Friday, November 24, 2006

Dilemma In Deauville: Franco-Anglo Disconnect Or Typical Class Warfare?

Note-I wasn't needed at work today, so I was able to put together a reasonably coherent post after sleeping off the effects of the holiday turkey yesterday. Here it is.

A brouhaha may be developing in the French coastal town of Deauville. From the IHT comes this article about the issue of the day in this region of Normandy.

Bad blood between the English and the Normans existed almost a millenium ago, but now there is a new twist in this long saga of mistrust. But, this time it doesn't have anything to do with armed invasions or middle ages, monarchal imperialism. But it does have to do with economics. Money (or according to some, the lack of it) always makes for a good issue.

It seems many of the locals are not pleased with the possibility of a new influx of English tourists when discount air carrier Ryanair begins a 3-flight per day schedule, starting in March.

DEAUVILLE, France: In the annals of James Bond memorabilia, it is said that Ian Fleming, the spy's creator, modeled the casino of "Casino Royale" on the baize tables and spinning roulette wheels of the gambling salons of Deauville.

It is said, too, that this resort in Normandy has welcomed a fabled array of foreign movie stars, drawn perhaps by its casino, but also to its American Film Festival, its horse races, its bloodstock farms, its golf, even the designer stores by Herm├Ęs and Louis Vuitton and others that wait in ambush for the fortunate few who play the tables and win, or can simply afford to lose.

But in this gray and wintry season, when the summer apartments are shuttered and gray gusts from the English Channel send shivery squalls past restaurants threatening to reopen in the springtime, there is another dire whisper on the air: Is the welcome running out, for some outsiders at least?

In reading this article further, it sounds like the old "not in my neighborhood" squabble, complete with a certain snobbery element, in play here. What normally is a row that involves opposite sides of the tracks, is now an "opposite sides of the channel" issue.

...there have been articles and newspaper stories suggesting a certain snobbery among French people, depicting them as displaying a degree of Gallic haughtiness toward the notion of English day-trippers toting brown bag picnics and indulging a taste for cheap beer, thus lowering the tone of this most toney of resorts.

"The English do not spend much money, that is well known," said Christiane Celice, the head of a movement opposed to the planned flights.

For some it appears it is about status and reputation. Like anywhere else there are elites and non-elites. And elites are pretty much the same anywhere, not just here in this area of France. You have these kinds of things in all countries.

What makes this more interesting than the usual "nobles vs. peasants" debate, is this involves people from two entirely different countries, cultures, and philosophical worlds, way before economics are factored in.

But not all are weighing in for economic reasons.

There are many other issues, according to Celice, whose home is close to the runway to be used by Ryanair's thrice- weekly flights. Will they damage the environment, she asked, will they overload the roads and restaurants?

"I just don't want the region to degenerate," she said. "People come here to rest; they come here for the cheese, the Calvados, the chateaus. They are looking for peace and quiet."

This gives the impression that some people just want to maintain their quiet lifestyle, much in the way they always have. One can certainly respect that, in fact living in my suburb there has been a recent influx from the city and this sleepy little town has had to build a new middle school and is currently growing into a mess, because infrastructure development cannot keep pace with population growth.

But on the otherside of the coin, we have the opposing arguments:

"We don't want to lose the English clientele going to other parts of France," Fougeray said at the airport as one business jet landed bearing a man who did not wish to be identified by name.

"I am not Sarkozy!" he exclaimed enigmatically he hurried off.

So naturally, this becomes an issue of economic growth within the local business community. And of property value.

When we started flying into Pau, house prices tripled," said Michael O'Leary, the chief executive of Ryanair, based in Dublin, a sharp-tongued and not exactly publicity-averse businessmen who revels in the free advertising offered by Celice's campaign. He was referring to the town of Pau in the Pyrenees along the border with Spain.

Much seems to be gained, but much may lost in that trade-off. Where someone stands will likely depend on why they choose to make that their homes and what they expect by living there. They are the ones that must bear the brunt of any changes.

Any of the reasons for opposition could be deemed acceptable, with one exception. Those against this appear to be divided into two groups, the elitists and those that have the environment in mind. The only thing that I would not see as acceptable, is the ones that are discriminatory against the English, just because they are English. Those wounds should have been healed long ago.


superfrenchie said...

Deauville is the French equivalent of Martha's Vineyard. One of the 3 places in France for the well-born, the glitterazzi and the snobbish, the other 2 being St Tropez on the Riviera and Neuilly in the Paris suburbs (Monaco could be on the list too, but it's a sovereign country inside the French borders).

No surprise there, and very few Frenchies outside those cities are going to shed any tear for the residents of those towns.

And the Brits would not be the first to consider them snobbish. As long as I can remember, that's how we describe them too (the residents of Deauville, not the Brits).

LASunsett said...


//Deauville is the French equivalent of Martha's Vineyard.//

I kind of gathered this from the words of the woman named Christiane and the overall tone of the article.

What kind of area is Pau? The article claims that proerty value went up after Ryanair began flights there? If Deauville is so affluent, it's hard to imagine that Ryanair would have that effect on that area.

superfrenchie said...

LA: //What kind of area is Pau?//

Pau is in the Southwest at the foot of the Pyrenees. It is much more "authentic", with great food (the land of the "foie gras") and great scenery. Which is why the Brits are coming in droves, not necessarily to do any shopping (there isn't that much to do) but to buy second homes which they use during long weekends or vacations. Prices are going way up. 10 years ago, that's what they did to Provence. Now that Provence has become extremely expensive, they go to the southwest.

Locals have mixed feelings about it. Expensive real estate is great when you're a homeowner, less great when you're young and right out of school.

LASunsett said...

// Expensive real estate is great when you're a homeowner, less great when you're young and right out of school.//

Precisely why I would not live in LA, again. Housing is off the map, there.