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Hot spots: Hôtel Royal Barrière, Deauville, France

Mathew Scott

 

What is it? This grand old dame has lost none of her lustre, even though a century has passed since her many charms began attracting Parisian high society. Deauville rests on the Normandy coast, just a two-hour drive or train trip from the French capital. The city was built to be a playground for the rich and famous - complete with casinos, race tracks, a golf course and polo grounds - and the Hôtel Royal Barrière Deauville has remained its spiritual centre ever since its elegant drapes were first drawn, on July 28, 1913. Guests back then could hardly believe the level of sophistication they were invited to share. Central heating, an en-suite bath-room, electricity and a telephone - in every room! One of the grandest examples of Normandy's half-timbered architectural style, the hotel stretches out with views across the beachfront, or back towards the town and its sprawling main racetrack: the Hippodrome Deauville-La Touque. Marble columns and crystal chandeliers abound (see lobby, pictured above).

100 not out? That's some innings! Yes, impressive. With the luxury of a winter break each year - when the hotel is available only for events and corporate bookings - constant upgrades have ensured the 253 rooms and 30 suites (right) have kept pace with the modern luxury hound's most niggly of needs.

How might we indulge? That's easy. Head chef Eric Provost took what he learned from the likes of Alain Ducasse and Joel Robuchon and made L'Etrier one of the most talked-about restaurants in France. If you fancy something a little more traditional, head to Côté Royal and immerse yourself in its Second Empire decor. Sole meunière is a Deauville speciality; top it off with a glass or two of the local Calvados (XO, if you please). If you want to burn off those extras pounds, the hotel keeps its pool heated during the chilly months or you can borrow a bike for a cruise along the town's famous foreshore.

Looks like you've dropped something … Ah yes, a name. Or two. Hollywood icon Omar Sharif returns every summer (for the bridge season, no less) while the local film festivals (the Asian edition in March and the American in September; both of which fit well with the "In the Movies" promotion being run by The Leading Hotels of the World - of which this place is a member) mean you might find yourself grappling with George Clooney or Wong Kar-wai for that last breakfast-buffet sausage in the refined surrounds of Côté Royal. United States President Barack Obama was here debating with the likes of Russia's Dmitry Medvedev during a Group of Eight summit in 2011.

And if we want to play? The historic Casino Barrière de Deauville is next door and you can amble over to the races at either the Hippodrome Deauville-La Touque or the Clairefontaine track, when they are in season. The more adventurous might be lured into a game of polo - or at least into watching one. Deauville plays host to some of the biggest annual events on the sport's international calendar.

And what's the score? Rooms start at €222 (HK$2,260) a night. For more details, visit www.lucienbarriere.com

 

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