When we lived in Paris, we joined the mass exodus leaving the city for weekend get aways to the nearest seaside in Normandy, to visit our French family. Now the seven-hour jaunt from Geneva-Switzerland is harder to make, so I hadn’t been back for years.
As soon as I rang my French in-laws doorbell in Trouville, I was flooded with memories. The brick-framed, six-story walk-up built into the falaise along the Touques River, has housed fisherman’s families since the 1700s. Step out the front door on ground level and you are on the quais of the bustling seaport, across the ultra chic twin city Deauville. However, out the backdoor, on the floor above, is Papie and Mamie’s place, which opens onto the winding cobblestone rue de Bonsecours.
The house echoes with footsteps. If the faded, wooden steps of the spindly, spiral staircase could talk, the stories they would tell! Not long ago, I listened with trepidation as my children giggled, racing up and down flights. Now my heart jumps as I hear the stairs creak with Papie and Mamie’s footfalls, afraid that they will slip. Papie just returned from the hospital after a lung puncture to remove fluid build up from a weakening heart. Mamie slipped on wet cobblestone of mainstreet and broke her wrist. Yet, still they insist laying out a banquet fit for a king, with an artillery of glassware and cutlery.
Mamie, with her left arm immobile in a cast, directs traffic with one hand from the kitchen nook to the dining table. She oversees the steady stream of courses on platters laden with fresh asparagus, green beans, sole fish, Camembert and strawberries dipped in cream, the finest Normandy has to offer from land and sea. Papie, frail after losing 10 pounds, still pops open champagne, serves aperitifs, pouring the wine, and argues about past skiing exploits with his son.
The seaside resort retains a sense of timelessness. Sea gulls swoop and dive above the fishing boats bobbing in the waves under azure skies. Daffodils dance on iron wrought balconies in the briny, spring breeze. Horses clomp down Main Street hauling tourist carts from the bridge connecting Deauville and Trouville, at one end of the road, to the casino at the other end.
As I walk on the beach, lined by 17thcentury mansions, I am overwhelmed with nostalgia. Young couples stroll the boardwalk with their arms intertwined. Parents with toddlers in tow pick up seashells; small children dig castles in the fine, white sand. School age kids race the waves as they crash the shoreline and teenagers kick soccer balls.
If I close my eyes, snapshots of my children’s pasts flash by. Nat skipping alongside Mamie to play at the beach; Nic’s his eyes aglow carrying a gaufre, giant waffle covered in chocolate and whipped cream. Nat tugging on a kite string; Nic climbing over the Roches Noires. The two of them playing keep away with their cousins.
The magic of this historic spot by the sea is that throughout time’s passage, nothing changes; Trouville, like memories it holds, just grows older and more beautiful.[meteor_slideshow]