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by Arnaud Leroy
Houlgate is a sea resort (1,900 inhabitants) located on the Channel, between Cabourg and Villers-sur-Mer.
The name of Houlgate is of Norse origin, houl meaning hole and gate passage or path.
Houlgate is another example of sea resort built on the Calvados coast in the XIXth century, when the English fad of sea bathing reached France.
In 1836, the municipality of Beuzeval had 301 inhabitants. The main center of the village was built on a hill set back from the beach, around the XIIth century church. The small hamlet of la Mer (the Sea) was separated from the main village by the river Drochon. It was inhabited by a few poor fishers.
In 1845-1850, a few hotels were built in la Mer to house the first tourists. The pension (boarding house) Imbert was revamped in 1877 and renamed Grand Hôtel Imbert. The hotel was added its characteristic rotunda in 1907. The seashore was basically laid out for sea bathing, and the hamlet was renamed Beuzeval-les-Bains.
On the right bank of the river Drochon, a sea resort was built from scratch by a consortium led by Albin Vergniolle, the deputy Amédée Renée and the lawyer Victor Delisle. A stone wharf with a promenade was built, along which a row of four-floor houses were built. Those houses, locally called chalets (a word normally used for the Alps houses), were built in a very wide range of architectural styles, as it was the case in Trouville-sur-Mer. In 1854, the Grand Hôtel de la Plage was inaugurated, with 120 rooms. The resort was named Houlgate, after the name of the small hill which borders it. The city hall, the post office and the school were transfered to that part of the municipality.
Beuzeval had therefore two sea resorts: Beuzeval-les-Bains, located on the left bank of the Drochon, was the seat of an important Protestant colony; Houlgate, located on the right bank of the Drochon, attracted a richer Catholic clientele. In 1898, the municipality was renamed Beuzeval-Houlgate, and the name of Beuzeval was eventually dropped in 1905.
The 1880-1914 period was the golden age of Houlgate. The two historical parts of the resort kept distinct clienteles according to the religion. For instance, queen Ranavalo of Madagascar stayed at the Grand Hôtel Imbert whereas queen Isabel II of Spain stayed at the Grand Hôtel de la Plage.
Houlgate has kept most of its 200 XIXth century villas. The most striking of these villas are the five "American" villas Junatia, Tacoma, Minnehaha, Merrimac and Columbia, located Henri-Dobert street. In the hinterland, the manor of Beuzeval was built in 1865 in the English Gothical style.
Source: Texts by Marcel Miocque, available on the municipal website of Houlgate.
The municipality of Houlgate has set up five waymarked footpathes (from 3 to 11 kms), which allow a complete visit of the city and the neighbouring areas.
The coast between Trouville-sur-Mer and Cabourg is known as la Côte Fleurie (The Flower Coast). Several parts of the French seashore have received such alluding names. The most famous of these coasts is the Côte d'Azur, a name coined by Stephen Liégeard in 1887 to popularize the French Riviera.
Several resorts of the Côte Fleurie claim to have invented this nickname. The expression seems to have been coined in 1903 during a public conference by count Raymond Constant d'Yanville (1862-1941), president of the Société d'Horticulture de l'Arrondissement de Pont-l'Evêque. However, it is not sure that Yanville really invented the expression. In 1905, the tourist guide released by the municipality of Houlgate was subtitled La Côte Fleurie. Since the two municipal gardeners of Houlgate had attended the conference given by Yanville, it is highly probable that they encouraged the municipality to use the nickname. In 1909, the subtitle was changed to La Perle de la Côte Fleurie, and has remained unchanged until today. In 1912, Deauville nicknamed itself La Plage Fleurie (The Flower Beach), and Cabourg in 1912 La Plage des Fleurs (The Beach of the Flowers).
Source: Texts by B.W. Bergen, available on the municipal website of Houlgate.
Ivan Sache, 6 January 2004
The flag of Houlgate is white with the municipal logotype. The green H of Houlgate with the yellow horizontal bar seems to symbolize the former two parts of the sea resort and the beach which links them.
Arnaud Leroy & Ivan Sache, 6 January 2004
The coat or arms of Houlgate has been in use at least since 1947. It blazons as follows (Brian Timms):
De gueules aux deux léopards passants d'or, à la barre d'argent chargée de trois coquilles de sable.
In English (same source):
Gules a bend sinister between two lions passant or three escallops sable.
Ivan Sache, 6 January 2004
Recent observations by Olivier Touzeau (summer 2003) and Ivan Sache (autumn 2003) seems to indicate that the tourism office of Houlgate uses another flag including a more complicated logotype with the motto La Perle de la Côte Fleurie.
Ivan Sache, 6 January 2004Red dog casino