Visit Normandy's Chic Coastal Resorts for Some Sand-and-Sea Therapy
For me, being beside the seaside is synonymous with feeling happy in that slightly hypnotised way that sparkling blue oceans bring on. Happy and hypnotised is not how I'm usually feeling when I find myself in East London, so the fact that I can step on a plane in London's grey downtown and find myself in a chic seaside resort an hours later, is perhaps Deauville's biggest selling point.
Beside the seaside
Deauville sprang forest from the imagination of The Duke Auguste de Morny - half brother of Napoleon III - and then from the marshes on which he built his "ideal seaside" resort. Throw in a casino, a racecourse, a couple of swanky hotels and 1900s Deauville became the place to be seen for French artists, musicians and fashionistas. Celebs still flock here, often for the annual American Film Festival.
Today, Deauville is an almost film set pastiche of a quaint seaside town. Timbered, faux-medieval buildings line spotlessly clean streets where you might just see a senior citizen in slippers tottering back with some purchases from the Gucci shop.
But don't let this put you off. Deauville's seafront is so charming it's impossible not to feel holiday-ish. Colourful beach umbrella flutter on 1400m of white sand and the wooden boardwalk ambles along its edge. It's hard to believe you can build a sandcastle here 90 minutes after boarding a plane in London.
After a quick paddle, it's time to check out Deauville's rather self-conscious magnificence. The eclectic architecture and larger than-life grandeur of the villas drifting along the seafront makes me goggle, many belong to minted horse owners attracted to the city's year-round equestrian events, and they're a fascinating insight to how the other half goes on holiday.
Chill out time
Next stop is Deauville's older, sister town, Trouville. It's less immaculate, less manicured and, ultimately, more charming. Mansions along the beachfront and grand old town buildings contrast with narrow streets and smaller houses on the fishing port side.
Trouville is still a working port and everyday trawlers unload a catch of mackerel, shrimp, scallops and lobster that end up on the fish market or in a restaurant. As a seafood fan I'm in heaven - we find a restaurant on the beach and feast on three tiers of fruit de mer for about 10 Euros each. Wine in hand, sun on face and snail shells on fingers, the slog of London seems a lifetime away.
Before collapsing on the tempting beach, we walk a circuit of the town. Trouville is famous for its humorous posters, designed by Raymond Savignac, and you'll spot his iconic seagulls and sunbathers on walls, billboards and windows. Savignac isn't the only artist to be drawn to this coastal idyll, French writer Gustave Flaubert, among others, was so enchanted by Trouville - and by his scandalously married lover - that his statue still gazes longingly across the rooftops. We finish with a boat trip around the coast. The sparkling ocean and Normandy's picturesque coast have worked their magic.