Cambo-les-Bains: Villa Arnaga and Edmond Rostand Museum
In Cambo-les-Bains, 6 kilometers from our campsite in the Basque Country, discover Villa Arnaga, the “poem of stone and greenery” so dear to Edmond Rostand. The sumptuous residence is full of treasures to discover. And what about the superb French and English gardens that serve as a backdrop to the building? That’s right, we tell you everything!
Edmond Rostand’s Basque dream
Before becoming a museum, Villa Arnaga was the Basque dream of one of France’s greatest playwrights, Edmond Rostand. At the age of 32, the author of Cyrano de Bergerac was suffering from chronic pleurisy. His GP advises him to go for a cure at Cambo-les-Bains. He stayed at Villa Etchegorria and immediately fell in love with the Basque country.
. The following year, his play L’Aiglon opened the doors of the Académie française to him. But a victim of his own success and still weakened, Edmond Rostand preferred to flee the capital and settle in Combo-les-Bains. The academician sold his Paris hotel and bought 15 hectares of land on a hill at the foot of which flows the Arraga stream, which means “place of stone” in Basque. The man of letters dreams of building “a beautiful house in a beautiful garden”. He called on renowned architect Albert Tournaire.
From 1903 to 1906, the writer had a veritable “Little Versailles” built, surrounded by magnificent formal and formal gardens. The house is inspired by traditional Labourd farmhouses, with their whitewashed facades and red-painted half-timbering. A new architectural trend was born: the neo-Basque style!
Guided tour of the villa-museum
Edmond Rostand imagines his villa as a work of art. As a result, the decoration of the forty living rooms is designed like a theatrical set.
On the first floor, a large English-style hall leads to a succession of rooms, all richly furnished and decorated with paintings, wood panelling and objets d’art in display cases. We pass through the Chinese Salon, the library, the dining room, the Empire Office and the Children’s Studio with its paper theater.
Upstairs, the decor is just as sumptuous. The elegant rooms, the wardrobe of Rosemonde, the playwright’s poet wife, original play manuscripts, stage costumes and a host of other treasures plunge visitors into the writer’s intimacy.
If you’re observant, you won’t have missed the modernity of the house’s facilities, even though it was built at the beginning of the last century. From the outset, the Arnaga estate was equipped with electricity, hot water, telephone, central heating, floor ventilation grids and even an astonishing hydrotherapy room, exceptional for its time. A hot-air calorifier, considered healthier, also replaced the chimney. And it’s only 1906.
A beautiful house with two lovely gardens
To create the setting for his villa, Edmond Rostand designed a vast garden complex covering more than fifteen hectares. On the one hand, he created a French garden of ostentatious symmetry, with basins, fountains and pergolas. On the other, a curvaceous English garden, perfect for the solitary stroller’s reverie. The ying and the yang.
– The Arnaga estate is open daily from April 1 to November 3.
– Address: Avenue du Dr Alexandre Camino, 64250 Cambo-les-Bains (10 minutes from the campsite)
– Don’t miss the “Cyrano” and “Chantecler” theatrical walks staged by actors from Compagnie Irrinigar (July and August).
– Allow 2 hours for the visit (guided tour of the villa + gardens).
– Dates, times and prices: www.arnaga.com
Photo: © Gentil Hibou, CC BY-SA 3.0