Hol­i­day home gems

A re­cent sur­vey re­vealed the top three places where the French would love to buy a hol­i­day home – Karen Tait gets a taste of these French fan­cies

French Property News - - News -

The sea­side lo­ca­tions where the French dream of own­ing a sec­ond home

Where do the French dream of own­ing a hol­i­day home? This was the ques­tion asked in a sur­vey by Ex­plorimmo, and the re­sults are not as ob­vi­ous as you might ex­pect. Was Paris on the list, or St-tropez or Cannes? Nope. While the top three des­ti­na­tions are firm hol­i­day favourites with the French, and some of the old­est sea­side re­sorts in the coun­try, they may have es­caped Bri­tish house­hunters’ at­ten­tion. Then again, that could be a good thing, as they’re not ex­actly cheap!

In the num­ber one spot, the Bassin d’ar­ca­chon is home to chic Cap Fer­ret and the el­e­gant town of Ar­ca­chon it­self. It’s fol­lowed by Deauville, where stylish Parisians stroll along the board­walk and shop in de­signer bou­tiques, and Cas­sis, a south­ern re­sort at the heart of the stun­ning Calan­ques coast. All three are sparkling gems in the trea­sure trove of French coastal re­sorts. Who wouldn’t want to own a prop­erty there – the ques­tion is: can you af­ford it?

1 Re­gion: Nou­velle Aquitaine De­part­ment: Gironde Pop­u­la­tion: 10,370 (Ar­ca­chon) Prop­erty prices: €5,439/m2 (Ar­ca­chon apart­ment); €5,220/m2 (Ar­ca­chon house) Get­ting there: Fly into Bordeaux air­port; TGV to Ar­ca­chon rail sta­tion via Lon­don and Paris; 580km from St-malo to Ar­ca­chon

About half­way down the Atlantic coast, the scenic Ar­ca­chon bay is flanked by the exclusive re­sorts of Cap Fer­ret and Ar­ca­chon, where many of France’s rich and fa­mous have hol­i­day homes.

Ar­ca­chon is known for its el­e­gant Vic­to­rian vil­las, or ‘ Ar­ca­chon­naises’, with or­nate bal­conies, in­tri­cate brick­work and stained glass win­dows. The town’s quartiers in­clude the sought-af­ter Ville d’eté, where you’ll find the casino and beach, and Ville

d’hiver, fur­ther back in the pine for­est; there’s also a Ville de Prin­temps and Ville d’au­tomne. Ar­ca­chon is in­deed a town of four sea­sons; with its mild cli­mate, you can en­joy it all year round.

Cap Fer­ret has more of a vil­lage vibe, where a tra­di­tional fish­ing life­style and weath­er­beaten wooden homes sit hand in hand with top-end restau­rants and lux­ury vil­las.

Be­tween the two, the bay is like an in­land sea, pro­tected from the Atlantic by the Cap Fer­ret penin­sula and the 115m-high Dune du Pyla, the tallest dune in Europe and the best place to en­joy views across the bay. Look out for the Ile aux Oiseaux in the mid­dle, a na­ture re­serve for mi­gra­tory birds. Turn in­land and you’ll gaze across a green ocean – thou­sands of hectares of pine for­est, also Europe’s largest.

The bay is fa­mous for its oys­ters and pic­turesque wooden cab­ins on stilts, where oys­ter farm­ers used to keep an eye on their stock. Pro­tected areas in­clude the Banc d’ar­guin and Le Te­ich bird re­serve, while the for­est is part of the Lan­des de Gascogne re­gional park. It’s a great area for gen­tle out­door pur­suits: ex­plore the 220km of cy­cling paths; take a boat ex­cur­sion or try your hand at sail­ing or surf­ing; tee off at Golf In­ter­na­tional d’ar­ca­chon or Gu­jan-mes­tras; swim, fish or boat at the Etang de Cazaux; and horse-ride through the for­est

The 76km of beach are of the laid­back board­walk and dunes va­ri­ety, rather than the glitz of the Med, mostly gen­tly slop­ing and sandy. There are pleas­ant prom­e­nades along most of them, while the 232m-long jetty at An­der­nos-les-bains is the long­est in France.

Head in­land to ex­plore some of France’s best vine­yards, home to names such as Mar­gaux, Lafite and Mou­ton Roth­schild. Ar­ca­chon has its own min­eral wa­ter too, Les Abatilles; and when it comes to food, you have ev­ery­thing from snack bars to high-end din­ing.

Fewer than 40% of in­hab­i­tants live here full time; ac­cord­ing to the French sta­tis­tics agency IN­SEE, some 63% of prop­er­ties in Ar­ca­chon are hol­i­day homes and 62.4% in Lège-capFer­ret. This is not sur­pris­ing when you con­sider Ar­ca­chon’s ori­gins. Once a poor forested area, it was de­vel­oped as a health re­sort around 150 years ago, for Bordeaux’s bour­geoisie to ben­e­fit from the sea air and bal­neother­apy.

It quickly evolved into a lux­ury re­sort and prop­erty prices re­flect this. Av­er­age prices in Ar­ca­chon (€5,329/m2) and Cap Fer­ret (€6,224/m2) are con­sid­er­ably higher than the Gironde de­part­ment as a whole (€2,829/m2). More af­ford­able prop­erty can be found in other com­munes around the bay, such as La Teste-deBuch (€3,583/m2), Arès (€3,317/m2), Gu­jan-mes­tras (€3,016/m2), An­der­nos-lesBains (€3,660/m2) and Le Te­ich (€2,837/m2).

On Ex­plorimmo.com, prop­er­ties in Ar­ca­chon range from a 16m2 stu­dio for €112,000 to a 650m2 water­side villa for €6.3m; and in Cap Fer­ret, a 19m2 stu­dio for €130,000 to an €8.8m 10-bed­room house by the ocean. Away from these hotspots, I found a 44m2 one-bed apart­ment for €159,900 in An­der­nos-les-bains; a 100m2 three-bed house in Arès for €254,000; and a 49m2 two-bed mobile home near the beach in Gu­jan-mes­tras for €119,000.

The beaches of Ar­ca­chon bay are more the laid­back board­walk and dunes va­ri­ety, rather than the glitz of the Med

With its glo­ri­ous beaches, Deauville was an­other fore­run­ner of the seabathing fash­ion, at­tract­ing French (and Bri­tish) aris­toc­racy who built the beau­ti­ful vil­las and man­sions you can see to­day. The town re­mains a pop­u­lar up­mar­ket des­ti­na­tion, and is known as Paris’ 21st ar­rondisse­ment and the Parisian Riviera.

An­other nick­name is the Lady of the French Coast – per­haps the most fa­mous fe­male vis­i­tor was Coco Chanel, whose bou­tique helped turn the town into a fash­ion­able re­sort. De­signer out­lets have fol­lowed in her foot­steps ever since, along with art gal­leries, smart restau­rants and pres­ti­gious ho­tels. Deauville also has two listed mon­u­ments: the 12th­cen­tury St-lau­rent chapel and the Strass­burger villa, a neo-nor­man house built in 1907 for one of the Roth­schild fam­ily.

Deauville is known for its in­ter­na­tional film fes­ti­vals, casi­nos, horse rac­ing and wide sandy beach. The 500m-long board­walk, the Prom­e­nade des Planches, is lined with beach huts named af­ter celebri­ties from the Amer­i­can

Film Fes­ti­val.

Horses and Deauville go hand in hand. The race­course was de­vel­oped by the Duke of Morny, half-brother to Napoleon III, whose vis­its in the 1860s put the stamp of ap­proval on this up­com­ing re­sort. In­ci­den­tally, Napoleon also de­clared Ar­ca­chon a mu­nic­i­pal­ity in 1857. It is in­ter­est­ing to see that these re­sorts which started their as­cent at the same time are still firm favourites.

While the film fes­ti­vals, bou­tiques and fa­mous vis­i­tors prompt com­par­i­son with Cannes, Deauville re­tains a more old-fash­ioned charm. It may not have the balmy cli­mate of Ar­ca­chon or Cas­sis, but it too can be en­joyed year round, not least due to its many fes­ti­vals, events and leisure fa­cil­i­ties (tha­las­sother­apy, golf, sail­ing, horse-rid­ing etc). It also has an in­ter­na­tional con­ven­tion cen­tre, the Palais des Con­grès.

A small town which en­joys in­ter­na­tional re­pute, Deauville also of­fers easy ac­cess to other at­trac­tions. The Nor­man cap­i­tal Caen is less than an hour away, while just 15km along the coast you’ll find the beau­ti­ful har­bour of Hon­fleur, and in­land there’s the rolling coun­try­side and or­chards of the Pays d’auge.

As one of the most sought-af­ter re­sorts since the Belle Epoque, Deauville has many beau­ti­ful build­ings. Neo-nor­man houses, built in the 20th cen­tury and some­times re­ferred to as ‘ Deauvil­laises’, were in­spired by tra­di­tional lo­cal styles, with half-tim­bered fa­cades and slop­ing roofs punc­tured with small win­dows. The best vil­las are sit­u­ated on the seafront with large win­dows to en­joy the view. In the sur­round­ing coun­try­side, you’ll find châteaux and manor houses as well as more hum­ble ru­ral homes.

Like Ar­ca­chon, the Deauville prop­erty mar­ket is dom­i­nated by hol­i­day homes, mostly owned by Parisians; some 71% of prop­er­ties are sec­ond homes. Un­sur­pris­ingly, prices are high, with the most ex­pen­sive prop­er­ties set be­tween the race track and the sea.

At an av­er­age €4,556/m2, Deauville prop­erty is sig­nif­i­cantly more ex­pen­sive than the wider Cal­va­dos de­part­ment (€2,091/m2). While Deauville won out in the Ex­plorimmo sur­vey, its sis­ter town Trou­ville-sur-mer, sep­a­rated only by the River Touques, of­fers more af­ford­able op­tions (€3,708/m2). The old­est of the two re­sorts, it also has a casino, beach­front board­walk and Belle Epoque vil­las, but it’s less of a ‘de­signer’ town, and very pop­u­lar with fam­i­lies.

Small stu­dios (15m2) in Deauville can be found on Ex­plorimmo.com from around €70,000, with prices ris­ing to €2.9m for a five-bed­room neo-nor­man villa in the exclusive ‘Tri­an­gle d’or’ (be­tween the Nor­mandy Bar­rière Ho­tel, Palais des Con­grès and Place Morny). For Trou­ville, ex­pect to pay from around €40,000 for a small stu­dio apart­ment up to €1.75m for a well-placed five-bed villa.

There are 3,307,000

hol­i­day homes in France (IN­SEE) 44% of hol­i­day homes in France are by the sea

With its pic­turesque set­ting on the Mediter­ranean, pretty beaches, tow­er­ing cliffs and charm­ing har­bour, it’s no won­der Cas­sis has evolved as a dream hol­i­day – and hol­i­day home – des­ti­na­tion.

The re­sort is about 20km east of Mar­seille, sep­a­rated by the stun­ning calan­ques, dra­matic coves nes­tled be­tween huge cliffs, best viewed by boat. Be­tween Cas­sis and La Cio­tat, Cap Canaille (394m), is the high­est sea cliff in France, a land­mark for sailors for cen­turies.

One of the first vine­yards to ben­e­fit from the AOC (la­bel of con­trolled ori­gin) in­tro­duced in 1936, Cas­sis is known for its white and rosé wine (not to be con­fused with crème de cas­sis, the black­cur­rant liqueur from Bur­gundy). They’re pro­duced in the ter­raced hill­sides above the town – wine-tast­ing is a must.

A visit to Cas­sis would have to start in the har­bour, the heart of the town with its pastel­painted build­ings, colour­ful fish­ing boats, lively bars and restau­rants, and fish­er­men sell­ing their catch of the day.

Al­though Cas­sis has Ro­man and me­dieval ori­gins, most build­ings date from the 17th and 18th cen­turies. In the steep streets be­hind the seafront, highlights in­clude the 17th-cen­tury town hall (pop in to see me­dieval ru­ins through a glass floor in the re­cep­tion area), 19th-cen­tury Notre-dame de-bon-voy­age church and Villa l’ar­i­ane, now the li­brary. You’ll also find Provençal stone foun­tains, small chapels and a lo­cal mu­seum. For great views, head up the hill to the re­mains of the me­dieval Château des Baux, now a lux­ury ho­tel.

Place Baragnon hosts twice-weekly mar­kets, and there are reg­u­lar arts and crafts mar­kets. There are plenty of fes­ti­vals too, in­clud­ing one ded­i­cated to fish­er­men in June and a wine

Deauville was a fore­run­ner of the seabathing fash­ion, at­tract­ing French aris­toc­racy who built the beau­ti­ful vil­las and man­sions you see to­day

fes­ti­val in Septem­ber.

Cas­sis has long at­tracted arty types, in­clud­ing 20th-cen­tury artists Ge­orges Braque, An­dré Derain and Raoul Dufy, and writer Vir­ginia Woolf, who re­ferred to Cas­sis as ‘Blooms­buryon-méditer­ranée’. Sir Win­ston Churchill learnt to paint here and the streets are still full of artists to­day.

When the fash­ion­able headed east to St-tropez at al, Cas­sis was left be­hind and so re­mains thank­fully un­spoilt. It of­fers easy­go­ing Provence rather than su­per­charged Riviera; a slower pace of life, pic­ture-post­card scenery and won­der­ful lo­cal cui­sine and wine.

Al­though busy in sum­mer, it is calm for most of the year. The Mediter­ranean cli­mate is a big draw (hot and dry sum­mers and mild and hu­mid win­ters) while the calan­ques of­fer pro­tec­tion against the worst of the Mis­tral wind. The beaches are, of course, one of the best places to en­joy all that sun­shine. The main town beach, Plage de la Grande Mer, is backed by cliffs and is a mix of sand and peb­bles. Out­door ac­tiv­i­ties in­clude hik­ing on the trails above the calan­ques or Cap Canaille, rock climb­ing, kayak­ing, snorkelling and scuba div­ing.

Cas­sis clearly has many at­trac­tions, but cheap prop­erty isn’t one of them. It holds its value well though and there is a strong rental mar­ket if you’re look­ing to bring in an in­come. More af­ford­able prop­erty can be found in the sur­round­ing vil­lages.

Prop­er­ties are of­ten lux­ury vil­las or apart­ments, the best of­fer­ing sea views. The av­er­age prop­erty price (€4,965/m2) in Cas­sis is much higher than the wider Bouches-du-rhône area (€2,823/m2). Even 10km down the coast at La Cio­tat, prices fall to €3,817/m2; head 7km in­land to Carnoux-en-provence and they’re €3,081, while 15km in­land at Aubagne they’re just €2,801/m2.

On Ex­plorimmo.com prop­er­ties in Cas­sis range from a 16m2 stu­dio in a res­i­dence with pool for €100,000 to a 170m2 five-bed seafront house for €3.7m. In Carnoux a two-bed apart­ment with bal­cony is €224,000, while in Aubagne 20m2 stu­dios start at around €55,000.

While there are a lot of hol­i­day homes here (some 33.8% are sec­ond homes), there is also a per­ma­nent pop­u­la­tion keep­ing this small town alive year-round.

Cas­sis of­fers easy­go­ing Provence rather than su­per­charged Riviera – a slower pace of life, pic­ture-post­card scenery and won­der­ful lo­cal cui­sine and wine

The Bassin d’ar­ca­chon

Ar­ca­chon sits be­tween the bay and for­est

Beach huts along Deauville’s board­walk are named af­ter celebri­ties from the town’s Amer­i­can Film Fes­ti­val

Half-tim­bered build­ings are typical of Deauville

Cas­sis is at the heart of the Calan­ques na­tional park

Colour­ful houses line the har­bour in Cas­sis

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