Feb 6, 2014

21st Arrondissement: Deauville


As I've said, there are twenty arrondissements of Paris. Today, our hosts Christine & Loïc take us to three lovely coastal Normandy towns: Honfleur, Trouville and Deauville, the last of which is jokingly referred to as "the 21st arrondissment" of Paris because so many Parisians weekend and summer here.


There are lovely old ports, quaint towns, and beaches with sand dunes. Many of the buildings in the towns are charmingly old colombage which is the construction style of wooden beams criss-crossed with plaster in the middle. Some of them exist from the middle ages -- 800-year-old buildings that don't look any the worse for wear. All of this with delicious crêpes, caramels, and hard apple cider, specialties of the region. So it's easy to see why upper-crust Parisians like to spend their leisure time here. There are an awful lot of beautiful mansions around the towns, clearly boarded up and used only for summers and holidays by city slickers "roughing it" in the countryside. 

Because it is almost Paris, I don't feel too badly when I buy a souvenir here of...an Eiffel Tower. It is exactly the Eiffel Tower I've been looking for, just the right size and made with thin enough wires and large enough holes that it will make the perfect earring holder. I don't know why, but even before we moved here, I knew I was destined to get my earrings out of a jammed jewelry box and onto an Eiffel Tower. While it's certainly easy to find an Eiffel Tower souvenir in vrai Paris, it's been surprisingly hard to find one I like, so instead this will be my souvenir from Deauville.

Deauville has been put on the world map by the American Film Festival held here each year since 1975. Once the festival started giving out awards in 1995, it became even more prestigious. Because of this, the changing rooms on the boardwalk are marked by railings with the names of movie stars on them. To me, this is a lot like the Hollywood Walk of Fame hand-prints outside Grauman's Chinese Theater in L.A. but, frankly, a lot more picturesque.

We are compelled to take the above picture of Gigi because when she was a little baby, our Chinese neighbor George, who speaks minimal English and with a very thick accent, stopped me several times to lavish praise on the baby. Each one of the compliments was funnier than the last:

1) "Your baby so beautiful. Much prettier than you."

2) "The baby so beautiful -- even whiter than white man."

3) And once, he said, "The eyes so beautiful. Like a little potato."

I thought it must be some pun on how potatoes have eyes. But I didn't get how it was a compliment.  "A little potato?," I asked.

"A little potato! A little potato!" He could see from the look on my face that I was still bewildered. "The famous actress...A little potato!"

At this, the lightbulb went on. "Oh, Elizabeth Taylor!" 

"Yes, yes," he said, clearly exasperated by my thick-headedness. "A little potato!" 

And so, this photo's for George.

THE CHEESE: Deauville

Deauville is a raw cow's milk cheese made in and around -- where else? -- Deauville, Normandie. The cheese is created and made by Monsieur Lechevalier. It's in the same family (and same region) as the much more famous and common Pont-l'Evêque. Deauville is a creamy, salty soft cheese with a washed rind, about 6" or 15cm in diameter.

Deauville cheese is made by just a few cheesemakers, so it's hard to find. When you do, expect a cheese with a hefty gym sock stink to it. Despite the knock-your-gym-socks-off aroma, the taste is not considered super strong. That's the official line, at least, but I think it packs a wallop. The texture is not just creamy but actually silky. It's got a salty, nutty aftertaste that suggests anchovy (and, yes, I know this will not be a popular description) and will stick with you for hours. I wouldn't plan on kissing somebody immediately after, unless they've also been eating Deauville.


Deauville, of course.


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