Arcachon vue de Londres en 1886

En 1866, Arcachon a 29 ans: sa réputation de ville de santé où les gens de bien peuvent trouver à se soigner et se distraire n'est plus à faire et a franchi les frontières. Le 23 octobre 1886, "The illustrated London news" publie un reportage sur la ville tellement élogieux qu'il s'apparente à ce qu'on appelle aujourd'hui un "publi-reportage": le rédacteur se laisse même aller à comparer Arcachon à Brighton, c'est tout dire.

L'article est illustrée d'une superbe gravure, dont la légende dit tout : "Arcachon, the favoured winter seaside resort on the west coast of France" (Arcachon, la bien dotée station balnéaire d'hiver de la côte ouest de la France).

Cliquez pour agrandir la gravure

Le texte souligne la qualité de la vie à Arcachon où l'on trouve même des terrains de croquet et surtout que le séjour y est très bon marché : "nine francs a day, all charges included" (neuf francs par jour au Grand Hôtel toutes charges comprises). Il y a même des medecins de "grande réputation dont certains parlent anglais". Des "cultivateurs" britanniques, propriétaires de parcs à huîtres, envoient de "grandes quantités d'huîtres en Angleterre". Mais jugez en vous même:


     On the west coast of France, in the department of the Gironde, and thirty-five miles from Bordeaux, the pleasant town of Arcachon is situated on the shores of a landlocked inlet, the Bassin; which has an area of not less than seventy square miles, and is sheltered by the Dunes from the waves of the Bay of Biscay. Within the Bassin, while the tide from the ocean rises rapidly to a considerable height, the water is smooth, and is a great deal more salt than that of the sea outside, as well as much warmer. It is therefore singularly well adapted for winter bathing ; while Arcachon has the further advantage of being surrounded, for miles, with forests of the maritime pine, trees of great height and growth, the balsamic emanations from which impart a most salubrious influence to the air. This place, some forty years ago, was comparatively unknown to those in search of a warm or agreable winter climate. It has, however, come to the knowledge of the medical faculty, and is generally recognised as being one of the most desirable and remarkable of sanitary stations for the restoration of persona in debilitated health; and of those in the decline of life, who seek the atmosphere of the pine woods, under a pure and clement sky, for the cure or the mitigation of inveterate maladies, from which they may be suffering. In the summer season, which lasts for six months, the saline cures are completed. The absence of waves, and the genial, temperature, permit of the bath being indulged in for an hour at a time, at the discretion of the doctors ordering such treatment. Persons of a delicate and lymphatic nature, and those who cannot support the force of the ordinary sea air or of the ocean wave, can bathe here in comfort, and find their health rapidly restored or improved by the soothing influence of these waters, which are reputed also more suitable than any others for children.

     The "Sanatorium" under which name the winter town of Arcachon is known, is of more recent creation, and was the first of the medical stations installed in the pine forests. It consists of a collection of elegant villas, of a luxurious or most comfortable character, each having its flower garden, well stocked with shrubs and trees, with its lawn, and some with croquet and lawn-tennis grounds. Some of these are immediately sheltered by the pine-trees; others are situated below these woods, which cover the hills for thousands of acres, and impart to the atmosphere a peculiar salubrity. There is a rapidly increasing demand for those villas, and every year the winter colony augments in number, including many persons of rank. The cures of persons suffering from chest complaints, bronchitis, phthisis, asthma, and nervous diseases are becoming very numerous. It must not be supposed that it is a matter of indifference whether invalids are sent to this or any other part of of the west of France, because the influence of the air of this vast "Sanatorium" has a powerful sedative effect. It acts efficaciously on nervons persons, and is a remedy for the complicated maladies to which they are subject.

     The climate of Arcachon is temperate, rather humid than dry, and it is exempt from abrupt variations of temperature. The following is the summary of the average temperature taken at the Observatory : Winter, 48 deg. ; spring, 61 deg.: summer, 78 deg. ; autumn, 78 deg.; mean temperature on the whole year, about 63 deg. The large quantity of ozone contained in the air of the forest is an indisputable condition of its salubrity. The fine sand of the soil of Arcachon, and especially that of the forest, rapidly absorbs the rain as it falls, and contributes to healthfulness. Arcachon is the Brighton of Bordeaux, while the predilection of French and foreign visitors for this place of resort, both in winter and in summer, proves not only the merits of the climate, but the convenience of this town for comfortable living at an unusually cheap rate.

     On reference to our Illustration, in the centre of the Marine Panorama will be seen a very commanding edifice, dominating all the rest; this is the Grand Hotel, which was built by the Railway Company. It is situated on the borders of the seashore, and is directed by Mr. Van Hymbeeck. the former Director of the Grand Hotel at Paris, of which he is the correspondent at Arcachon. These establishments, at Paris and Arcachon, are equivalent in point of comfort: there is but one difference, that of prices : for the charges are unusually moderate at the Grand Hotel, Arcachon -probably lower than any other superior first-class hotel in France; the charge for pension during1 winter is nine francs a day, all charges included. The view from the south apartments of this hotel, towards the Pine Forest, and over the splendid gardens of the Casino, is one of the finest that can be enjoyed ; it is represented in one section of our Engraving, the panorama is equally fine as viewed from the beautifully situated Casino, and this is shown in the other section of our Illustration.

     The sports, pastimes, and amusements of Arcachon are yachting, boating, regattas, bathing, fishing in the Bassin and in the ocean, hunting the wild boar, fox-hunting, snipe and wild duck shooting. There is a Museum of Natural History, a Marine Aquarium, and a Zoological Laboratory. Bathing is enjoyed on beautifully soft sands, in all states of the tide ; there are no rapid currents, yet the Humane Society boats are always in attendance. Arcachon has its club, its theatre, its reading-rooms, its casino, billiard-rooms, and lawn-tennis, and beautiful walks in the grounds ; while horses and carriages may be hired for excursions, and ponies and saddle donkeys for children or the infirm.

     The oyster culture here is a very remarkable and highly productive institution. There are upwards of two thousand oyster-parks, each park containing a considerable number of oyster beds; oysters can be bought for twopence per dozen, and large quantities are sent to England by some resident English cultivators who are large oyster-park proprietors.

     There are many doctors of great reputation here, and some of them speak English; there is also a resident English doctor during the winter. There is an English chemist, an English church and minister, and shops where most articles of English comfort or manufacture can be obtained. Mr, Hennon, of Villa Hennon, and Mrs Brannens are the principal house agents. From London Arcachon can be reached in twenty-four hours, via Paris and Bordeaux; and those intending travellers who, from motives of economy or preferring the voyage, desire to travel by sea, will find steamers sailing direct, and weekly, from London to Bordeaux.