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Deauville was conceived during the Second Empire of Napoleon III by the Duke of Morny and a few others—including a doctor who vacationed in the little next-door working-class fishing port of Trouville, just across the Touques River—as a resort for the imperial court and its followers.

A village sprang up out of previously deserted marshes and dunes, and it was soon said that wealthy Parisian men kept their wives in Deauville and their mistresses in Trouville.

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But the main attraction here is the stream of people, rich and poor, tweens and teens, refugees from the and the bourgeoisie, French farmers and Parisian flaneurs, Arabs, Africans, Brits, Italians, and even the odd American, all out for a bracing stroll in the sea air and then, perhaps, an espresso, a croissant, some Related: The Best Beaches in France Laboring under the impression that France’s Côte Fleurie, the 30-mile-long Norman coast between the Seine and Orne estuaries, a favorite of luminaries from Marcel Proust and Claude Monet to Yves Saint Laurent and Angelina Jolie, was a solid stretch of the Parisian equivalent of New York’s Hamptons, I’d worried that I’d feel like an outsider.

Long a favored resort of the Parisian elite, the Côte Fleurie, on France’s northern coast, is shedding a bit of its formal reserve.

T L finds lively restaurants, endless beaches, and plenty of easygoing glamour. But that doesn’t stop the daily promenade on the famous boardwalk known as Les Planches.

Would I find my nose pressed against the glass at polo matches, the races at Deauville’s half-timbered Clairefontaine hippodrome, five-star meals next to movie stars in Michelin-rated restaurants, and extravagant dress-up evenings at the local casinos?

But even though all those diversions are on offer, I quickly realized they don’t define the place.

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