My travels: D for Deauville

January 11, 2017

Please do not be concerned if certain letters of the alphabet are missing: they may appear eventually!

I spent a year living in Normandy as a student; for my year abroad as part of my degree, I was named as assistant to the Lycee in Deauville. I think I was a hit with some of my students, but not really with the school as I was in the middle of my hippy phase, so not all that serious about things. But I had a marvellous time actually living in France, as opposed to merely being on holiday; clearly you can learn a lot more about a country and its way of life. I have wondered at times about living in France; if I could turn back the clock I might seriously contemplate it, but I would not want a career as a teacher there…

Deauville was – probably still is – an incredibly wealthy town, with its own international film festival, a casino, racecourse, and lots of very flashy hotels and shops, and expensive weekend and holiday villas, being only an hour and a half from Paris, so it tended to be very quiet during the week and crowded at the weekends. It was a newish town, with nothing architecturally interesting; Honfleur just up the road with its picturesque harbour and old buildings, and Caen with William the Conqueror’s castle a little further along, were the sight-seeing spots. But it had a wonderful bookshop with a friendly Polish proprietor who I drank with, and who ensured I got my weekly fix of English newspapers, the school was on the beach – which was swept by an enormous machine every day! – and the views out to sea were phenomenal, especially at times of bad weather. It was the summer of 1976, the best and hottest summer I’ve ever known; I did take some of my classes on the beach, and came back with a really good tan. And then there was Trouville, the real town, the historic town as painted by various impressionists, literally across the river, on the other side of the Touques

I had to wrestle with French bureaucracy, needing both a carte de sejour and a bank account; I also needed to feed myself at weekends, as the school’s internat only functioned Monday to Friday. But I was incredibly well-fed during the week: the school had a proper chef and we got a traditional Normandy diet, very rich, with lots of cream. The only things I found repugnant were tripe, and white pudding. One evening we even had souffle! And for the teachers, free beer at lunchtime.

I saw a fair amount of Normandy, and came to love the lush green landscapes, and the cheeses that came from such rich pastures. Devon, only more so. Not many things in my eating list are to die for, but a well-ripened Pont l’Eveque comes pretty close… I got used to the accent and I think it permanently affected the way I speak French, too. And Paris was only just over an hour away on the train, which was a bonus…

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