Saturday, August 21, 2010

à la plage

In spite of my busy studying schedule, we decided last minute not to entirely forgo a vacation and spent a weekend in Trouville and Deauville, two sister beach towns on France's northern Côte Fleurie:
I loved Normandy's beach culture. It had this really humble, authentically French feeling. It was much less trashy than Nice became in the height of tourist season, and sophisticated in a less ritzy way than the smaller Côte d'Azur towns. This is Trouville's equivalent of a boardwalk--consisting of playgrounds and pony rides for children, gelatto and cocktails for their parents, and a plethora of cute sea-side cafés that were surprisingly cheap given their location. We went to a salad place for lunch (smoked samon for me; roquefort, ladons and norman apples for the boy) just to the right of where I took this photo.

Trouville is also where Flaubert (the author of Madame Bovary) used to take his holidays, so there were various tributes to him scattered around the town. The swan on the side of the hotel in this picture is actually bearing a sleeping Flaubert on its back--it's the "Hôtel Flaubert".
I was in love with this little girl and her huge floppy white hat. Here, she and her sisters are demonstrating one of the favorite French pastimes: pétanque (a ball-rolling lawn game, kind of like bocce ball). The beach had a special roped-off pétanque area (it's ideally played on dirt/sand that is packed down really firmly) and sets of the heavy metal balls to loan, but many families brought their own, plastic, beach-friendly versions.
Trouville town hall:
Trouville patisserie/chocolaterie. The decorative anchors and flower balls were the keystones of the town's picturesque landscaping efforts.
We managed to score a lovely hotel room with a last-minute discount.
The room even came with a sunny balcony, overlooking the center of town:
View of the pub, from the balcony:
And the night view, looking towards the strip of seafood restaurants. The restaurants' menus were virtually identical, but the hoards of French families on holiday didn't seem to mind. In fact, they seemed almost to expect it as a vacation rite: a bottle of white wine chilling in an ice bucket, an appetizer of terrine or smoked meats, an overflowing shellfish platter to share, or, of course, the French favorite: moules frites (mussels and fries). We opted for a fish dinner (with whelks as an appetizer...not sure how I feel about those). Ordering fish in France is always a bit of an adventure, because if the catch of the day varies from basic salmon or tuna I'm usually at a loss for the English translation. We had "julienne," which, looking it up now, is something called "sea burbot," a relative of cod. (It was delicious, in any case.)
We spent our second day in Deauville, separated from Trouville by a stream that empties into its exclusive harbors and boat clubs. Deauville is known as a haven for the rich, and it was evident from the moment we crossed the bridge and were met with polo, private yachts, and fancy homes and condos that were, rather oddly, built in a Strasbourg-esque, tudor style, and looked more like a winter ski home than a beach house to me:
The beach at Deauville was wider and more well-kept, but lacking the seaside cafe/bar culture of Trouville:
Little beach tents for overheated children to rest in seemed to be all the rage:
I don't see many children in Paris (or at least that don't fall into the category of either a) belonging to tourists, or b) the acting and dressing too-old-for-their-age inner-city teenagers) so it was kind of refreshing to see so many happy families and their very adorable, very French children:
Late afternoon shot of the Deauville beach, and its low tide wet sand. I've never seen so many hermit crabs in my life.
Even the stop in Liseux for a train transfer on the way home proved scenic; Tom took this shot of a hilltop basilica in the late evening sunlight.

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