The Arcachon Bassin is a wedge along the Atlantic Coast with miles of magnificent beaches of fine sand and acres of pine forest. The opening of the Bassin lies between the Dune du Pyla and Cap Ferret.
If you are looking to vacation like the French this a perfect area to visit. English is spoken albeit not widely so your language skills may be tested. Strangers greet one another ‘bonjour’ / ‘bonsoir’ when passing on the street and entering a restaurant / tabac. Typically in the boulangerie there is an early morning queues for croissants & bread, and most shops close for Lunch at noon re-opening mid-afternoon.
On the southern edge of the Bassin is the highest dune in Europe, the great Dune du Pyla one of the most famous natural phenomena in the southern areas of France. The Dune is 2500m long, 500m wide, and reaches a height of 107m. At the summit the views of the coast, Cap Ferret and the inlet of the bay are spectacular
The Villa is located on the gentile Boulevard de l’Ocean alongside magnificent villas built in the early 1900s. Cross the Boulevard and Allee Rossignol leads directly to the beach. A cycle piste passes the Villa running all the way from the Dune du Pyla to Arcachon town. A few minutes walk from the Villa in Pyla village there is a SPAR grocery store, boulangerie, butcher, fishmonger, post office, tabac, several restaurants, a chemist, sailing school and tourist information office.
In Moulleau village – a 10 minute stroll from Pyla – there is a large selection of restaurants, cafe/bars, and boutiques. Boat excursions, trans-basin ferry rides, and fishing are possible from the jetty. Around the Bassin there is more than 7 km of fine sand beaches. Moulleau Beach and Péreire Beach are both within easy walking distance of Villa Cigale. Péreire is the longest beach in the Bassin with a playground, skate park, cycle track, beach-side promenade and vast lawns surrounded by pine trees where families play ball games and fly kites.
Arcachon is a historic seaside resort comprised of several “towns” – Summer (to the north), Winter (to the south), Spring (to the west) and Autumn (eastward).
Until the early 1800’s Arachon was just a few cabins for fishermen and workers who collected resin from the pine trees. In 1823 Francois Legallais opened the first “baths” for wealthy customers and with thalassotherapy “Summer Town” became a destination for well-being and health.
The fashion for bathing attracted royalty and celebrities. In 1857 Emile and Isaac Pereire extended the Bordeaux-La Teste railway line to Arcachon. They purchased 60 hectares of forest and in 1862 began constructing avenues of grand houses and sumptuous villas creating “Winter Town” where the wealthy would benefit from the ocean air and scent of pine. ( On pages 3 & 4 of the Photos are some beautiful examples of these gorgeous buildings ). Napoleon III stayed in Arcachon in 1859 and 1863, firmly establishing it amongst France’s top health resorts.
The Aiguillon area east of “Autumn Town” includes the fishing port and marina. Until the end of the First World War Arcachon was the 2nd largest trawler port in France. The old fishing area characterised by little houses with red tiled roofs and small verandas is now the oyster farming district. The marina is the 2nd largest on the Atlantic Coats with 2,600 moorings.
Today Arcachon offers a large variety of sport and leisure activities. There is a water-sports centre, a sailing school, a yacht club, fishing, diving and boat rides across the bay to Cap Ferret.
In 2001, a thalassotherapy and 3*** hotel complex was built in the heart of the Péreire district, a 5 minute drive from the Villa. The complex offers tailor-made courses of treatments (massages, hydrotherapy, bio marine courses) relaxation and fitness areas.
The gastronomy of the Bay of Arcachon is a delicious mix of products. Seafood and fish are served alongside foie gras and duck’s breasts. Prawns, crabs, cockles, queen scallops and clams are plentiful. Oysters are eaten all year round typically served raw with crepinettes (small flat sausages) and shallot onions. Wines from neighbouring Bordeaux complete the gastronomic delights.
The “Parc Ornithologique du Teich” nature reserve is a short drive from the Villa, as is “Aqua City” – a thrilling water park .
For more tranquil waters Cazaux Lake is a short (16km) drive south of Pyla. It is the second largest lake in France, with sailing facilities and pine-tree lined lakeside beaches.