Deauville, France, exists for day and nighttime fun

Deauville's signature brightly colored umbrella tents along the town's expansive shoreline. (Patricia Sheridan/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/TNS)


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’ St. Lazare station, you can be standing on Deauville’s expansive sandy beach dotted with colorful umbrella tents. Bathed in sun and cool sea breezes, Deauville has a panache all its own.

If you want a charming fishing village or a town clinging to its medieval facade, this is not the place. 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 incomes entertained from morning to 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. During the high summer season, the town center is filled with market stalls that sell everything from fresh fish to fine linen and cashmere sweaters. Luxury boutiques line the streets around the Normandy hotel, including Hermes, Yves Saint Laurent, Louis Vuitton and Longchamp. It’s a tradition that goes back to Coco Chanel’s boutique on Rue Gontaut-Biron, which she opened in Deauville in 1913.

August is the month to visit if you want to see polo or show jumping or bet on the ponies, but September has the annual American Film Festival (Sept. 4-13 this year). Evidence of the star power it produces lines the ironwood boardwalk along the beach. The wooden beach cabins carry the names of film stars and producers who have attended the festival throughout the years.

Because Deauville sits next to Trouville in the heart of Normandy, some use it as a base for visiting the D-Day landing beaches of World War II. Omaha Beach is just over 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.

The horse in the Deauville train station honors the century old tradition of polo, horse racing and show jumping that attracts millions of visitors each year to this French seaside resort. (Patricia Sheridan/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/TNS)

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