No high-rise for this beachfront
18 | living places to visit
Belle Epoque villas are highly desirable
Kite-builders let their imaginations fly
The annual Festival de Cerf-Volant et du Vent features giant, imaginatively styled kites, wind-powered automatons, kite surfing, workshops and lots more handsomely, and soon the original agricultural-style dwellings of oyster farmers and fishermen found themselves rubbing shoulders with scores of new architect designed villas, whose construction was perfectly timed to coincide with the wave of optimism which produced the Belle Epoque period. A logical successor to Art Nouveau, the villas’ decorative motifs are often similarly fanciful although simplified to feature new materials transported by rail from brick, tile and ceramics companies. With patterned, multi-
coloured brickwork and intricatelystyled woodwork, the more ornate villas are typical of what we now refer to as ‘l’architecture balnéaire’. Most are single storey ‘pavillons’ on a more modest scale (in response to the compact size of the original plots) than was the case a little further down the coast in Royan, although in Châtelaillon the architects seem to have looked to the nearby fishermen’s cottages for inspiration. Here and there, though, they abandoned such measured composure and went into full fantasy mode, as you’ll see at
the Café de la Poste, in Boulevard de la République. Further along the boulevard is the cottage-style Chalet Kristiania, whose style would also have raised a few eyebrows when it first appeared. During a visit to the Paris World Fair in 1889 Alfred Loiret was so smitten by a Swedish chalet in the Scandinavian pavilion that he purchased it, had it dismantled at the close of the exhibition and reassembled here as his family home, just a stone’s throw from his grandiose Hotel Beauséjour.