Follow me to …
Follow Bill and his wife Helen on the French roads visiting France with their France Rail Pass.
2H00 by CORAIL INTERCITES
Trains leave St. Lazare in Paris almost every hour for the prettiest train station in Normandy. I decided that we should take one of them. Helen had just finished a difficult week, telephoning her sister every day in Chicago until doctors solved the problem, and some luxurious self-care would be restorative.
We knew about Deauville. Her friends Patrick and Nicole had been there and Nicole raved about the thalasso therapy on the
beach. For me, thalasso therapy is basically a spa with a bias for sea water, while spas in the mountains are oriented to hot mineral springs. But Helen loves the sea, and she loved the idea of a break in Deauville. Later she could tell me the difference between sea water and hot springs.
I mentioned the train station. Deauville got its big start as a destination in the 1863 when the railroad from Paris reached the beach, making weekend trips possible. The station is at the edge of Deauville, across the Touques River from Trouville-sur-Mer, and it serves both towns. Where Deauville is elegant, Trouville is a pretty beach town.
The station is classed as an historic monument. It was designed to resemble Norman architecture, with steep roofs and fake half-timbering and a neat map of Deauville and Trouville in the 1930s painted at one end of the main hall. Perhaps saving on blueprint paper, the same architect designed a similar station at the same time for a town in the Congo.
We were bound for the Hotel Normandy Barriere, a five-star establishment. A lot of Deauville was built in the 1910s and the Normandy was the first of the grand palaces there. It is the centerpiece of a group that owns luxury resorts and casinos all over Europe, including Deauville’s Royal Barriere and Hotel du Golf Barriere. There are good, less expensive places to stay in Deauville, but I wanted to treat Helen to something special.
I asked at the desk if we could have the room Meryl Streep had when she was here to present “Julie & Julia” at the annual American Film Festival. Helen has been a Julia Child fan for years. The clerk was professional, and wouldn’t even say if Meryl had been in his hotel. Oh well. We took a very nice "classic" room with heavy drapes and wallpaper that are strong contrast to the modern decor in the Paris hotel Helen chose, but you go on vacation "to change the air", as the French say.
Out our front door was the sea, or the English Channel, to be precise. And running along this beach between town and water is one of the first boardwalks in France, made to keep the sand out of your good shoes. We strolled along, admiring on one side the pretty people on the beach, and on the other, the changing rooms with the names of movie stars. Beyond them are the wonderful Norman houses that resemble each other but aren’t cut from the same cookie cutter.
“I’d like a room in that tower,” said Helen, nodding her head toward a castle-like house. “I’ll go with you,” I answered in my most seductive voice. She grinned.
We lunched together at the Thalasso Spa. Helen planned an easy afternoon, with a massage, whirlpool, sauna and relaxing room. She didn’t want an algae mask. They invited me to use the gym or Olympic swimming pool, but I preferred to shift for myself. I didn’t know if I would go to the casino, the horse track or the golf course, all main attractions here.
The town has enough space for some big parties. Deauville has hosted G20 politicians, European poker players, festivals for Hollywood and Asian films, and horse auctions.
In the end, I walked around, window shopping at the nice boutiques. The guide book said that Coco Chanel’s first clothing store was here in Deauville. I actually shopped at one store, La Belle-Iloise Deauville, selling canned sardines. The writer in me couldn’t resist such a rare pearl. We’ll eat them back in Paris. I had made other plans for tonight with the help of the hotel’s concierge.
As the afternoon waned I drank a hot chocolate under the awning at a sidewalk café, watching people. I had a notebook with me and pretended to write important thoughts. The writer F. Scott Fitzgerald mentioned Deauville in “The Great Gatsby.” But mainly I was happy that Helen was relaxing. She was rosy when I picked her up, smiling like a schoolgirl. She said the salt water treatments were just fine. Back at the hotel she made herself beautiful for dinner. We were taking a taxi 10 miles up the road to the Sa Qua Na restaurant in Honfleur with its two Michelin stars. We had the lotte, an ugly fish with firm white flesh, poached in limes, coriander and lovage, a European herb I didn’t know about before.
The next morning, before seeking a train back to Paris, we walked hand in hand to the port and back to look at nice boats. It had been a sweet visit.
NOT TO BE MISSED
France Rail Pass’partner:
DEAUVILLE - PARIS ST LAZARE
2H00 by CORAIL INTERCITES
* (2011 frequency)
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|Last Updated on Tuesday, 06 December 2011 15:34|