On Friday nights in the summer, Bordeaux’s residents flee the city, making for Arcachon, the oldest beach resort on the Côte d’Argent. In August the white beaches bustle, and blue and yellow cruise boats buzz around the wooden jetties.
Many of Arcachon’s houses date from that brief period in the nineteenth century when the public’s taste resembled that of a seven year-old girl: extravagant, frilly bungalows sit in rose-filled gardens, inscribed with names like “Mirabelle” and “Claire de Lune” in curly italics. The town is made up of four little districts, named after the seasons. The seafront promenades and shopping streets of ville d’été (summer town) are full of ice-cream stalls and fishing nets. Ville d’hiver (winter town), south of the beach, is a place of broad, quiet streets and Second Empire mansions. To get there, follow the boulevard de la Plage west of Jetée Thiers until you reach the pedestrianized rue de Maréchal-de-Lattre-de-Tassigny; there a lift carries you up to the flower-filled, wooded Parc Mauresque, just below ville d’hiver. Residential ville d’automne (autumn town) stretches eastwards along boulevard de la Plage, a gentle 15min walk from the ville d’été; the beaches are a little quieter here.