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Author Topic: Snob appeal  (Read 8790 times)

Offline flopnfly

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Snob appeal
« on: June 18, 2010, 07:40:11 AM »
Snob appeal

trish worron toronto star

DEAUVILLE, FRANCE–This tiny perfect town on the Normandy coast, with its fairy tale seaside mansions, is a well-kept secret, except to Parisians of a certain class. Discount travellers are not our kind of people.

Judging by a recent controversy, some would just as soon keep it that way.

A brouhaha erupted last fall when the low-cost Irish airline Ryanair announced it was starting three-times-a-week flights from London. To paraphrase the main argument of the movement that sprang up to oppose Ryanair's plans: Discount travellers are not our kind of people.

As Christine Celice, head of a group opposing the proposal, explained to the London Sunday Times, her group was not opposed to the English, per se, coming to Deauville, but the sort of tourists "who wear T-shirts and bring their own sandwiches to eat outside the casino."

For the record, local businesses and officials were annoyed at the anti-Ryan campaign. Deauville Mayor Phillippe Augier told Reuters that the "irresponsible" campaign was the work of "about 30 people living in the vicinty of the airport" and not the view of most townsfolk.

But if a battle is to be fought against tourist hordes, Deauville makes a logical front line. This is the preserve of the upper crust, and has been since 1858 when the Duke de Morny, Napoleon III's half-brother, was taking in the sea air for his health in neighbouring Trouville, and got together with some local swells to create a community for people, well, like themselves.

They knew how to attract the gentry: They started with a grand horse racing course, an ornate casino and the elegant Grand Hotel. (The new casino, built in 1912, is modelled on the Petit Trianon at Versailles.)

Rich Parisians followed – in those early days it was considered a marvel that the train only took six hours; today it is two. They built flamboyant seaside mansions, great wedding-cake confections with shingles and turrets.

Its famous boardwalk, which runs for almost a kilometre, let the ladies stroll, under their parasols, and not get sand in their slippers.

But don't let its hoity-toity reputation put you off. Everyone from the shopkeepers to the restaurateurs and the people we met on the streets were extremely welcoming. No one asked to see our bank balance.

We rented a house in Deauville on a recent trip and knew from a past visit not only how lovely the community is, but that it would make an ideal base for touring Normandy.

The little neighbouring town of Trouville is a 20-minute walk. It is an easy half-hour drive along a swerving coastal road to the ancient port town of Honfleur, once a draw for impressionist painters. It has become touristy but is still charming, with its old twisting back streets and picture-perfect harbour.

Deauville is 45 kilometres from Caen, the central city from which to take off and view the D-Day beaches. It's also an easy day trip up north to Dieppe, where we were going to visit the Canadian war graves of the disastrous 1942 raid.

And finally, it's within easy striking distance to the famed Normandy countryside with its famous Camembert and Calvados (the fiery apple liqueur that is a specialty off the region.)

But things did not work out to plan.

My sister, one of our party of four, got sick. (If you are going to be sick on vacation, a rich community with lots of retired Parisians is the place to do it.

Even on a holiday Monday, the hospital had five doctors on duty. The service was faster than at the corner patisserie.)

While my sister may not entirely agree, her getting ill proved to be a happy accident. It forced all of us to slow down, to be in France, to live in France. To be visitors, not tourists.

We had already spent 10 days in France, mostly Paris, being jostled by crowds, parboiled during a suffocating heat wave as we waited in yet another line to see yet another museum.

So rather than cram into the car to see yet another site, Deauville quietly seduced us into kicking back. We shopped for food, and cooked and had long dinners, and took even longer walks on the beach – and what a beach it is – an impossible 400 metres wide and, of course, it's perfectly groomed each morning. Indeed, the whole town seems to be hoovered clean overnight.

We poked through the exclusive stores, rolling our eyes at the Louis Vuitton store with its $30,000 trunks, the $800 Hermes scarves and the $1,000 Chanel blouses. These shops are well patronized, judging by the elegantly dressed women in the streets.

We spent hours in the thrice-weekly outdoor market, scooping up great deals on provençal tablecloths and beach bags.

We stayed five days, and by the end, not only was my sister well again, but we were all rejuvenated. As our betters have done for a century, we recuperated by the sea.

But just because we were, well, lazy doesn't mean Deauville is a bore. Tourism is the mainstay so there's any kind of amusement you'd want – casinos, discos, golf, sailing, horse racing, movie theatres and a constant stream of movie, book and arts festivals.

As for Ryanair, seems their opponents have held sway. So far. As of this writing, the airline still had not scheduled regular flights there. But here's an admission I should be ashamed to make: I'm not particularly sorry about that. One of the charms of Deauville is that it is filled with elegantly dressed Parisians, out taking the air, and not people like us: T-shirt-wearing tourists who make their own sandwiches.
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

Offline Harlequin

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Re: Snob appeal
« Reply #1 on: June 18, 2010, 12:43:07 PM »
Snob appeal

We poked through the exclusive stores, rolling our eyes at the Louis Vuitton store with its $30,000 trunks, the $800 Hermes scarves and the $1,000 Chanel blouses. These shops are well patronized, judging by the elegantly dressed women in the streets.

Guess the Ryanair clientèle wont have the problem of being charged for excess baggage  :grin: