Deauville, France, an archetype of aristocratic elegance

Hotel Le Normandy opened in 1912 as Deauville’s first grand seaside hotel. Photo Credit: Fabrice Rambert
Deauville, France, has been synonymous with luxury ever since its 1862 inception as a seaside resort for the aristocratic friends of founder Duc de Morny, who was the half-brother of Emperor Napoleon III. All the elements are there: chateaus and private villas, polo matches and horse races, a yacht harbor and casino, grand hotels lining the beach and illustrious guests

Located less than two hours' drive from Paris, Deauville and the surrounding Cote Fleurie (often referred to as the "Parisian Riviera") remains a secondary home for high society and luminaries. The area's legendary allure has inspired artists such as Monet, Baudelaire, Flaubert, Satie and Proust. Coco Chanel opened her first boutique in Deauville in 1913, and F. Scott Fitzgerald sent Tom and Daisy Buchanan to Deauville on their honeymoon.

In 2014, the Deauville American Film Festival celebrated its 40th anniversary, and this year, Traveller Made hosted more than 600 luxury travel professionals for its four-day Essence of Luxury forum at Le Palais des Congres de Deauville, C.I.D.

Originally built in 1912, Hotel Le Normandy opened as Deauville's first grand seaside hotel. Notable for its fanciful Anglo-Norman architecture in green and rose, the five-star property is located directly behind les Planches, Deauville's famous boardwalk lined with beach closets dedicated to cinematic icons.

Throughout its century-long history, Le Normandy has hosted film stars and royalty, swaddling them in a surfeit of toile de Jouy interiors, recently updated by designer Nathalie Ryan.

Crystal chandeliers glisten in gilded mirrors beneath a glass roof at La Belle Epoque, the hotel's elegant restaurant specializing in Norman cuisine. Equally alluring are the hotel's convivial cocktail lounges and the equestrian-themed Normandy Bar with its grand piano and fireplace, once a favorite of Winston Churchill.

A guestroom at L’Hotel du Golf, where decor offers nods to golf’s Scottish antecedents and Deauville’s equestrian heritage. Photo Credit: Fabrice Rambert

Crowning the hilltop above Deauville's center, L'Hotel du Golf rises amid a verdant landscape surrounded by a 27-hole golf course. While the building exterior honors the hotel's Norman pedigree, the chic interiors by Chantal Peyrat are a playful nod to golf's Scottish antecedents and Deauville's equestrian heritage. Life-size sculptures of horses graze alongside giant apples in the expansive lobby.

Guests are welcomed with Hotels Barriere's signature homemade banana bread into capacious deluxe suites (more than 700 square feet) outfitted in contemporary luxury. A gracious foyer with powder room leads into a refined living area furnished in brushed oak with sleek seating and fresh flowers. Appointed with patinated leather accents, the spacious bedroom and en suite dressing room are complemented by an immense spa bathroom with rainfall shower and oversize soaking tub.

As tempting as it might be to remain happily ensconced in such a delightful suite, L'Hotel du Golf's dining options include Le Lassay, which offers stunning views of Deauville and the Seine bay. For a taste of the region, order a Calvados cocktail at Le Green, where a panoramic terrace overlooks the fairway and the helipad for those guests who choose to arrive by chopper.

A few miles north, the medieval town of Honfleur became the cradle of Impressionism when visual artists flocked to the Seine estuary to paint the fabled light and, in the process, receive the benevolent hospitality offered by Mere Toutain, who ran the 17th century inn La Ferme Saint Simeon.

Behind the massive iron gates of this five-star Relais & Chateaux property exists an authentic Norman manor house of slate and timber alongside the thatch-roofed chaumiere made famous in Monet's wintry landscape "La charrette," now hanging at the Musee d'Orsay in Paris. With a total of 35 rooms and suites, the impeccably landscaped property features a wellness farm with indoor pool and hammam housed in the erstwhile cider press. Spa treatments utilize local ingredients such as Normandy apples, honey, milk and marine salts.

The grounds of La Ferme Saint Simeon, which dates to the 17th century.

Amid the inn's romantic pastoral charms exemplified by period furnishings, candlelight and a crackling fire beneath exposed beams, starred-chefs Sebastien Faramond and Jacques Maximin offer a seven-course "Norman Gourmand" tasting menu of regional produce and seafood. A glossy red caramelized "apple" infused with Tatin mousse is followed by exemplary mignardises. In the morning, breads and baked goods from the gifted pastry chef are a highlight of the hearty breakfast buffet.

Should your tasseled key grant you access to Corot's chambers (No 19), it's possible that you'll find a bottle of Champagne and a homemade golden buttery tarte Tatin in front of the window with its view that inspired a thousand canvases. Furnished with Louis XIV flooring and a 17th century pantalonniere as well as Flamant fauteuils and Veronese sconces, Corot's former studio is illuminated by a magnificent Murano chandelier. Surrounded by flower gardens and apple trees, the river banks bathed in lambent light, you might be tempted to paint your own masterpiece.

For transfers to and from such a haven of luxury, via Mercedes-Benz E-class sedans, consider Lafayette Group, which has been practicing "l'art de vivre" for 28 years by offering VIP services from its offices in Paris, Provence, the Riviera and Monaco.

JDS Travel News JDS Viewpoints JDS Africa/MI