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Deauville - A Stylish Destination for the Smart Set

26/02/2016 11:03 GMT | Updated 25/02/2017 10:12 GMT

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Bathing Huts with Dedications - Photo: Peter Morrell

I was standing on the Promenade des Planches at Deauville, pristine sands stretched to the horizon. Behind me was a row of bathing huts each dedicated to a Hollywood great, from Shelley Winters to Lee Marvin. The stars were drawn here by the annual American Film Festival held every September in the International Convention Centre.

I felt I was in a stylish black and white 1960s French movie and was partial right. On this beach, after seeing a woman and her child, director Claude Lelouch conceived the idea for the film classic A Man and a Woman starring Anouk Aimée and Jean-Louis Trintignant.

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The Casino at Deauville - Photo: Peter Morrell

The town exudes an atmosphere of effortless elegance. The spot where the red carpet is rolled out for the stars is just in front of the famous Casino Barrière and dotted all around are substantial Belle Époque villas built by wealthy Parisians. The town is only a two hour train ride from Paris and has long been a favourite with the smart set.

La Touques Racecourse

A stroll from the town is La Touques race course, horses are a great passion in the area. Stable lads rode the sinuous thoroughbreds to the training gallops and the thumping hooves of horses in full flight created the ambience of race day thrill and excitement.

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Horse going to the Gallops at Deauville - Photo: Peter Morrell

Villa Strassburger

Overlooking the racetrack is the grandest property in town, Villa Strassburger. Originally built for Henri de Rothschild it was acquired in 1924 by American horse breeder Ralph Strassburger. You can tour the house, frozen in 1950s style, which is filled with happy ghosts. A caricature on the wall recalled the glamour, showing Ralph dancing the quickstep with the Maharani of Baroda.

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Villa Strassburger - Photo: Peter Morrell

The town has a wealth of places to eat. La Cantine, a charming brasserie was my choice for lunch. With the sea only metres away fish figured heavily on the menu. My starter of baby whelks fried in garlic had a punchy flavour and the salmon and ling duo for the main was light and fresh.

Deauville Market

The lively street market had stalls groaning with local produce, fruit, vegetables, jams, charcuterie cheeses, fish and the area's most famous product, Calvados or apple brandy. You can either drink this young and appley or aged when it has a more complex character.

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The Vibrant Market at Deauville - Photo: Peter Morrell

Les Manoirs de Tourgéville

The main reason for my trip was for rest, relaxation and rejuvenation. Home for two days was the lovely Les Manoirs de Tourgéville. Just outside the town, it's in a very peaceful countryside setting and originally built by next door neighbour, the now famous Claude Lelouch.

It's constructed in traditional half timbered style, four two storey 'round houses' in the grounds have separate suites that can be joined for larger families.

I was in the main hotel arranged round a grassed quadrangle, in summer you can dine here al fresco or simply soak up the sun. My three storey suite had a ground floor sitting room with massive open fire, a well appointed bathroom on a mezzanine and a large bedroom on the top floor. Each suite had its own terrace with views across the grounds.

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Les Manoirs de Tourgéville - Photo: Peter Morrell

My rejuvenation started with a full body massage at the luxurious spa. Within minutes my rapid heartbeat and shallow breathing caused by London life faded and the next hour was a heaven of total relaxation.

A drink before dinner by a log fire in the comfortable bar was the perfect pre-cursor to a meal in the '1899′ restaurant. It's named after the birth year of Sylvain Floirat, creator of Les Manoirs and its sister hotel the famous Byblos in St Tropez.

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The Bar - Photo: Peter Morrell

Chef at '1899′ is Emmanuel Andrieu who has devised a menu based around local and seasonal ingredients. The starter of roast scallops in a creamy sauce was delicious and main of sautéed sole meunière with mashed potato a delight. A flinty Chablis from the well curated wine list was an ideal companion. The choice of dessert was the chef's choice. I retired to the bar for an aged calvados, the grand finale.

Next day the pool looked inviting for a swim but breakfast was more tempting, offering freshly baked croissants, pastries, meats and cheeses. In fact all the meals I had at the hotel were beautifully cooked, stand outs were the fish soup and a very flavourful Normandy beefburger.

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The Pool - Photo: Peter Morrell

Honfleur

If Deauville is the sophisticated child then nearby Honfleur is the raffish younger sibling. This charming little town with cobbled streets and timbered houses is just up the coast on the Seine Estuary. Restaurants, art galleries and boutiques are clustered around a quaint yacht harbour.

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The Harbour at Honfleur - Photo: Peter Morrell

Here Claude Monet set up the École de Honfleur, part of the Impressionist movement. He was drawn to the Côte Fleurie, the Flowery Coast, by its raw natural beauty and the unique luminosity of the light.

Near the harbour the church of Saint Catherine of Alexandria is built entirely of wood, the interior has a warm cosy feel unlike stone churches. The bell tower stands apart from the main building, also built of wood there was nervousness about it collapsing on the parishioners!

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A Cobbled Alley in Honfleur - Photo: Peter Morrell

After dinner in the hotel that evening I had the choice of watching a film in the cinema or relaxing in the bar. I chose the latter, Les Manoirs de Tourgéville, the tranquil countryside and interesting towns had worked their magic. I was feeling totally rested and rejuvenated and wanted to revel in it.

Useful Information

Getting to Deauville is easy, take Eurostar to Paris Gare du Nord then a two hour train ride from Paris Saint-Lazare. In the summer Ryanair fly direct from London Stansted to Deauville airport..

Les Manoirs de Tourgéville

Chemin de l'Orgeuil - Tougéville 14 800 Deauville

www.lesmanoirstourgeville.com

La Cantine

90 Rue Eugène Colas, 14800 Deauville -

www.lacantinedeauville.fr

Villa Strassburger

2 Avenue Strassburger, 14800 Deauville

Deauville Tourism -

www.deauville.pro

Honfleur Tourism -

http://en.ot-honfleur.fr/