Friday, May 20, 2022

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.

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 wander 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.

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).

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.

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.

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

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