Trouville-sur-Mer, France: Time stands still at an art-deco seafood brasserie
On the Normandy coast, the seaside towns of Trouville and Deauville are separated by a canal, but a world apart in spirit—and which one you prefer tends to be a litmus test of character. Grand Deauville is all flash, home to the international film festival, the boutique hotels and the see-and-be-seen restaurants. Despite having its share of tourists, smaller Trouville is more laid back, more dug into its history, and even, in some parts, a little down at the heels.
We go with Trouville every time, and when we're there, we stop in at Les Vapeurs, a brasserie that dates to 1927. Spend a lazy hour or two cracking open fresh crustaceans, supping on moules marinières and taking in the view: If you're en terrasse, you'll overlook the water and the town fish market. But we almost prefer the tidy dining room, with its jumble of framed photos from the restaurant's past, artwork created by decades of regulars, and a handpainted sign requesting that patrons kindly refrain from seating their dogs on the banquettes and feeding them off the plates. (Otherwise, Fifi is more than welcome, bien entendu.)
Return guests tend to finish each meal with a hit of Calvados on the house, poured by one of the servers in the crisp black aprons. Chances are—unless you truly work hard to piss someone off—you'll enjoy the same privilege.