Summer in Paris can be a steamy soup swimming with tourists. So follow the smart Parisians and get out of town.
The easiest destination is the resort of Deauville on the north Atlantic shoreline. In less than two hours by train from Paris’s St Lazare station, you can be standing on its expansive sandy beach that’s dotted with colourful umbrella tents. Bathed in sunlight and cool sea breezes, Deauville has a panache all its own.
If you are looking for a charming fishing village or a town clinging to its medieval facade, this is not that place. Dreamed up and developed in the mid-1800s by Duke Charles Auguste de Morny and some forward-thinking businessmen who understood that recreation could be as profitable as fishing, Deauville was created to keep visitors with disposable income entertained from morning until night.
It’s a bit like France’s Atlantic City, with casinos and horse-racing as the big draws. There is a Disney-esque atmosphere here, with lots of half-timbered Norman architecture and the iconic hotel, Le Normandy. Unlike Disneyland, this timbering is the real deal.
During the high summer season, the town centre is filled with market stalls where everything from fresh fish to fine linen and cashmere sweaters are sold. Luxury-brand boutiques line the streets around Le Normandy, including Hermes, Yves Saint Laurent, Louis Vuitton and Longchamp. It is a tradition that goes back to Coco Chanel’s boutique on Rue Gontaut-Biron, which she opened in Deauville in 1913 with the help of her lover, Boy Capel.
August is the time of year to visit if you want to see polo or show-jumping or bet on the ponies, but September has the annual American Film Festival. This year, the 41st festival was held on Sept 4-13. Evidence of the star power it produces lines the ironwood boardwalk that runs along the beach. The wooden beach cabins carry the names of film stars and producers who have attended the festival over the years.
Because Deauville sits next to Trouville in the heart of Normandy, some use it as a base camp for visiting the solemn lines of white crosses and D-Day landing beaches of World War II. Omaha Beach is slightly more than an hour away. Also nearby is Bayeux, where the famous tapestry depicts the Norman invasion of England and the victory of William the Conqueror. In the opposite direction from Deauville is the picturesque town of Honfleur. Artists Claude Monet and Gustave Courbet found it worthy of painting.
Depending on your schedule, you can do Deauville in a day. But to really indulge in the escape, make plans to stay. – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/Tribune News Services