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Chanel or high water: Fashionistas by the sea in beautiful Normandy

© ShutterstockSun worshippers relax on the beach in Trouville, north-west France
Sun worshippers relax on the beach in Trouville, north-west France

Fans of the film Coco Before Chanel will be familiar with the seaside town of Deauville and its part in the making of the legend.

Steeped in fashion (it’s where the founder of the multi-million-pound beauty brand opened her first boutique in 1913), the picture-perfect town’s history dates back to the 1860s when Dr Joseph Olliffe and the Duc de Morny outlined their vision of a picturesque town where Paris’s most wealthy could maximise their leisure time.

With its racecourse and beautiful Belle Epoque villas, Deauville became the place to be seen, notably for its casino which would inspire Ian Fleming’s first James Bond novel.

Since Loganair launched services from Glasgow to Southend, it’s easy to hop on a Flybe flight from the south-east coast to Caen, then complete the final 53-mile leg of the journey to Deauville by road.

While the A-listers who frequent the American Film Festival which takes place here every September might opt for the brace of five-star properties elsewhere in the resort, we find the Hôtel Mercure Deauville Centre comfortable with superior rooms boasting a covered balcony ideal for a quiet morning coffee.

Keen to explore, we opt for some star-spotting over drinks in Le Bar du Normandy. Bartender Marc Jean has been shaking and stirring his way through the cocktail menu here since the ’80s. He makes us a Lucile, which features Calvados, the apple brandy which is Normandy’s signature spirit, with rose, elderflower cordial and a perfect stencilled garnish.

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Horse riding on the beach at sunset

Deauville is famous for its evening horse rides along the beach, and La Mangeoire equestrian centre caters for beginners as well as those more experienced. It’s a chilled-out way to explore the seafront and enjoy the sunset before heading out.

For dinner, we choose L’Étage, located at the summit of the seafront Novotel hotel. The combination of local produce and wines, enjoyed overlooking the beach, makes for the perfect way to end the day.

Up early the following morning, we go exploring again and just a short walk from the racecourse sits Villa Strassburger. Built in 1907 by architect Georges Pichereau for Henri de Rothschild, it was bought by wealthy American Ralph Beaver Strassburger after the First World War.

Now a listed monument, the historic residence was gifted to the town by his son in 1980 and remains frozen in time, an interesting glimpse at a past life of glitz and glamour.

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The seaside resort’s gambling halls which inspired the first James Bond novel, Casino Royale

With our second afternoon stretching out, we opt to find out more about the region’s foremost drink after our cocktail-hour taster the previous night, done by making the short trip to the recently-opened Calvados Experience in Pont-l’Evêque. An interactive tour outlines the history and production processes involved in making Calvados.

An informative tour ends with a tasting at the well-stocked bar before exiting through the even better-stocked gift shop.

No trip to Deauville would be complete without a visit to its immediate neighbour and older sibling, Trouville.

The village can more than hold its own in terms of beauty, postcard-perfect buildings and a beautiful beach, while its fishing port roots means it the ideal spot to sample seafood.

We enjoy a simple but delicious lunch in the fish market, which dates back to 1840. The neo-Norman-style market was built in 1936, and became a listed historic monument in 1991.

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A quiet moment on Deauville’s waters

While we can’t always guarantee the weather for a day at the seaside, a short trip to Deauville and Trouville promises a weekend of excellent food and drink, wonderful sights and enough sunshine to enjoy the famous beaches.

Epitomising all that Normandy is famous for, it’s easy to see why people have been flocking to the picturesque towns – loved by artists and fashionistas alike – for years.

Facts

Loganair fly daily from Glasgow to Southend, from £39.99 and Flybe flies from Southend to Caen from £44.

Rooms at the Hôtel Mercure Deauville Centre start from £85.

PS

At one point, Deauville was nothing more than a village above seaside marshland. The resort as it is now was built on the drained marsh. Trouville was one of the first ever coastal resorts to be developed in France and attracted literary giants such as Flaubert and Proust as well as the artist Monet to its shores.