The wonderful weekend began with the car; the Bentley Continental GTC - a seriously impressive vehicle. Think space, comfort, speed, power, style, luxury, think super car. Everything about it makes you feel good; you get in the car and you feel good, it's as simple as that. Clearly for those motor heads out there, a little bit more depth and detail is needed, so here are the specs. We're talking 0 - 100 km/h in under 4.7 seconds, 8-speed automatic transmission with steering column-mounted gearshift paddles, 6-litre W12 twin-turbocharged engine which has 567bhp and an interior that is hand crafted with leather bound carpets and finished off with the Bentley "B" emblem on the foot pedals. Normally we would not be seen dead in a white car, but this is not, it is White Sand with a Claret roof colour, simply a masterpiece, a real head turner.
Clear traffic on the way meant we could really enjoy the car, top down and testing out the stereo! We headed for Le Shuttle in Folkestone, very quick and painless way to get across to France, but please be warned, it is narrow and if you are in a wide car such as ours then request the lorry boarding entrance which is much easier and with less chance of curbing.
We headed over to the beautiful seaside town of Deauville , aka Paris by the sea. This idyllic little town featured in the classic 1958 film, Gigi, with the lovely Leslie Caron and irrepressible Maurice Chevalier, is less than two hours from Paris and has the historic racecourse, marvellous market, casinos, boutiques and shopping to rival rue du Faubourg Saint-Honore. It is picturesque to the point of Disney, and draws lovers and families alike.
There is an awful lot going on here at all times, with the music festival, horse racing, sailing, wine and gastronomy fair and of course the celebrated film festival, now in its 39th year, to name but a few. Deauville has a great history in terms of literature, painting, fashion (Coco Chanel opened her first boutique here in 1913), and cinema (over 50 films have been made there), dance and photography; it is truly rich in culture.
There is the Promenade des Planches (wooden boardwalk that parallels the seaside) lined with private swimming huts named after Hollywood stars, such as Francis Ford Coppola, Harrison Ford, Rita Hayworth and the like who have attended the American Film Festival there.
We stayed at the ideally placed Normandy Barriere (part of the Hotels Barriere group with luxury hotels in France and Morocco), and enjoyed a classic room, (the hotel was fully booked and that was all that was left) which was beautifully decorated and extremely comfortable if a little dark.
We dined at the (neighbouring) Royal Barriere's award winning restaurant L'Etrier and ate our way through the Discovery Menu, which was a 7 course religious experience with accompanying wines, though needed a brisk walk along the seafront on the way back to our room before even considering sleep and so forth.
The Michelin starred chef, Eric Provost started his career aged 14 in a local provincial restaurant, and went on to train under the celebrated French chef, Robuchon. It is enchanting to hear him talk about the apple trade in cider, jams and calvados; he is passionate about the rich mix of seafood available and the rich pickings of the Normandy countryside with fowl, milk, cheeses, Normandy beef, farm produce and vegetables.
A refreshing swim in the stylish pool next morning revived us and cleared the way for breakfast, luckily the retractable roof was in place as the rain thundered down. We declined the fitness centre and pondered the hotel bicycles, but opted instead for the Bentley (top down - as the rain had finally stopped). The hotel has a fabulous programme for children, with dedicated areas, clubs and themes for different age groups and their very own restaurant.
The quality of life here in Deauville is amazing, it is a beautiful town with protected buildings, a lively and enriched cultural heritage and future, and some serious shopping. The Bentley's spacious boot came into its own on the way home!
38 rue Jean Mermoz
Phone: +33 (0)2 31 98 66 22
Reservations: +33 (0)970 821 314
Hotel Royal Barriere
Boulevard Cornuche BP 74400
Phone: +33 (0)2 31 98 66 33
Reservations: +33 (0)970 809 555
Deauville Tourist Information