I’ve already written about our visit to the Dune du Pyla – at 105 meters high, officially Europe’s highest sand dune.
Very close to this impressive natural wonder in France’s Gironde region is the pretty seaside town of Arcachon.
This sleepy Atlantic coastal town became a destination of the international jet-set in the mid 19th century.
Napoleon III himself led to its development when he fell in love with the location and began to frequent the sleepy coastal resort.
The arrival of the railway in 1857 sealed its fate, as did the widespread belief that a combination of the resin of the pine forests in the area and favorable air made it an ideal winter destination offering unique health benefits.
The Pereire brothers, bankers who had settled in the region, purchased a large portion of land in wooded dunes above Arcachon and commissioned an architect to build villas for the wealthy visitors who came to Arcachon to breathe the therapeutic resinous air.
A casino, a lively boardwalk along the sea and pretty parks helped to keep the town a lively place for its well-heeled visitors/
Three hundred villas were built in the area, all in extravagant art deco styles with not one design repeated.
There are spectacular Moorish villas, plenty of gables and turrets, intricate wooden balustrades, watchtowers galore overlooking the bay, all in a wide array of colors and styles.
Some of the famed 19th century frequenters of Arcachon who stayed in these villas include the Italian poet Gabriele D’Annunzio and the French composer Charles Gonoud.
It’s worth the wait to climb up the watchtower to enjoy a birds’ eye view over the town and the bay.
The bay is also well known for its oysters, so it’s worth staying to enjoy a platter of this local specialty.
Enjoy your time in pretty Arcachon.