Stay the night: Pierre & Vacances Premium Houlgate

The Côte Fleurie has been a holiday hot spot since the 1850s. This new resort is the latest to welcome the tourists, says Kate Simon

A trip to the Normandy coast is a curious experience. One moment you're at Portsmouth docks lining up for the ferry with the Francophiles and their MPVs packed to the gills with the bric-a-brac of summer holidays, next you're cruising along the coast road of one of France's most cosmopolitan seaside enclaves – the Côte Fleurie.

From Sallenelles in the west to Honfleur in the east, people have travelled to this stretch of France's northern coast since the Second Empire to dip their toe in the Channel and take in a little reviving sea air.

Its earliest visitors were the Paris elite, wooed by the Duke de Morny, who built a putative tourist resort on the marshes – a cluster of faux-medieval buildings with high pointed roofs and exposed timber beams – connected it to the capital with a train line, and called it Deauville.

The fashion for sea-bathing, and more importantly the presence of a railway line, affected the whole coast, transforming former fishing villages into playgrounds for the rich. One such, Houlgate, had, by the late 1800s, its own grand hotel and casino and bizarre architectural showcase.

These days, Houlgate may not be the preserve of Parisian socialites – the ladies strolling in the shade of parasols have been replaced by families sitting in the lee of windbreaks. But it still has a certain je ne sais quoi; its fantasy buildings haven't faded; the crowd here is still distinctly cosmopolitan.

Yet, today's visitors have more affordable accommodation options to choose from than grand hotels. One of the latest is the Pierre & Vacances Premium resort, set on a hill overlooking the town.

The rooms

Predictably, the architects have gone for the neo-Norman look, but they kept their head when they positioned this small complex along a ridge in landscaped grounds to make the most of the sea views. The one- to three-bedroom apartments and houses are spread across two floors, each with a terrace or balcony. The styling of the interiors, like the exterior, is pleasant if uninspiring. Our one-bed was on the compact side and a little light on storage space – parents will inevitably take the double sofa bed in the living/kitchen/dining area and put any children in the twin bedroom. But it was clean, comfortable and functional, with useful access to a communal laundry. A TV and free Wi-Fi beat the boredom on rainy days (when you can go a little stir crazy). Bed linen and towels are purchased as kits. Service levels are erratic.

The food and drink

This is self-catering country and you'll soon learn to make the most of the small yet adequately equipped kitchen. Just give yourself enough room by sacking the sous chef. There is plenty of good fresh produce around to allow you to try your hand at a few locally inspired dishes. The resort does offer to help take the strain with shopping and dinner (featuring Normandy specialities) delivered to your door on request. Plus you can order a week's worth of breakfast provisions, including a daily delivery of Continental-style baked goods. When you tire of eating in, there are plenty of decent restaurants in the area, from pizzerias to bistros, to try out.

The extras

The resort has a heated open-air pool – a little more thought and a little less fencing could have resulted in superb infinity-style views to the sea. There's a spa, a gym, a playground for small kids, and a children's club for 4-12 year olds during the French school holidays. But what this place really needs is a restaurant and bar – the place shuts down at nightfall, which means you have to travel into town (a good stride or a quick drive down the hill) for a little atmosphere, a difficult prospect for most guests who generally have children with them. The neighbouring towns – Deauville, Trouville-sur-Mer, Honfleur, etc – are conveniently linked by the coast road. Head inland to the Pays d'Auge to learn about the art of making calvados – and to taste the results. Due west lie the beaches where the Normandy landings took place, as well as the cemeteries and museums that commemorate what happened here during the Second World War.

The access

Children are welcome and pets are admitted. All communal spaces can be accessed by people with disabilities. Inquire about apartments that are suitable for people with limited mobility. There is signage in Braille.

The bill

A one-bed apartment sleeping four starts at ¤510 (£448) per week. Return crossings from Portsmouth to Caen with Brittany Ferries (0871 244 1400; brittanyferries.com) cost from £61.50 per person for a car with up to four passengers.

The address

Pierre & Vacances Premium Houlgate, 3 Rue Charles Sevestre, 14510 Houlgate, France (0870 026 7144; pv-holidays.com).

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Tour Drivers - UK & European

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity to join a is a...

    Old Royal Naval College: ORNC Visitor Experience Volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary work: Old Royal Naval College: Join our team of friendly volu...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Service / Sales Assistant

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This airport parking organisation are looking...

    Recruitment Genius: PCV Bus Drivers

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Do you enjoy bus driving and are looking for ...

    Day In a Page

    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    Army general planning to come out
    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
    Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

    Growing mussels

    Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project