At this time of year many Normandy fans, or soon to be fans, are planning a seaside holiday in this remarkable region.
To help choose a fine beach at a sensible price, we have dipped back in to ‘Cook’s Handbook for Normandy’ published in 1883, and are sharing with you reviews of the better known coastal resorts.
Most are a general but insightful overview, a few include additional information for the discerning traveler. We may have trimmed some of the many, many paragraphs about churches. They can be read in the original document linked at the end.
You have of course already read our post ‘Guest blogger! Cook’s handbook for Normandy, 1883’ which shared Cook’s general advice for the Normandy visitor. If not, the link is here.
Bathing stations on the coast of Normandy are as plentiful as blackberries, and every class of society can find a congenial resort. This list of the principal places, starting westward along the coast from Dieppe, will be found useful to families seeking an outing on the shores of France.
First a note of caution from Cook’s
During the bathing season the hotels in the ‘Bains de Mer’ towns not only advance their tariffs, but decline to take in travelers except at board rates of 16 to 20 francs per day, without deduction for meals taken out of doors. This applies to Trouville, Dieppe, St. Valery, Etretat, Cabourg, Granville, and many other towns. Cherbourg and Havre being commercial ports, make no changes.
(Oh and 10f in 1883 is probably about £100 in today’s money.)
Dieppe – Very aristocratic and dear. Pebble beach. Board 10f. to 11f. per day. Dieppe is the most fashionable bathing resort, being frequented by the most aristocratic families, and during the season everything commands famine prices. Two hours will suffice to see all that is worth seeing. The beach is of shingle, and about three quarters of a mile in length. The Casino, with bathing-machines, is much frequented in the season. Many pleasant excursions can be made from Dieppe; to the Chateau d’Arques, to Pourville and the Lighthouse of Ailly, to Treport, to St. Valery, and to the Chateau de Mesnieres (about 14 miles) now used as an orphanage. Carriages can be hired at reasonable rates. Steamers run to Newhaven twice a day in summer, and nightly in winter.
St. Valery – Poor town, but much frequented. Pebble beach. Board, 6f. to 8f. per day.
Veulettes – Fine sand at low tide. Beautiful neighbourhood. Trout fishing in the Durdent. Board, 6f. to 8f. per day.
Fecamp – Much frequented by good middle-class families. Beach good but pebbly. Board, 8f. to 10f. Fecamp is a small bathing station, seaport, and manufacturing town of 13,000 inhabitants. The harbour, formerly silted up with sand, has been deepened and has now a considerable business in coal and timber, besides being a station for vessels employed in cod fishery.
The 13th century Abbey Church of Notre Dame contains a glove, reputed to be that of Joseph of Arimathea, saturated with the blood of the Saviour. It the object of veneration by thousands of pilgrims. Two processions in its honour take place each year. Fecamp has a good casino and bathing-machines. The beach is of polished flints. There are curious grottoes under the cliffs, which can only be visited at low water. Several pleasant excursions can be made in the neighbourhood.
Yport – Reached by road from Fecamp. Rocky beach. Dear, and not particularly attractive.
Etretat – Pebble beach and bathing not good, but neighbourhood charming. Board, 8f. to 10f. per day. Etretat is much frequented by artists and literary men, having risen into notice through the writings of Alfonse Karr, has a good casino and bathing-machines. Carriages to Havre (20 miles).
Bruneval – Small and little frequented.
Sainte Adresse – Better than Havre, but dear, and pebble beach. Board, 10f to 12f.
Havre – Board, 8f. to 10f. Best hotels, 15f. The sea-beach is of shingle, and much frequented in summer. Bathing is dangerous in rough weather, as the tide runs very strong. A modern busy town, one of the most prosperous ports in France, has no historical monuments and few public buildings of interest. Havre has been greatly enlarged during the present century.
Trouville – The most frequented of all. Board, 10f. to 15f. per day. Direct trains from Paris. Trouville is the most popular of all the modern French watering-places. During the season it accommodates at least 1500 visitors at a time. The town has no attractions, being entirely modern, but contains numerous handsome private villas. The casino is open from the 10th June to the 15th October, and is thronged by all the fashion of Paris; in the season three toilettes per day are de rigueur for ladies. Fine sandy beaches and the small bathing sheds are drawn down to the edge of the sea.
Tourists in Normandy should not fail to visit Trouville, but they will find it difficult to obtain lodgings in the season. They had better, therefore, go on to Honfleur or Havre, or inland to Caen or some neighbouring town.
Deauville – Chiefly frequented by financiers and diplomatists. Many foreigners. Splendid beach. Board in hotels, 10f. to 11f. per day.
Deauville is a fashionable bathing station on the coast, on the west bank of the Touques, facing Trouville. Direct trains to Paris. Was brought to notice by Sir Joseph Olliffe, late physician to the English Embassy at Paris. Has a fine casino and bathing-machines, hippodrome and race-course, jockey club and lawn-tennis club. Many of the French aristocracy have villas here. The bathing is similar in character to that of Trouville, its rival. Church of England service is held in a handsome new church.
Villers – Close to Deauville. Much frequented by families. Pretty neighbourhood. Board, 5f to 10f. per day. Four miles from Trouville the bathing is quite as good, and living much cheaper. It can be reached by way of Trouville, and thence by carriage, or by Dives and Houlgate-Beuzeval. There is a good casino at the south end of the beach.
Houlgate-Beuzeval – A very popular bathing station with casino, hydropathic establishment and numerous handsome private villas. Very fine beach and wooded neighbourhood. Furnished houses £10 per month. Board, 7f. to 8f. per day. A casino, with balls, concerts, and theatrical representations contributes to amuse the visitors during the season. There are numerous pretty walks and drives in the neighbourhood.
Dives – Pretty village, but no beach. Bathing at Beuzeval or Cabourg.
Cabourg – Rapidly rising to a first-rate station. Fashionable toilettes. Fine sandy beach. Board, 8f. to 10f. per day. Population, 701. This fishing village on the western bank at the outlet of the River Dives, and opposite the town of the same name, has risen into some notoriety as a bathing station. It has good hotels, a casino, and fine shady walks, a good beach where children may bathe without danger, and the town is lighted by gas. Carriage to Trouville and back 4f. per person.
Le Home – About two miles from Cabourg. Fine beach, but miserable neighbourhood, and poor accommodation.
Lion – On the line from Caen to Courseulles. Families only. Fine sandy beach, with some pebbles. Board, 7f. to 8f. per day.
Langrune – Rail from Caen. Frequented by invalids. Board, 7f. to 8f. per day.
St. Aubin – Rail from Caen. Fine sands and pure air. Board, 6f. to 7f. per day.
Courseulles – Rail from Caen. Frequented by families. Small port and oyster park. Sandy beach. Board, 6f. to 8f. per day.
Arromanches – Road from Bayeux. Small, dull port. Fine sandy beach. Board, 5f. to 8f. per day.
Port en Bessin – Road from Bayeux. Dull. Rocky beach. Board, 6f. to 7f. per day.
Vierville – Rising station, but little accommodation as yet.
Grandcamp – Road from Isigny. Very desirable station, cheap. Oyster park and shrimp and flounder fishing. Board, 7f. to 8f. per day.
Cherbourg – Population 36,000. Direct trains to Paris. A first-class military port, formed by the construction of an enormous mole (breakwater), built right out in the sea, to protect the port from the north wind. The town is surrounded by hills and stands in the centre of a semi-circular bay. The public buildings of Cherbourg are few and uninteresting, the churches being all modern. There is good bathing on the sands, and in the season Cherbourg is a popular rather than a fashionable resort. A large casino has been erected facing the sands.
The chief object of interest is the harbour. The difficulties caused by the stormy nature of the coast, which appeared for a length of time altogether insurmountable, were never seriously encountered till the time of Napoleon I., who established a mole with battery at the mouth of the harbour. In 1808 all the buildings erected were swept away by a storm, and 194 soldiers were drowned. In one day was destroyed the labour of sixteen years. In 1832, on the accession of Louis Philippe the works were recommenced, but for a long time the sea gained the mastery over all attempts to exclude it. The breakwater was at last completed at a cost of four million pounds. The breakwater can be visited daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Coutainville – Road from Coutances, 75c. Good sandy beach and family resort. Apartments and houses moderate.
Donville – Road from Granville. Pleasant place and fine beach, but accommodation poor.