Very close to Bordeaux, just an hour away by car, you reach a town on the Atlantic coast famous for Beaches, the oysters and for being a destination of rest for the wealthy people since the middle of the s. XIX: Arcachon. This town is at the tip of a cape that goes into the bay of the same name. A long arm of land protects the bay of the Atlantic Ocean and creates a peaceful environment perfect for all kinds of activities. It is also perfect for making a day trip from Bordeaux.
Houses with hearth in Arcachon
We begin to discover Arcachon from the town's tourist office, located next to the train station. It was a sunny day and I really wanted to go on an excursion after having long strolling through the streets of Bordeaux.
Arcachon surprises as soon as you arrive at the large and colorful old summer houses that are seen on the main streets, in a very special style. And this town was developed mainly by the bourgeois of the capital of Aquitaine from the end of the s. XIX and during the Belle Époque. However, the town began to change much earlier, in 1823, when François Legallais created the first spas so that wealthy clients could be cured with the innovative thalassotherapy and climate therapy. This is how celebrities began to build villas and mansions in this place, attracted by the health benefits. King Alfonso XII, for example, resided in a house in the part of the Ville d'Hiver in Arcachon.
Allée Marie Chirstine in the city of Winter
La Ville d'Hiver is the winter district, located inland. The Pereire brothers planned it in 1852 after having extended the railroad so that people could go to Arcachon to breathe the ocean breeze and the smell of the pine trees. In Arcachon there are neighborhoods for all seasons, so that to the west we find the Ville d'Automne, in front of the beaches of the north coast extends the Ville d'Eté and, further east, the Ville de Printemps. These areas indicate the time of the year in which the owners of the large houses spent time in the villa. Today, the most expensive houses are still in the historic center of the town and can be worth more than one million euros.
Arcachon Winter City from above.
We walked through the Leisure port, sports port, full of boats and yachts. Apparently, a survey of owners recently revealed that most boats are only used six days a year, so they may only serve to appear. On the other hand, navigating the bay is not easy, since when the tide drops, it is only possible to navigate through the deepest water channels and, when the tide is high, you have to know where to go so as not to be embarked on the sand. Even so, to get a place in the port to save the ship there is a waiting list of six years.
Then we drove to one of the great attractions of the area: Pilat's dune. This white sand dune, more typical of Sahara desert, it rises about 110 meters on the east coast, just 10 minutes south of the town (you can also ride a bike along the bike path that is enabled). It is located just before the ocean, surrounded by a lush pine forest, so you do not see it until you are very close. And when you finally see her, you hallucinate. And when you get to his feet and look up you hallucinate again. And when you climb to the top and contemplate the surrounding landscape you hallucinate again.
In April 2014, the dune was 113 meters high.
Parking near the dune is free for 30 minutes and then worth € 4 for 4 hours. It is advisable to pay, because, although it only takes about seven minutes from the parking lot to the dune, once there it is hallucinated so much that the visit requires more time, at least one hour to enjoy it properly. Between April and October there is a ladder supported by the dune that allows you to climb the slope without straining. Once above, you can see how the dune has an elongated shape that goes from north to south.
Pine forests surround the dune
In fact, the southern end continues to extend several meters every year. In summer, many people sit on the dune to watch the sun submerge on the horizon. And La Teste de Buch, the municipality to which the dune belongs, also offers many other activities, such as surfing or cycling along the coast or the forest. From the top you can also enjoy a spectacular view of the bay and, above all, of the sand terraces that overlook the ocean. As we were told, in summer there are people who go with their little boat to spend the day in these terraces or to make oyster-based picnics. Lujito, right?
Then we returned to Arcachon and visited the area around the Belvédère, in the Ville d'Hiver. Here there are about three hundred properties of the Novecentista style and it is a protected place, so that any new construction must respect the architecture of the place. In addition, the session requires the owners to prune the hedges so that passersby can see the houses well, because they are an important heritage and are worth seeing. The streets of the neighborhood were designed with many curves expressly to prevent that the winter wind of the ocean could blow very strong there.
One of the prettiest mansions is the "Alexandre Dumas" which was the residence of the banker Daniel Iffla. In reality, almost every house has a story. For example, we pass the "Faust" estate where Gustave Eiffel, the architect of the most famous tower in Paris, resided. The Eiffel itself was the one who designed the Belvédère, an observatory for firefighters at the top of the hill. Currently you can still climb to the top and see Arcachon and the coast from above. And that we did, more would be missing. I thought I was in a kind of old "French Beverly Hills."