Sep 13, 2014

Dinard-chitecture: L'Ecir en Aubrac

When we visit our friends in Dinard, we stay in a lovely house, a big house, a house close to the sea. But it's not one of these historic mansions actually overlooking the beach. They mostly date from the latter half of the 19th century, when the first bath house was built here in 1859, transforming it from a little fishing village to a luxury resort. In fact, it was the premier resort in France until the French Riviera took over in the 1930s.

I love how so many of the houses, especially the older ones, have names. This one, the "Hurle-Vent" ("Screaming-Wind") right one top of a coastal cliff, seems especially well named.

Many of the first visitors and villa owners were foreigners, often British. It's still known as the most British corner of France, and not just because it's physically close to England just over the Channel. Some of the more famous visitors include Alfred Hitchcock, Pablo Picasso, Achille-Claude Debussy, the real Lawrence of Arabia, Oscar Wilde, and lots of European royalty.

Because of the foreign influence, and the fact that the houses were build up so recently -- by European standards, that is -- the architecture is notably different than most of the rest of France, and certainly from Paris. It's a mixture of a neo-Gothic, neo-Classic Italian, Victorian, and fantasy storybook castle. That's why over 400 of these villas are classified in the Protection Zone of Patrimonial Urban and Countryside Architecture.

There won't be any new construction of these mansions overlooking the cliffs because of a 1986 law in France, called the loi littoral (coastline law), which forbids construction within 100 meters of any body of water, unless the area is already urbanized or if its necessary for public use or service purposes. This gorgeous field, just at the edge of the water, is untouchable. Bliss.

One of these smaller mansions is up for sale now; the final price is expected to be around 1.3€ million, but I take an outside peek when I'm there, and it's obvious it needs a lot more money put into it to bring it to livable standards. So figure that for a cool 2 million, you can get a small coastal villa, and you'll have to pay exponentially more than that for one of these prominent big ones. But they don't come up for sale very often.

THE CHEESE: L'Ecir en Aubrac
L'Ecir en Aubrac is a raw cows' milk cheese made in a tiny fromagerie in Aubrac, right near Laguiole, home to the famous French knives.
It's a creamy puck of a cheese, whose method of production is a jealously guarded secret. I can tell you that it's aged for 6-8 weeks, and made with spring and summer milks, for the most part, between January through September. The result is a delicate white crust over an oozy, delicious interior. It's got a substantial but well-balanced flavor, with hints of sweet and salty, honey, and the grazing herbs.
Though this is not a cheese from Bretagne, I buy it during our latest trip to Dinard. And the sticker of L'Ecir en Aubrac does highlight a charming, regional, architectural detail. From the wrong region, of course, but there's still a lot of stone involved.


  1. So beautiful! Enjoying following your travels through France! xx


Design by Free WordPress Themes | Bloggerized by Lasantha - Premium Blogger Themes | Customized by Mihai