French Mamie’s House in Trouville’s Historic Fishermen District

Mamie’s house overlooks the quay of Trouville, France, a fishing village where inhabitants exist in rhythm with the tides and the ebb and flow of tourists flooding her Normandy beach.

Mamie lives in the historic fishermen quarters on the Rue des Ecores, which dates from the mid 17th century when the quay was built. The houses once chiseled out of the cliff to accommodate fishermen reflected the maritime hierarchy. The sailors’ flats had one window and one floor, while the prosperous captains’ homes had windows on either side of the front door, and several floors.

The lower level of the building, filled with cafes, boutiques, and gift shops, opens to the bustling boulevard across from the open market on the Touques River. On the rue des Ecores up above, time froze; fishermen flats look the same as when they were first built. Wooden doors open to pencil-thin homes where rooms are stacked 6 stories high like building blocks.

On the narrow lane under number 55, the door opens into Mamie’s ground floor, which is actually the 3rd level of the building. On the left is her kitchen. Straight through the hallway to the dining/living area, French windows open to a balcony above the quay.

The windows on one side of the apartment face the colorful, lively, bright main street alongside the Touques River; the other side’s windows look onto the darker Rue des Ecores.

In the living room, a wooden dining table, the focus of any French home, consumes most of the space. A love seat, wedged next to the oak, Normand cupboard filled with Mamie’s old wedding china, faces the TV, perched in a corner. Though compact, the 10 x 14 foot room expanded to squeeze another chair around Mamie’s table where family and friends were always welcome to dine on Normandy’s finest fare from land and sea.

In between the two rooms, a steep, winding staircase, coils like a snake, from one floor to the next. The stairway is so tight that furniture had to be brought up by crane and passed through the windows.

On her second floor landing, there is a water closet and 2 bedrooms. In Mamie’s room stands a wardrobe of fine Normand craftsmanship passed down from ancestors. On the floor above that, are a bath and two more small bedrooms where we always stayed. Each morning I threw open the shutters savoring a birds eye view of the river, fish market, and casino. The very top floor under the mansard roof once held Papie’s old workbench and hanging tools.

Every nook and cranny remained filled with mementos triggering happy memories from Mamie’s giant dinner bell, to her French cartoon collection, to her lumpy, duvet covered beds. Artwork and photographs, showing the chronology of marriages, birthdays, baptisms, and graduations, covers every inch of wall space.

Whenever we left, driving away down Main Street, Mamie and Papie stood on the wrought iron balcony waving goodbye and blowing kisses.

The historic landmark, Rue des Ecores, endures as the center of the fishermen district, just as Mamie’s place remains forever as the heart of our French family.

Comments

  1. Kathleen Pooler

    Oh Pat, what a rich travelogue and heartfelt picture you have painted of Mamie’s house. I always feel like I am with you as you describe all these places you have experienced. It reminds me of my own Nana’s house and all the special memories, especially around that large dining table!

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      Author
      Pat McKinzie

      Kathy, I am sure you have some wonderful memories of those Italian meals around the big dining table. I have recently read about how good tomato sauce is for your health, so you will have to get out Nana’s old favorite recipes.

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      Author
      Pat McKinzie

      Thanks Lynne. I can’t claim any credit for the website. Thankfully my Frenchman takes care of that dealing with the never ending headache of changes that keep being imposed. The theme we were using was no longer being maintained.

  2. Tina Quick

    Please give Mamie my regards. Her photograph with Gerald and Nat remind me of what an elegant woman she is. One question – did Gerald grow up in that house? Would love to hear of his experiences as a boy. Great blog. Loved the photos.

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      Author
      Pat McKinzie

      Thanks Tina. Mamie and Papie rented this particular home for the past 30 some year, but Gerald grew up in a fishermen’s flat in a small lane in the village. But it was same lay-out as this one with tiny rooms stacked up around a steep, spiraling wooden staircase. Maybe we can get him talking about his boyhood at the lake this summer.

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      Author
      Pat McKinzie

      I also miss my grandmothers, one was of Scottish descent and the other one Norwegian American. Mamie is the fond French term for grandmother. A quay is a wharf on the shore of a harbor or on the bank of a river or canal where ships may dock. From our window in Trouville, we could see the fishing boats dock when the tide came in filling the Touques. When they arrived Mamie would rush out to buy fish sold fresh right off the boat.

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