from €150 (Dh623).
Find your feet
Deauville is compact, and you’re never far from the beach and its waterside cafes, pleasure port, seaside spa and aquatics centre. The central Place de Morny hums with cafes and food shops, and the shopping/foodie theme continues along the eight streets that fan out from the square. One of them, Rue EugÃ¨ne Colas, leads to the tourist office (www.deauville.fr) and the town hall.
Walk east past the railway station, and you cross the river into Trouville, Deauville’s family-friendly neighbour, which is a perfect complement. Trouville’s old town is an attractive warren of narrow streets, some of which lead to a huge beach with plenty of family-focused attractions.
Meet the locals
There’s a cool Latin vibe at Brok CafÃ©, near the casino. This Deauville institution, which is open only in the evenings, has been a hangout for the polo and racing crowd for about 20 years. A new arrival is the Spanish-influenced La Plancha Bar Ã Tapas (www.laplancha-deauville.com), which has live music on Saturdays.
Book a table
There’s a delicate Asian touch to the menu at L’Essentiel (www.lessentiel-deauville.com). The husband-and-wife chefs – he’s from Paris, she’s South Korean – have added dishes such as Wagyu beef (€36 [Dh150]) and fried egg with tobiko (€16 [Dh66]) to more-traditional French staples such as grilled duck breast (€30 [Dh125]).
They have a delightfully heavy hand with truffles at Le Comptoir et la Table (www.lecomptoiretlatable.fr), in an enviable location opposite Deauville Yacht Club. Italian flavours dominate the menu, which includes a sumptuous risotto with truffle cream and scallops (€38 [Dh158]) and a decadent burger with truffles and foie gras (€29.50 [Dh123]).
For less exalted but dependable fare, try the generous pizzas at Il Parasole (www.ilparasole.com), which cost from €9.50 (Dh39).
It’s hard to find a more laid-back place for a cluster of designer boutiques than the square by the casino, with stores including Ralph Lauren, HermÃ¨s and Louis Vuitton. They seem to lose their exclusive ambience once the sea air hits them. Deauville’s food market is a colourful sight among the half-timbered stalls in the market square.
What to avoid
If you plan to go on a shopping spree, bear in mind that many of the shops close in the middle of the week, but they’re usually open on Sundays.
Trouville’s Sunday morning market is a lively, sprawling affair, with sublime local produce. Farther along the quay is the fish market. Pull up a seat at one of the stalls for a freshly prepared platter of fruits de mer. Poissonnerie Pillet-Saiter (www.poissonnerie-pilletsaiter.fr) is exceptionally good.
Return flights with Etihad (www.etihad.com) from Abu Dhabi to Paris cost from Dh3,295, including taxes. Flight time is about seven hours. From Paris, trains to Trouville-Deauville cost from €12 (Dh50) each way and take about two hours.
Source: art & life