” Travel and a change of place impart new vigor in the mind.” — Seneca
Who doesn’t love a beach town? Arcachon, on the Bay of Biscay southwest of Bordeaux, is a welcome change of pace from the woodsy hills of the Dordogne. With no castles in sight, Arcachon is younger than most towns in France, and its Spanish tile roofs remind me of Florida. When a train line was established here in the 1840’s, developers, assisted by a young Gustav Eiffel, built a Moorish Casino, a luxury hotel, and several mansions.
We arrived at the beach just in time for lunch. Restaurants line the beach promenade, and we chose one that featured mussels. Mike happily slurped his way through a heaping pot of moules swimming in a white wine garlic sauce.
The sun was shining today, but few people lolled around on the sand. Summer season is over, and most people out for a stroll kept their jackets on until late afternoon. White boats moored offshore bobbed around in the water, and a 1900 carousel twirled around at the end of the beach.
After a walk along the shore, we headed up to the Ville L’Hiver, the Winter Village. In the 1860’s, this became a resort that attracted tuberculosis patients because the balsam pines that grow there were thought to be beneficial for those with the disease. After Napoleon III visited in 1863, Arcachon’s Ville L’Hiver became the place to be for the celebrities including Toulouse Latrec and Alexander Dumas. The architecture in the ville is a blend of Swiss chalet and English cottage styles, with whimsical painted trims and decorative brickwork. The centerpiece of the neighborhood is the Parc Marquesque, where local retirees passed this pretty afternoon played boule.
Our French vacation ends tomorrow, and we head for Bordeaux airport bright and early. Tonight at dinner we had our traditional last night conversation, listing our favorite sights, activities, meals. How to choose the creme de la creme from the buffet of delights we’ve experienced? J’aime bien France!