B&B and Beyond: Beyond Villa Seabird, Cap Ferret, Gironde, France

The crashing Atlantic waves are just a few minutes from this peaceful retreat hiding in the pines, says Sebastian Lander

Approaching Villa Seabird on foot beneath the dappled shade of lofty pine trees, you could be in the Hamptons or Los Angeles rather than the Cap Ferret peninsula. After the odd architectural caprice, perhaps a house taking its cue from a moated castle, you reach the end of a cul-de-sac that doesn't even hint at the peaceful B&B beyond.

Behind a fence, two whitewashed flat-roofed modernist buildings hunker down into their forest setting. One – the home of jolly owner Sylvie Jauffret – dates from the 1960s; the other was built three years ago to accommodate visitors to this region of Aquitaine in south-west France.

Named after a famous French racehorse, the homely Villa Seabird takes life at anything but a gallop. Weathered decking paves the way to a heated swimming pool surrounded by artfully placed sunloungers. The garden's earthy coolness and leafy privacy create the ultimate retreat.

 

The Bed

Villa Seabird isn't saturated with seaside ornaments. The two particularly large and airy double rooms are of similar size and share a quiet eclecticism. Neutral colours, both on the walls and poured concrete floor, and simple lines offset the one-off statement pieces of furniture or artwork: here a side table covered in multicoloured tiles, there a découpage painting. Most are locally made, with an emphasis on natural materials and craftsmanship. Many come with a backstory, too, such as the outdoor furniture, picked up in Dakar, Senegal.

Each room has large French doors opening onto a private terrace. Toilet rooms are separate, and showers – heated by solar panels – are walk-in. In one of the rooms, Sylvie has incorporated design elements for guests with disabilities, such as lowered switches, plus toilet and shower access. There are televisions, but technology does not reign here and Wi-Fi, based in the main house, doesn't quite stretch to the rooms.

The Breakfast

In fine weather, it is served outside around a communal table, or in your room if it's gloomy. There is no set menu and the spread depends, Sylvie jokes, "on my humour". Perhaps in frivolous mood, our host conjured up strawberry fromage blanc, pastries and that delicious staple – French bread – with homemade jams. Fruit is always a component and a daily mystery blend of freshly squeezed juices offers up the chance for an impromptu guess-the-contents quiz. There is also a selection of teas and coffee.

The Hosts

Villa Seabird is where Bordeaux-native Sylvie spent her holidays growing up. Fluent in English, she clearly enjoys company. "Every day, I say I'm lucky to be here and have the experience of meeting people," she told us. Sylvie might be bubbly, but she's a polished professional at heart.

The Weekend

While inside all is calm, outside Villa Seabird, a natural playground awaits. Atlantic waves crash against the sand dunes just minutes away on one side, while the oyster-rich Bassin d'Arcachon offers up a gourmet's delight on the other. The glamorous village of Cap Ferret – a finger of land guarding the bay, punctuated with an iconic lighthouse – is barely a 10-minute stroll away, characterised by boutique shops and barefoot French holidaymakers sipping coffee. In September, when the summer crowds have thinned, the tempo might drop but the mercury keeps pace.

The best way to explore this sandy outpost, an hour's drive from Bordeaux, is by bicycle (00 33 5 56 60 49 46; locabeach.com; €7/£5.60 for half a day). There are more than 50km of tracks that pass through the forest. To visit a traditional oyster-farming village, the charmingly named L'Herbe is a short pedal away.

To explore the Bassin, the Union de Bateliers Arcachonnais (UBA) offers boat trips (00 33 5 57 72 28 28; bateliers-arcachon.com; from €8 for the "Grand Tour"). For a leg stretch and a slice of local history, catch the 30-minute ferry ride over the bay to Arcachon (where there are rail links to Bordeaux and beyond) and marvel at the grand houses of the 19th-century rich in the Ville d'Hiver. A rather elegiac wander along the point of the Cap Ferret peninsula will reveal the "blockhaus" concrete fortifications left behind by the Germans in the Second World War, now a canvas for talented graffiti artists.

The pit stop

You can sample what Cap Ferret does best – oysters – in the waterfront surrounds of La Cabane du Mimbeau (00 33 5 56 60 61 67; lacabanedumim beau.com). We enjoyed six medium oysters (€9/£7.10), a plate of bulots (whelks) and pâté (both €6/£4.70), with a bottle of rosé (€17/£13.40) on the terrace. The Bassin and Dune du Pilat – Europe's highest and worth a visit – stretch majestically before you. A cosier room at Mimbeau, with equally commanding views, has just opened.

The Essentials

Villa Seabird, Allée des Bambous, Lège Cap-Ferret, Gironde, France (00 33 5 56 03 70 76; villa-seabird.com). Doubles start at €180 (£143) including breakfast. Sylvie will pick up or drop off guests at the jetty if arriving from Arcachon.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

    £35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

    Guru Careers: Membership Administrator

    £23K: Guru Careers: We're seeking an experienced Membership Administrator, to ...

    Guru Careers: Dining Room Head Chef

    £32K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Dining Room Head Chef to work for one of ...

    Guru Careers: Pastry Sous Chef / Experienced Pastry Chef

    £27K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Pastry Sous Chef / Experienced Pastry Che...

    Day In a Page

    Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
    Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

    Fifa corruption arrests

    All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
    Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

    The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

    In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

    Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
    Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

    How Stephen Mangan got his range

    Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
    The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

    The ZX Spectrum is back

    The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
    Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

    Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

    The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
    Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

    Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

    If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
    The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

    The quirks of work perks

    From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
    Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

    Is bridge becoming hip?

    The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
    Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

    The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

    Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
    The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

    The rise of Lego Clubs

    How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
    5 best running glasses

    On your marks: 5 best running glasses

    Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
    Joe Root: 'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

    'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

    Joe Root says the England dressing room is a happy place again – and Stokes is the catalyst
    Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

    Please save my husband

    As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada