Destination Deauville as airline launches flights to fashionable retreat with a stunning coastline that’s just an hour from Birmingham
One of France’s most fashionable destinations is being brought to Birmingham’s doorstep this summer. The chic Normandy town of Deauville has been the go-to retreat of well-heeled Parisians since the late 19th century. It’s the place where fashion legend Coco Chanel first started selling hats, where the fascination with horse racing is everything and where the beaches, clubs and designer shops are reminiscent of St Tropez. Now it’s set to become a favourite haunt of holidaymakers from the Midlands as Flybe makes the region of Normandy more accessible than ever with flights from Birmingham to Deauville this summer. So, what can they expect to find?
Deauville is steeped in history. An agricultural village overlooking the sea until 1858, it was transformed from a backwater into an ‘elegant kingdom’ to attract the Paris aristocracy by the Duke de Morny. In four years, Deauville changed into a coastal resort, complete with magnificent neo-Norman villas, a racecourse and a rail link to the capital. A casino and a handful of luxury hotels followed and by the 1920s, the town was elegant and sought-after. This was where the designer Coco Chanel launched her stellar career, selling avant-garde hats to the ladies who strolled along the seaside promenade, and where royalty went when they wanted to relax and soak up the sun on the Normandy Riviera. Today, Deauville is one of France’s premier visitor resorts. Its greatest attraction is its coastline – a 1,400 metre-long sandy beach edged by a 1920s boardwalk and sprinkled with colourful sun umbrellas. Swimming in the Channel may be restricted to the summer season, but there’s plenty to do along the coast year-round. There’s a 27-degree Olympic-sized swimming pool, thalassotherapy spa centre, sand-yachting, windsurfing and sea-kayaking.
The jetset congregate at Deauville, partly thanks to the town’s reputation as a yachting mecca, highlighted by Deauville International Week, a top-level international sporting tournament that takes place on the Seine Bay. The town is also well known for its equestrian connections. There are two racetracks – La Touques and Clairefontaine – both of which have a full calendar of events during the racing season. France’s top polo event, the Lucien Barrière Deauville Polo Cup, is held in the town as well as the international event RIDE, which features jumping, eventing and driving competitions. The International Traditional-Carriage Competition attracts more than 30 teams from all over the world, while the yearling auctions are a chance to see some of the world’s most prized horses change hands. For culture junkies, the American Film Festival is a serious rival to the celebrity-studded Cannes Festival.
There’s also the street performance festival Noël au Balcon at Christmas, the World Bridge Festival, the Books & Music Fair and two classical music festivals. Rue des Villas and Place Morny are the top spots for serious boutique shopping with big-name brands such as Ralph Lauren, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Prada and Hermès, as well as a smattering of stylish cafés. A market held on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday, is packed with the finest local produce. Nightlife is well catered for by Deauville’s bars, music venues and clubs, such as the celebrity-favourite Zoo Bar and Le Seven and the high-rolling Louis XVI-style Casino.
EXPLORE THE REGION
A longer stay in Deauville opens up the chance to venture further afield to the likes of Bayeux and its famous tapestry and Rouen where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake. As well as the magnificent cathedral there are two new attractions which have recently opened in Rouen – the Panorama XXL which takes you back to ancient Rome, and The Historial centre dedicated to Joan of Arc. Deauville is also the ideal base for the D-Day Tour of the 400 British and Commonwealth cemeteries, churches and memorials that are scattered across the northern French countryside. A stone’s throw from Deauville across the river, Touques is the traditional fishing town of Trouville-sur-Mer. The town’s wide sandy beaches, winding streets and Belle Epoque architecture have inspired French writers and artists from Flaubert to Boudin. The beach at Trouville was the first in Normandy to have a boardwalk in 1867 and the town has been attracting bathers since the 19th century. Today Trouville is a favourite family seaside resort offering a range of water sports, guided boat trips and an activities club for children.
East along the coast and under 30 minutes from Deauville, is the picturesque town of Honfleur. A favourite subject of the Impressionist artists, the charming fishing port looks much as it did when Monet was a regular visitor. Further along the coast or the River Seine, art lovers can soak up the mood of the Impressionists at the fine art museum in Le Havre, Etretat with its stunning cliffs and Giverny home to Monet’s world famous garden. A few miles inland from Deauville is Normandy’s picture-perfect countryside of the Pays d’Auge where three of Normandy’s A.O.C cheeses originate – Camembert, Pont-l’Evêque and Livarot. It’s also the home of the region’s calvados distilleries and the 2015 Tour de France will pass this way in July.
The 24-mile Cider Route signposts 20 distilleries that will open their cellars, share their production secrets and offer visitors a tipple of their cider, calvados or pommeau. History buffs can trace William the Conqueror’s footsteps starting at his birthplace in Falaise castle a short drive from Deauville then on to Caen with castle and abbeys and finally, Bayeux, home to the famous tapestry. Normandy’s historical capital of Rouen and the D-Day beaches are just an hour’s drive from Deauville airport and the unforgettable Mont-Saint-Michel remains a magical place to visit a little further afield. With a great range of accommodation options from affordable self-catering, to friendly B&Bs and luxurious 5* hotels, Normandy has something to suit everyone’s taste.
DEAUVILLE TAKE 5:
- Coco Chanel launched her career here
- The coastline has more than 1,400 metres of sandy beach
- It is home to two of the region’s top racetracks
- It has a 27 degrees Olympic-sized swimming pool
- The annual American film festival is held here