Wednesday, January 19, 2022

What’s New in Paris, France: Artsy & Cool Things To See & Do

By Jacquelin Carnegie
Bourse de Commerce
(photo: JCarnegie)

When it’s COVID-safe to venture out of the house again, you’ll be amazed at all the wonderful venues in Paris that have been created and/or renovated:
TREATS FOR FANS OF ART, ARCHITECTURE & HISTORY
Pinault Collection

Bourse de Commerce, 2 Rue de Viarmes; www.pinaultcollection.com
1st arrondissement, Metro: Rivoli or Les Halles (Closed Tuesdays; Fee)

The Pinault Collection is housed in the unbelievably-magnificent Bourse de Commerce, an 18th-century, glass-domed, round, neoclassical building, reminiscent of Rome’s Pantheon. It’s located in the center of Paris in the revamped Les Halles district, near the Pompidou Centre and the Louvre.
François Pinault--founder of the global luxury group Kering which includes Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent and Balenciaga, and the owner of Christie’s auction house—has been a passionate, contemporary art collector for more than 40 years. That collection is now 10,000 diverse works by some 400 artists, both emerging and well-known including Cy Twombly, Cindy Sherman, Damien Hirst, Kerry James Marshall, David Hammons, and Antonio Obá.
For the past 20 years, Pinault has wanted to establish a museum in Paris to share this impressive collection with the public. The Bourse de Commerce is the
Bourse de Commerce
(photo: JCarnegie)
perfect place. The building, a former commodities exchange, has been beautifully-renovated by the fantastic, Japanese architect Tadao Ando. The Bourse is an artwork in itself with its glorious rotunda and resplendent, glass cupola. Beneath the dome, restored, 19th-century frescoes depict global trade of the past (spices and slaves). This is in contrast to the “woke,” cutting-edge artworks in the galleries below, many by Black artists.
In addition to groovy paintings and sculptures, there’s a gallery dedicated to photography. On the top floor, there’s a ritzy restaurant, Halle aux Grains. If you can’t afford that, there’s a free “water maker” that even dispenses seltzer. Also at this spot, there are chairs and benches where you can recoup and a balcony from which to admire the rotunda below. In addition to the changing exhibits and artwork on display, there are concerts, films & lectures at the museum. Pinault, a self-made billionaire, is one high-school dropout with great taste!

Hôtel de la Marine
2 place de la Concorde; www.hotel-de-la-marine.paris
8th arrondissement, Metro: Concorde (Open: Daily, late-night Fridays; Fee)

Located on the Place de la Concorde, the newly-renovated Hôtel de la Marine (Palace of the Navy) is not only drop-dead gorgeous, it’s also really fun to visit thanks to the extremely-entertaining Audio-Guide.
(photo: Courtesy Hôtel de la Marine)

Originally built in the 18th century by King Louis XV’s top architect, Ange-Jacques Gabriel, it has been stunningly-renovated. The building was first the Garde-Meuble de la Couronne, the institution in charge of royal furnishings. Hence, there were storage areas, workshops for restorations and repairs, and a gallery, open to the public, that displayed the crown jewels and other finery. Also, the Intendant in charge, a prestigious position, had a lavish apartment here. First, Pierre-Elisabeth de Fontanieu (1767-84), then Marc-Antoine Thierry de Ville d’Avray (1784-92) lived in the palace.
During the French Revolution, the Naval ministry moved in and stayed for about 200 years. Thus, it became the Hôtel de la Marine. Now, the building’s original, magnificent decor by Jacques Gondouin has been restored to its former splendor by interior designers Joseph Achkar & Michel Charrière, along with some 200 fine craftsmen, under the auspices of the Centre des Monuments Nationaux.
(photo: Courtesy Hôtel de la Marine)

After all this painstaking-restoration work, the palace is open as a museum that takes you back to the Garde-Meuble glory days of the late 18th century when Intendant de Ville d’Avray was in residence. The playfully-amusing Audio-Guide, “The Confidant,” has the de Ville d’Avray’s maid and valet show you around the palace, pointing out important furnishings that they have to dust or fix, along with some tidbits of gossip. Even the master and mistress of the house chime in. It’s a wonderful way to learn about the history of this magnificent monument. Before leaving, be sure to step out on the “loggia,” the long balcony that overlooks the Place de la Concorde with a view of the Obelisk and the Eiffel Tower. Afterwards, if you need refreshments, there are two fancy restaurants, Café Lapérouse & Mimosa, in the lovely courtyard.

Musée Carnavalet
23 Rue de Sévigné; www.carnavalet.paris.fr
3rd arrondissement, Metro: Chemin Vert or Saint Paul (Closed Mondays; Free; fee for special exhibits)
(photo: Antoine Mercusot/Chatillon Architects)

After a major, five-year renovation, this fascinating history museum—that I’ve always encouraged people to visit (5 Not-To-Be-Missed Museums in Paris)—has finally reopened its doors. 
The Musée Carnavalet first opened in 1880 in a magnificent, 16th-century mansion in the Marais district. Over time, the museum expanded into the adjoining mansion and acquired thousands of artifacts, but it was never revamped since it opened. Now, Paris’ captivating history unfolds along the museum’s new, chronological layout: Prehistory, Antiquity and the Middle Ages; Paris from 1547 to the 18th Century; The French Revolution to the Early-19th Century; The Late-19th Century to Today.
Musée Carnavalet
(photo: Antoine Mercusot/Chatillon Architects)
Peek into gloriously-decorated Paris parlors of yore, walk into Art Nouveau designed shops of the past, and admire historical relics such as Voltaires writing chair and Marcel Proust’s famous cork-lined bedroom. All this plus everything from Marie-Antoinette’s shoe to a prehistoric canoe. For refreshments, a restaurant has been added, opening onto the glorious, courtyard gardens.

[Editor’s Note: Please keep in mind that during COVID, and for the foreseeable future, many places require: Proof of Vaccination, Masks, & Reservations &/or Tickets purchased in advance for a particular day/time and may be open on a reduced schedule.]

STYLISH SHOPPING & DINING
La Samaritaine
Rue du Pont Neuf/9 Rue de la Monnaie; www.dfs.com
1st arrondissement; Metro: Pont Neuf
(photo: JCarnegie)

Opened in 1870, La Samaritaine was a department store for the masses. Its slogan: “On trouve tout à la Samaritaine!” (One can find everything at La Samaritaine). But, due to a number of modern-day factors, it was forced to close in 2005. For almost 20 years, the beautiful, department store buildings, right on the Seine river by the Pont Neuf bridge, sat empty. Now, there’s good and bad news:
The luxury-goods conglomerate LVMH has renovated and preserved the store’s architecture and fabulous, Art Nouveau features and fixtures. But, now, its goods are only affordable to the ultra-wealthy. There’s a selection of women’s and men’s designer, fashion brands including accessories, jewelry and watches, top-of-the-line beauty products and perfumes, and items for the home. Also, Personal Shopping services and a spa as well as eateries and fancy-food shops.
(photo: JCarnegie)
 But, browsing is free! You can admire the stunning façade, then go to the top floor to swoon in front of the painstakingly-restored, iconic peacock fresco beneath the Art Nouveau glass roof. The Voyage restaurant is there, if you can afford it. If not, another option is a Guided Tour; find out more about La Samaritaine’s history and the stunning architecture for a nominal fee (in French & English).

Le Tout-Paris - Hotel Cheval Blanc Paris
8 Quai du Louvre; www.chevalblanc.com
1st arrondissement; Metro: Pont Neuf

Part of the former La Samaritaine store, facing the Seine river, has been converted into a 5-star hotel, Cheval Blanc Paris. LVMH selected French architect Édouard François to execute the makeover while American architect/designer Peter Marino handled the snazzy, interior design. There are 72 guest suites, a spa & swimming pool, and a few eateries. While most people will not be able to afford to stay here, you don’t have to be a hotel guest to enjoy a drink or a meal at the terrific Le Tout-Paris, on the top floor, with a great terrace and splendid views of “tout Paris” (all of Paris)! The kitchen is run by chef William Béquin and even the hot chocolate is the best you’ll ever taste.
Le Tout-Paris @wearecontents


GOOD TO KNOW
Visiting France during COVID: As you know by now, the COVID situation—as well as requirements for travel--is constantly changing. At the moment, visitors to France need to be vaccinated (& possibly also have a booster shot). In order to enter bars, restaurants, museums and monuments, and all manor of public transportation, etc. a “Pass Sanitaire” (Health Pass) has been required. In 
2022, that will become a “Pass Vaccinal” (Vaccine Pass).
Travelers will need to obtain this once in France at select pharmacies with a passport & vaccine card (Fee: currently around 40 Euros). Masks also need to be worn. Check the French Foreign Ministry’s site for all the latest, constantly-changing requirements. 
COVID Tests in France: Most pharmacies offer rapid-result, antigen tests without an appointment; results in about 15 minutes (Fee: currently around 25 Euros). PCR tests can be done at some pharmacies and clinics, but require an appointment; results in about 24 hours (Fee: currently around 50 Euros).

Friday, January 7, 2022

History & Literature Lovers Flock to Rouen, France

By Jacquelin Carnegie
Cathedral ©RNTC/JFLange

There are so many beautiful and fascinating places to visit in France’s Normandy region, it’s hard to know where to begin, but the city of Rouen is a good place to start. While it’s the site of important French history and the birthplace of literary greats, it’s also a very vibrant, pretty place, full of life. Just wandering around Rouen's historic center of winding, cobblestone streets, ancient buildings, and picturesque, half-timbered houses, it will be love at first sight.

ARCHITECTURAL MASTERPIECES
Rouen has an amazing array of spectacular Medieval and Renaissance structures and sites, including around 2,000, splendid, timber-framed houses, some dating back to the 14th century. In fact, Rouen is classified as a Ville et Pays d’Art et d’Histoire (City of Art & History) to ensure all these buildings are preserved. Here are some not-to-be-missed highlights:
(photo: JCarnegie)

Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Rouen 
(Place de la Cathédrale/Enter: 3 Rue Saint-Romain) – It’s hard to take your eyes off this magnificent Gothic structure. The cathedral's main edifice was started in the 12th century, rebuilt in the 13th, then embellished again in the 15th- and 16th century. Impressionist artist Claude Monet painted it more than 30 times, from dawn till dusk. (Check out the 24/7 webcam to see for yourself how it looks in different light & enjoy the “Cathédrale de lumière” light show, July-Sept.)

Eglise Saint-Maclou (Place Barthélémy) – This Gothic church was built in 1437 and dedicated to Saint Malo. As lovely as the cathedral, it’s a beautiful blend of different architectural styles from Gothic to Baroque.
Saint-Maclou ©RNTC/JFLange
 
Aître Saint-Maclou (186 Rue Martainville) - It’s hard to believe that this serene courtyard was once a “Black Plague” cemetery, surrounded by an ossuary. Today, it’s a nice stop to sit and recover from sightseeing. There’s a café and a little gallery highlighting ceramic works by local artists, La Galerie des Arts du Feu

Abbatiale Saint-Ouen (Place du Général de Gaulle) - This church of Saint Ouen Abbey was part of one of the most powerful Benedictine monasteries in Normandy between the 14th and 16th centuries. Now, it’s also a site for cultural events.

Palais de Justice (36 Rue aux Juifs) - Built in the early 16th century, this magnificent building was first the Exchequer of Normandy (Court of Justice), then the Parliament of Normandy. Now, it houses Rouen's law courts (why you can’t go in for a tour, but you can stand outside and gawk).
Gros-Horloge (photo: JCarnegie)

Gros Horloge (Rue du Gros-Horloge) – Originally part of the adjacent, belfry tower built in 1389, the Gros Horloge (huge clock) was moved to the Renaissance arch that spans the street in 1527. The stunning, decorative, astronomical clock has two identical dials--one on each side of the arch. The clock face is a blue, starry sky with 24 golden sun-rays. The phases of the moon are indicated as are the days of the week. On the arch, sculpted sheep represent the wool industry (how Rouen became a wealthy town).
Rue de Gros-Horloge – This is one of Rouen’s main shopping streets. Along this charming, cobblestone route, lined with lovely, half-timbered houses, there’s cute boutiques and high-end stores, along with places to grab a snack. It leads to the cathedral and all the way to the Place du Vieux Marché (old market square).

Le Petit Train de Rouen (25 Place de la Cathédrale) - A really fun way to get an overview of Rouen’s town center is on this little, sightseeing train. Hop on in front of the Cathedral and head off on a 45-minute, fact-filled ride.

FRANCE’S PATRON SAINT: JOAN OF ARC
In Medieval times, during the Hundred Years War in the 15th century, English forces occupied much of northern France, including Normandy and its capital, Rouen. British King Henry V, claimed the French throne, over the embattled, French crown prince Charles of Valois (later Charles VII). A peasant girl, Jeanne d’Arc (Joan of Arc), believed that God had chosen her to lead France to victory over the English and restore Charles to the French throne. With no military training, Joan led the French army to victory over the English in the besieged city of Orléans. (Henceforth, she’d be known as "Maid of Orléans.") For this, and a succession of other victories, she was captured, ransomed to the English, and falsely-tried by French churchmen in British-ruled Rouen in 1431. Just 19 years old, Jeanne d’Arc was burnt alive on May 30, 1431 in the Place du Vieux-Marché (old market square).
Historial Jeanne d’Arc
7 Rue Saint-Romain; www.historial-jeannedarc.fr 
Joan of Arc
 (artist: Albert Lynch/WikiCommons)

This immersive experience in the archbishop’s palace is a truly-fascinating way to learn all about the historical facts and how Joan of Arc became a French icon. You’ll follow her into battle, be a witness at the heresy trial, and shutter at her brutal burning at the stake. You’ll leave understanding the true importance of her legacy to France. For it was here in this palace that her sentence was handed down in 1431 and also where the proceedings to pardon her took place in 1456, paving the way for her eventual beatification in 1909, and canonization as a saint in 1920.

Eglise Jeanne d'Arc (Place du Vieux Marché) - This contemporary-style church serves as a place of worship and a civil memorial to the French heroine. Its’ light-filled, modern interior is complemented by the spectacular, Renaissance, stained-glass windows from the former Church of Saint-Vincent.

Sur Les Pas de Jeanne d'Arc (In Joan of Arc’s Footsteps): Audio-Guide
Book an Audio-Guide in advance; pick it up an at the Rouen Tourism office (25 Place de la Cathédrale)
Eglise Jeanne d'Arc
©RNTC/JFLange
 - Do a self-guided walking tour that will take you to the Jeanne d’Arc heritage sites in Rouen: the dungeon where she was threatened with torture, the archbishop’s palace where her sentence was handed down, the Place du Vieux Marché where she was burned at the stake, Saint-Ouen Abbey and its cemetery, and the Joan of Arc chapel in the Cathedral. (In French & English.)

WRITERS WRIT LARGE
Rouen has been the birthplace of illustrious writers throughout the ages: Corneille wrote in the 17th century, Flaubert in the 19th century, and Maurice Leblanc (created of “Lupin”) in the 20th century—who will be the next?
Musée Pierre Corneille
4 Rue de la Pie; museepierrecorneille.fr
Pierre Corneille is generally considered one of the three great, 17th-century, French dramatists, along with Racine and Molière. His play, Le Cid, written in 1637, may be his most famous work. Born in 1606 in this house, now museum; it has a reconstruction of his study, plus furnishings, and 17th-century paintings.
Gustave Flaubert
Gustave Flaubert’s most famous novel Madame Bovary, an ill-fated romance, is also about Flaubert’s love-hate relationship with Rouen’s provincial life in the mid-1800s.
Flaubert Is Not Dead (App)
Using a geolocation system, "Flaubert is not dead" outlines a route that takes about an hour, walking the streets of the city center to 8 stops. Starting at the Cathedral Square (where “Emma Bovary” had a date with her lover), additional stops include the Flaubert statue, the Lycée Pierre-Corneille where he studied, a detour to admire the bust of his friend Louis-Bouilhet, etc. The varied experiences mix archival documents, references to Flaubert’s novels, and anecdotes about the author's life. (In French, but an English version is in the works.)

There’s a Flaubert museum (Musée Flaubert et d'Histoire de la Médecine, 51 rue Lecat), but it’s housed in the former Hôtel-Dieu hospital where he was born and his father was head surgeon, so its’ focus is on oddball, medical treatments from the 12th to 20th century rather than on Flaubert’s literary output. (Better to download the App, even if you don’t speak French!)

Maurice Leblanc
Maurice Leblanc was born in Rouen and wrote his crime novels, featuring the
“gentleman thief” Arsène Lupin, from 1905 until the 1930s. Many of the stories feature Normandy locations such as Étretat (where you can visit his house-museum, Clos Lupin.) In Rouen, there’s a plaque on the house where he lived.

FOR ART’S SAKE
All eleven museums (Réunion des Musées Métropolitains) have free admission:
Musée des Beaux-Arts
Claude Monet painted the Cathedral from dawn till dusk.

Esplanade Marcel-Duchamp; mbarouen.fr/en
The museum’s collection contains an extensive range of paintings, sculptures, drawings, and objets d'art from the 15th to the 21st century. Notable works include: 17th-century masterpieces by Caravaggio, Velázquez, and van Dyck; 19th-century works by Delacroix, Géricault, Delaroche, and Impressionists Monet, Sisley, Pissarro, and Renoir. Plus, Dada artist Marcel Duchamps was born nearby and went to school in Rouen; two early works are on display.
Musée de la Céramique
1 Rue Faucon; museedelaceramique.fr/en
The museum contains six thousand pieces. Along with Rouen’s renowned faïence (tin-glazed earthenware), the museum also displays lovely pieces from other ceramic centers such as Nevers and Lille, as well as Delft, 15th-century Italian majolica, and 1930s Sèvres creations, providing an overview of European ceramics.

MORE COOL THINGS TO DO
Palais de Justice (photo: Parsifall/WikiCommons)
The Quays - Rouen is located on the Seine river, just like Paris. Recently, it’s spruced up the riverbanks to make them more accessible to the public. Parks and gardens have been created along the Left Bank, while bars, restaurants, and nightclubs line the Right Bank. Worth exploring!
Scenic Daytrip: Jumièges - The Jumièges Abbey is called “the most beautiful ruin in France.” It’s on the Route des Abbayes about a half hour from Rouen. Afterwards, enjoy a meal at the Auberge des Ruines

Dine: The area is famous for: apples, apple cider & Calvados apple-brandy, delicious Normandy cheeses, crème fraîche (fresh cream), duck, and coquilles Saint-Jacques (scallops), among other delicacies. Lots of eateries to choose from:
Try one of the oldest and one of the hippest:
Place Saint-Amand (Claude Monet bust) ©RNTC/JFLange

La Couronne (31 Place du Vieux Marché; www.lacouronne-rouen.fr) - Opened in 1345 as an Inn that also served food, it’s considered the oldest auberge in France. Over time, it eventually became a gourmet restaurant. La Couronne gained prestige due to the legendary, American chef Julia Child. In 1948, Julia’s first meal in France was here. The meal was so good it inspired her to study and share her love of French cuisine. (You can order the prix-fixe Julia Child menu.)

In Situ (35 Rue Jean Lecanuet; www.insitu-restaurant.com) - Located right by the Beaux-Arts museum, this super-cool bistro is run by chef Laurent Blanchard and his wife, Patricia. Using local, farm-to-table ingredients, chef Blanchard’s culinary wizardry will make you swoon with delight. You’ll be sorry when the meal is over. It’s an extremely popular spot, so be sure to book a table in advance.

Stay: There’s an enormous choice from budget to luxury:
Jumièges Abbey ©RNTC/JFLange

Hotel De Dieppe (1880 5 Place Bernard Tissot; www.hotel-dieppe.fr) - A very nice spot, conveniently-located right across from the train station.
Hôtel Littéraire Gustave Flaubert (33 rue du Vieux Palais; www.hotelgustaveflaubert.com) - Near the Place du Vieux Marché, each room is personalized around a work, a character, or an intimate friend of Flaubert’s.

Getting There: Take a fast, direct train (SNCF) from Paris to the Rouen Rive-Droite train station (about 1hr). Or, drive. It’s longer by car, but on the scenic route discover other lovely areas in the Normandy region.

Monday, January 3, 2022

Côte Fleurie: Cabourg & Honfleur, France – Proust & Impressionist Painters

Honfleur, Vieux Bassin ©SMA76T.LeMassonBanningLover












By Jacquelin Carnegie
HONFLEUR: SOAK IN THE BEAUTY
“A ravishing port full of masts and sails, crowned with green hills and surrounded by narrow houses”--this is how the famous author Victor Hugo described Honfleur in the 19th century--and it’s still so today.
Honfleur is another truly-lovely town on Normandy’s “Côte Fleurie” (Flowery Coast) that has been a favorite of artists for centuries. Spend some time in the heart of town admiring the Vieux Bassin (old harbor), lined with 16th- to 18th-century houses, and you’ll understand why.
Have a plateau de fruits de mer (seafood platter) at one of the charming cafés. Try some local, apple-brandy Calvados and delicious Normandy cheeses. Then, stroll along the winding, cobblestone streets stopping into quaint shops and art galleries. But, be sure to visit these sites:

An Inspiration To Artists
Claude Monet, Impression, Sunrise (1872)
Musée Marmottan

It’s thought, among many art historians, that Impressionism originated here. The artist Eugène Boudin, born in Honfleur, was Claude Monet’s mentor, introducing him to en plein air (in the open air) painting--working outdoors rather than in a studio. In 1858, when Monet was just 18 years old, Boudin coaxed him to paint the nature around them--clouds, sun, the seashore--and the way objects changed according to the fluctuating daylight. Boudin’s plein-air style was also an inspiration to many future generations of artists who flocked to Honfleur from Georges Seurat, the founder of Neo-Impressionism (Pointillism), in 1886 to Raoul Dufy in 1928, who credits Honfleur as the place he found his own, true painting style.

Musée Eugène Boudin
Place Erik Satie; https://tinyurl.com/54bry8bk
Eugène Boudin, Summer at Trouville (1890-94)
Musée Malraux Le Havre

Honfleur, the inspiration for Impressionist and pre-Impressionist masters such as JMW Turner, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Gustave Courbet, Édouard Villard, Johan Jongkind, and Claude Monet, was also the birthplace of Eugène Boudin.
This lovely museum houses a splendid selection of Boudin’s artwork along with a collection of paintings of Honfleur and the Normandy coast done by other prominent, 19th- and 20th-century artists. There are also displays of vintage photographs, tourism posters, antiques, and changing, temporary exhibits.

Maisons Satie
67 Blvd Charles V; https://tinyurl.com/p73p9y8r
Maisons Satie ©Florian Vimont

Honfleur is also the birthplace of Erik Satie, an acclaimed, early 20th-century, avant-garde composer and musician. Satie worked with composers Debussy, Ravel, and Stravinsky as well as with artists and writers such as Picasso, Braque, Cocteau, and filmmaker René Clair. The museum provides a whimsical, surreal way to experience his art and music collaborations.

Église Sainte-Catherine
Place Sainte-Catherine
©OTC Honfleur

St. Catherine's is such a unique church. Constructed by shipbuilders in the 15th century, it’s made entirely of wood. The interior resembles the hull of a ship with many decorative, nautical details. It’s thought to be the largest, wooden church in France.

Being There:
Eat: Lots of great places to eat
(try the oyster bar Entre Terre et Mer).
Stay: There’s everything from B&Bs to luxury hotels.
Cruises: The Seine River meets the sea at Honfleur, so it’s a port-of-call for both riverboats and small, ocean liners. If you enjoy cruising, it’s one way to get here. However, as beautiful as Honfleur is, on the days the cruises arrive, the town is often overrun with tour groups. If you find this a bother, check cruise dates with the Honfleur Tourism office, so you don’t arrive when they do. 
***

CABOURG: THE BELLE ÉPOQUE COMES TO LIFE
Famed author Marcel Proust vacationed in Trouville in his younger days. But, when his pals in Paris’ social circles moved on to Cabourg, another magnificent seaside resort on the Calvados coast, so did he.
During the Belle 
Époque, Proust summered in Cabourg from 1907 to 1914, drawing inspiration for his literary masterpiece, the seven-volume, À la Recherche du Temps Perdu (In Search of Lost Time).

La Villa du Temps Retrouvé
15 Ave du Président Raymond Poincaré; villadutempsretrouve.com
(Open: March-Nov; Guided tours are offered in French & English)
La Villa du Temps Retrouvé

While the Belle Époque era (1870-1914) is over, you can experience what it must have been like with a visit to this marvelous house-museum. The rooms’ décor evokes the style of living that Marcel Proust and his pals (and his novel’s characters) would have been accustomed to. Through the Villa du Temps Retrouvé’s immersive experience, you get insight into Proust’s creative process and his sources of inspiration from paintings and photographs to books and music, to period furnishings and objets d'arts. And, with the use of innovative technology, Proust’s world comes to life. It’s a nice way to journey back in time to France’s “Beautiful Age” on the Côte Fleurie and to learn about the artistic and intellectual circles of the Belle Époque.

Grand Hôtel de Cabourg
Les Jardins Du Casino; www.grand-hotel-cabourg.com
(photo: JCarnegie)

From 1907 to 1914, Marcel Proust spent his summers here in Room 414. In Volume II of À la Recherche du Temps Perdu (In Search of Lost Time), À L'Ombre des Jeunes Filles en Fleur, the seaside resort “Balbec” is none other than Cabourg. The narrator of the novel stays here with his grandmother for the summer—doesn’t that sound nice? Splurge and stay here yourself. Or, if that’s out of the budget, at least stop by for tea. Try the hotel’s special: “Le Gouter Proustien” (tea with madeleines).

Getting There:
To get to Cabourg &/or Honfleur, take the fast train (TGV) from Paris to the Trouville-Deauville train station (2hrs). Then, a taxi, Central Taxis Deauville (+33 2 31 87 11 11), about 20 mins in either direction. Or, a bus, NomadCar Bus #20, to Cabourg or Honfleur (about 30 mins). Or, drive. It’s around 2 hours from Paris to Cabourg/Honfleur on Autoroute A13 or meander along discovering other lovely areas of the Normandy region on the way. 
Eugène Boudin, Boats and Breakwater, (1890-97)
Musée Malraux Le Havre
Nearby Jaunts:
Visit all the towns along the “Côte Fleurie” Calvados coastline such as Deauville & Trouville. And, while in the Calvados area of Normandy, perhaps visit a distillery or do the Calvados Expérience in Pont-l’Evêque. (Pont-l’Evêque is also the name of a famous Normandy cheese which you can buy in the area or, if curious, tour a cheese maker, Fromagerie E. Graindorge.)

Sunday, December 19, 2021

Côte Fleurie: Trouville-sur-Mer, France - Seafood, Spa Treatments & Splendor

By Jacquelin Carnegie
Trouville villas (photo: Bertl123/Shutterstock)

It’s hard to say which is the prettiest town on Normandy’s “Côte Fleurie” (Flowery Coast), but Trouville is a contender. Even though it’s right next door to Deauville, it feels miles away, almost Mediterranean—bright, colorful, lively.
Trouville-sur-Mer was just a little, fishing port when Charles Mozin, a young Parisian artist, came to stay in 1825. He fell in love with the picturesque setting, the light, and the unspoiled natural scenery. An exhibition of his Trouville paintings in Paris enticed other artists to come to this scenic locale. Ever since, painters, writers, and vacationers have come to stay. Most of the things that impressed them in the 19th century are still here today—the beautiful beach, the magnificent villas, the freshest seafood, and the delightful ambience.

A PICTURESQUE PLACE
In addition to the beautiful quality of the light and the glorious beach, another alluring feature of Trouville is the fantastic architecture--splendid villas, built in the mid-19th century in different styles, ranging from Louis XIII to Neo-Classical to Neo-Italian, Neo-Moorish and even traditional Normandy, timber-frame. They’ve miraculously stood the test of time. The only change: several former, fancy hotels and single-family homes are now split up into apartments. Admire these lovelies as you wonder around town:

La Tour Malakoff, Eugène Boudin
Villa Sidonia - One of the few villas to still belong to one family. Tour Malakoff - Artist Charles Mozin once lived in this castle-like villa. Villa Des Flots – Formerly-owned by the Eiffel family. Villa Persane – Marcel Proust was a frequent guest when the villa belonged to Princess de Sagan, who inspired a character in his novel, À la Recherche du Temps Perdu (In Search of Lost Time). Les Roches Noires - In the late-19th century, the Hôtel des Roches Noires was the most elegant hotel on the Normandy coast. Marcel Proust and international aristocracy stayed here. In 1949, it was converted into apartments. (The renowned author Marguerite Duras owned an apartment here until her death in 1996.) Villa Montebello – Built in 1865 in the Second Empire style for the Marquise de Montebello, it’s now Trouville’s museum.

IN THE MOOD FOR SEAFOOD
Halle aux Poissons (Fish Market)
152 Blvd Fernand Moureaux
(photo: JCarnegie)

At heart, Trouville-sur-Mer is still a picturesque, fishing port. Small, old-style trawlers go out for scallops and shrimp and various saltwater fish (sea bass, mackerel, sole, turbot) then head straight back into town. Hence, what’s on offer at the stalls in the famous “La Poissonnerie,” the covered fish market on the quay, just came off the boats. Tables are set up, so you can order a “plateau de fruits de mer” (seafood platter) right there. You couldn’t get a fresher catch unless you dove in the water yourself. This “Marché aux Poissons,” a national heritage site, is open 7 days a week, all year round.
Also on the quay, try the famous brasseries: Le Central (158 Blvd Fernand Moureaux) and Les Vapeurs (160 Blvd Fernand Moureaux).

“TAKING THE WATERS”
In the 19th century, the upper classes became preoccupied with their own well-being. To assuage their fears of frail health and disease, going to spas--with
(poster: H. Gray/Henri Boulanger) 
warm, medicinal, mineral springs and therapeutic bathing—became de rigueur. By mid-century, physicians began touting the curative qualities of fresh air, exercise, and sea bathing. European elites beat a path to the beach, making “villes balnéaire” (seaside towns) and “sea cures” all the rage. What made the resort famous in the 19th century, is still popular today, combined with the latest advances in “wellness” care.
Les Cures Marines/Hôtel, Thalassa Sea & Spa (Blvd de la Cahotte) - The French have perfected “Thalassotherapy” treatments--the use of warm seawater, algae, seaweed, and alluvial mud--for restorative effects. (Thalasso is Greek for “sea.”) At Trouville’s Thalassa Sea & Spa, the benefits of sea water are combined with the latest techniques--respirology, oxygenation, detoxification, rejuvenation, cryotherapy—along with massage, fitness & relaxation exercises, nutritional assessments, and beauty treatments.

AN ARTISTIC HAVEN
So many artists have come to Trouville to paint magnificent seascapes and other seaside scenes: Eugène Boudin, Gustave Caillebotte, Corot, Paul Huet, Eugène Isabey, and Claude Monet. More recently, the eminent poster artist
Raymond Savignac was an enthusiastic resident until his death. (The Promenade des Planches boardwalk along the ocean, constructed in 1867, is now called Promenade Savignac with several of his posters on display.)
On the Beach at Trouville, Claude Monet (1870)
Next came writers in search of solitude and inspiration. When Alexandre Dumas showed up in the 1830s, he declared the village: “the most picturesque in Normandy.” When Gustave Flaubert arrived in 1836, he fell in love--with an older married woman, who became a character in his stories. (There’s a Flaubert statue by the casino.) Marcel Proust stayed here many times in the early 1890s as a guest of friends in various villas and at the Hôtel des Roches Noires. Proust greatly admired Trouville’s long beach and the Belle Époque villas and manor houses. Many of the places he stayed and the people he met became the inspiration for characters and locations in his famous novel, À la Recherche du Temps Perdu (In Search of Lost Time). Several of Marguerite Duras’ literary and film projects were conceived here. From 1963 on, she came every year to stay in her apartment in the former Hôtel des Roches Noires (a long staircase leading down to the beach is named after her). Creatives are still coming to chill and be inspired. But anyone would thrill to holiday on the “Reine des Plages” (Queen of Beaches) as Trouville’s stretch of sand has been known for centuries.

NEVER A DULL MOMENT: CULTURE, ENTERTAINMENT & MORE
Art & Sea Views
Villa Montebello
Musée Villa Montebello (64 Rue du Général Leclerc) - The museum is housed in this magnificent villa up on the hill with great views out over the water. Learn more about Trouville’s history as a “ville balnéaire” (seaside town) through the collection of paintings, prints, photographs, and temporary exhibits.
Galerie du Musée (32 Blvd Fernand Moureaux) – A gallery dedicated to the poster art of Raymond Savignac.
Here’s a selection of other cultural activities.
Les Jeux Sont Faits
Casino Barrière de Trouville (Place du Maréchal Foch) - When the casino opened in 1912, it was the largest in France. Today, there are slot machines, board games, a poker room & even electronic games. Or, just come to see the splendor, have a drink at the bar or dine in the restaurant.
A Fist Full Of Festivals
Several festivals to choose from; this is an annual favorite: 
Festival Off-Courts (Sept) - a very-popular, Franco-Quebec short film festival.
Some Sports Activities:
(poster: Savignac)
 
Lots to choose from such as surfing, kayaking, boating, etc., plus:
Trouville Tennis Plage – What could be better than playing tennis at the beach on faux-grass courts!
Complexe Nautique – Both an indoor & outdoor pool, open in season, right on the beach.
Wander Around
The word in French is “flâner”--just stroll around town. Check out the little side streets and the Rue des Bains, with all sorts of boutiques with local goods and shops full of regional specialties. The Trouville App might come in handy.
Where To Dine: There are several choices of restaurants on the quay, in town, and along the beach as well as tapas bars, wine bars, and tea & coffee shops.
Where To Stay: You’ll find everything from luxe accommodations to quaint Airbnbs.
Villa Persane

Getting There: Take the fast train (TGV) from Paris to the Trouville-Deauville train station (2hrs). Or, drive. It’s around 120 miles/194 km (2hrs) from Paris to Trouville on Autoroute A13 (with tolls) or meander along discovering other lovely areas of the Normandy region on the way.
Nearby Jaunts:
Visit all the towns along the “Côte Fleurie” Calvados coastline such as Deauville, Honfleur & Cabourg

Thursday, December 16, 2021

Côte Fleurie: Deauville, France - Glamour, Horse Races, Fashion & Film

By Jacquelin Carnegie
Deauville Beach (photo: Béatrice Augier/inDeauville)

Deauville is a beautiful, ritzy, seaside resort on Normandy’s “Côte Fleurie” (Flowery Coast). It’s been an upscale, holiday destination since the 1860s, when Dr. Joseph Olliffe, a physician to the French & British upper class, along with his pal, the Duke of Morny (Napoleon III’s half-brother), basically put Deauville “on the map” with the help of their rich, investor-friends. 
Life’s A Beach: It’s amazing what vision paired with money and influence can produce. In a few short years a railway line from Paris was laid. Grand hotels were built. Swank beach-bathing facilities were installed and posh horse races began. In 1911, a grand casino was built. In 1923, the Promenade des Planches, the now-famous, wooded
(photo: Delphine Barré Lerouxel/inDeauville)
boardwalk paralleling the seaside, was created. Deauville became one of the most prestigious seaside resorts in France, and has remained fashionable to this day.
But, while posh Parisians still come for the sporting life and chic boutiques, the horse races cost only a few Euros, the American Film Festival is open to the public, and the beautiful, wide, sandy beach is accessible to everyone.

THE RACING LIFE
Hippodrome de Deauville-La Touques (Racetrack)
45 Ave Hocquart de Turtot
Hippodrome (photo: Scoopdyga/inDeauville)

Since it opened in 1864, the Hippodrome has attracted the top international trainers and jockeys, and an elite clientele to watch the crème-de-la-crème of racehorses run. But any horse-racing enthusiast can enjoy some 40+ regular races throughout the year as the tickets are only a few Euros. (It’s even possible to place a bet, if you know how to pick’em.) There’s also a second track Deauville-Clairefontaine (Route de Clairefontaine) and a renowned training center. If you prefer polo matches, some of the world’s best teams play here in August as the Deauville International Polo Club, founded in 1907, is one of the oldest in France. Before the renowned Deauville-La Touques racetrack was built--thanks to the Duke of Morny--horse racing took place on the beach. The horses are still brought here at dawn & dusk for workouts as the sea water is good for their legs.

SHOPPING IN FASHION
The town is chock-a-block with high-end, luxury stores such as Hermès, Louis Vuitton, and Ralph Lauren. This is fitting as Coco Chanel opened her first clothing boutique here in 1913. Brought to Deauville by Boy 
Capel, her English, polo-player
beau, Chanel admired the fishermen’s mariniere (striped shirts) and the polo players’ knit-jersey sweaters. To stay warm and comfy, she borrowed clothing from Capel--a striped shirt, a knit sweater, a pair of pants--causing a sensation. But, she was sure that other women visiting the resort area would want comfortable clothing, too. Chanel then designed a line of prêt-à-porter, loose-fitting, knit garments; basically, launching a new clothing category: “chic sportswear.” The rest is fashion history and it all started here.

CULTURAL CONNECTIONS
Les Franciscaines
145 B Ave De La République; lesfranciscaines.fr
Les Franciscaines (photo: Moatti-Riviere)


It’s worth coming to France just to experience Deauville’s newest cultural center--Les Franciscaines. Housed in a magnificent building that once was a Franciscan convent, the beautifully-restored facility is now a unique combo of: museum, library, médiathèque, snack bar, cinema, lecture hall. In short, the absolute, coolest place you’ve ever hung out. The architectural makeover is stunning, the décor is sublime—each area is color-coordinated and theme-related. Oh, yeah, there’s an art collection of over 500 paintings. And, temporary exhibits, and photos. Also, workshops for kids & adults. Or, you can just sit there and read a magazine. Either way, you won’t want to leave.

Deauville American Film Festival (Sept)
Johnny Depp/Catherine Deneuve
(photo: Deauville American Film Festival)

This prestigious festival began in 1975 to promote American cinema and attract American and European screen stars to the area. 24/7 Screenings: Over the ten days, film screenings are held 24 hours a day. There are several categories such as: “Premieres” - screenings followed by Q&As with the creators; “Competition” - presenting indie films; “Uncle Sam’s Docs” - documentaries about American life; & “Window on French Cinema.” (Get a Day or Festival Pass to see great cinema and lots of celebrities!)

LIFE IS GRAND
In 1912, to continue attracting chic Parisians and British high society, Deauville opened two Grand hotels in the Normandy, timber-frame style: Hôtel Barrière-Le Normandy Deauville (38 Rue Jean Mermoz) and Hôtel Barrière-Le Royal Deauville (Blvd Cornuché BP). These lovely, luxury hotels continue to welcome an international, elite crowd along with movie stars and other celebrities. It’s worth
Le Normandy (photo: Group Barrière)
the splurge to stay at one of them but, if not in the budget, just come by to enjoy a delicious, afternoon tea or evening cocktail; sit in the lounges and gawk.
Right between the two hotels is the Casino Barrière de Deauville (2 rue Edmond Blanc). You can tempt “lady luck”, but you don’t have to be a gambler to spend an evening here. There’s an elegant, little theatre--a replica of the Petit Trianon at Versailles--where classic & contemporary dance, concerts, musicals, and even one-man shows are performed.

Other Sports Activities:
For duffers, there are world-class, golf courses such as the Golf Barrière Deauville & the Amirauté Golf. For swimmers or just anyone who enjoys a soak without having to go into the ocean, there’s the Piscine Olympique de Deauville (Blvd de la Mer). Two pools filled with heated, purified sea water. Like spending a day at a spa at a fraction of the cost. There’s also great sailing.
Porte Bassin Morny (photo: Naiade Plante/inDeauville)

Where To Stay: In addition to the aforementioned Grand hotels, there’s a range of accommodations to select from in Deauville and the surrounding area.
Getting There: Take the fast train (TGV) from Paris to the Trouville-Deauville train station (2hrs). Or, drive. From Paris to Deauville, it’s around 120 miles/194 km (2hrs) on Autoroute A13 (with tolls) or meander on back roads discovering other lovely areas of the Normandy region along the way.
Nearby Jaunts:
The “Côte Fleurie” is a succession of lovely towns on long, sandy beaches along the coastline of the Calvados area in the Normandy region. Visit all the towns such as Trouville, Honfleur & Cabourg.