Portrait d'Edmond Rostand, auteur de Cyrano de Bergerac

Edmond Rostand and Cambo-les-Bains

Arrival at Cambo-les-Bains

Who is Edmond Rostand?

A key figure in French literature, Edmond Rostand wrote plays that have become classics, the best-known of which is the unforgettable Cyrano de Bergerac.

After the triumph of Cyrano de Bergerac and a meteoric rise to fame, at the age of less than 30, he was propelled to the heart of society, elevated to the rank of national pen, represented throughout the world and enjoyed unrivalled prestige! However, he shunned his public role to settle in a sumptuous Basque retreat, his magnificent Villa Arnaga.

Born in Marseille on April1, 1868, Rostand revealed his artistic talent from an early age. After a difficult start, his success and fortune came in 1897 with the premiere of Cyrano de Bergerac, a play that catapulted him to national stardom. After Cyrano came the success of L’Aiglon and his election to the Académie française at the age of 33.

But at the same time, tired and anxious, Rostand contracted a serious lung disease during rehearsals for L’Aiglon. He consulted Professor Grancher, Louis Pasteur’s former assistant and a leading specialist in lung diseases, who advised him to convalesce at Cambo-les-Bains.

In 1900, Edmond Rostand discovered Cambo-les-Bains and the Basque country, accompanied by his wife Rosemonde and two sons, Maurice and Jean. The mild climate and rugged beauty of the Basque region immediately appealed to him. He returned in 1902, after a brief but disappointing return to Paris, where he lived. He then decided to settle permanently in Cambo-les-Bains and build the house of his dreams.

Who is Rosemonde Gérard?

“And as each day I love you more, today more than yesterday and much less than tomorrow”

L’éternelle chanson – Les pipeaux – Rosemonde Gérard

If you were familiar with these verses, did you know that Edmond Rostand’s wife, Louise Rose Etiennette Gérard, nicknamed Rosemonde, wrote them?
In 1889, at the age of 24, she published her first collection of poems, “Les Pipeaux”, which was awarded a prize by the Académie française. Married in 1890 to Edmond Rostand, they had two children, Maurice and Jean. Enthralled by her husband’s talent, she chose to sacrifice her career to serve the glory of her poet, from whom she separated in 1913, before returning to writing. Rosemonde Gérard died in Paris on July 8, 1953.

View of Villa Arnaga and its gardens from the pergola

Villa Arnaga, one man’s dream

The birth of Arnaga

After weeks of research, Edmond Rostand found the perfect spot to build the future Arnaga estate, a spur at the confluence of the Nive river and a small stream, Arraga, from which it took its name.

Once Edmond Rostand had made his decision, everything had to happen very quickly, and Arnaga’s construction was strikingly fast! On July 15, 1902, the sale was ratified and the architect appointed. On his father’s advice, he called on architect Joseph-Albert Tournaire, Premier Grand Prix de Rome. The collaboration between the two men worked perfectly: by March 1903, the plans were ready, the contractors selected and work began. Edmond Rostand is fully committed to the creation of his gardens, even going so far as to bring in flowers by railcar from the 1906 Paris Horticultural Exhibition. It took just 3 years, from 1903 to 1906, for Edmond Rostand’s ideas to be transformed into a work of stone and vegetation.

Labourdine-inspired architecture

A neo-Basque house

Villa Arnaga resembles a traditional Labourdine farmhouse. But don’t let that impression fool you! While inspired by the typical house of the region, there are many differences.

Ortillopitz house in Sare.
View of the front façade of Villa Arnaga and its reflection in the first pool

Arnaga is one of the earliest examples of neo-Basque architecture. At the beginning of the 20th century, this new architectural movement transformed traditional farmhouses into comfortable, modern homes, adapting them to technical progress and the new needs it brought with it.

Bringing nature into the rooms, opening large windows on all sides, designing loggias and balconies designed to “get some fresh air” – this is the new program of neo-basque architecture linked to the seaside constructions on the coast.

The Villa Arnaga was exceptionally modern for the early 20th century, and also reflects Edmond Rostand’s attachment to the hygienic trend of the 19th century driven by Louis Pasteur’s discoveries: electricity in every room of the Villa, hot water, hydrotherapy room, and so on.

Recognized artists

Arnaga’s decoration

Nothing is too good for Arnaga! The most modern comforts, trompe l’oeil, precious fabrics, frescoes by fashionable painters, the rarest woodwork and Chinese lacquer. Decorated by the famous writer and poet himself, it contains artistic masterpieces designed for him by the painters of the time: Georges Delaw, Gaston la Touche, Clémentine-Hélène Dufau, Jean Veber and others.

Our favorite ❤️

Recommended by the architect Tournaire, Jean Veber (1868-1928) designed the enchanting décor for Rosemonde’s boudoir. Fairy tales remain his favorite subject. Here you can admire Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Puss in Boots and Cinderella….

Detail from Jean Veber's fresco of Fairy Tales in Rosemonde's boudoir at Villa Arnaga, Cambo-les-Bains, Basque country, depicting Rosemonde Gérard in Peu d'âne (Little Donkey).
Detail of a bay window in the Villa Arnaga

A little Basque Versailles

The gardens of Villa Arnaga

On the outskirts of his spacious home, Edmond Rostand designed a series of gardens covering more than 15 hectares. His youngest son, Jean, an eminent French biologist and academician, said of Arnaga’s garden that his father “really created it from scratch. He had drawn up the entire plan himself, meticulously, lovingly, with the same attention to detail that he lavished on his theatrical works”.

To the east, where the sun rises, it gives rise to a French-style garden, set against a backdrop of the majestic Pyrenean mountains. A large pergola seems to enclose the garden space. Three distinct areas make up this natural landscape painting: a bed of annual flowers, a large water mirror reflecting the house, and the large pond lined with topiaries (decoratively sculpted plants) and lawns.

To the west, where the sun sets, a flower meadow once flourished, now transformed into an “English” garden.

Edmond Rostand put a lot of effort into creating his gardens, even going so far as to bring in flowers by railcar.

Over time, Arnaga’s gardens have undergone various modifications: the canal and pergola were added in 1912, the gardens were modified by Mr. de Souza Costa, to whom the family sold Arnaga in 1923, water fountains were installed by the municipality following its purchase of the estate in 1961, and the regular garden was restored between 2012 and 2015.

Villa Arnaga has been awarded the “Remarkable Garden” and “Remarkable Trees” labels.

Arnaga, a garden born from the ground

The Arnaga construction site is in full swing. Earthworks, planting, paths and flowerbeds take shape under the watchful eye of the workers. Rostand wanted a garden in his image, grandiose and immediate. Gone are the young, feather-duster-like trees; he demands mature trees to give Arnaga the look of a century-old estate. Fourteen-year-old lime trees are removed and replanted, followed by plane, cypress and yew trees, and take the road to Arnaga. It’s an astonishing sight for camboards to observe this “walking alley”, a procession of aged trees, “lugged like asparagus” on carts for a month. Thanks to Rostand’s ambitious vision and the hard work of his men, Arnaga seems to have risen from the ground like a castle frozen in time.

After Paul Faure

A brief chronology of Arnaga

Early 1900s, Edmond Rostand contracted a serious case of pleurisy during rehearsals for L’Aiglon at the Sarah Bernhardt theater in Paris.

The Professor GranchetPasteur’s collaborator and eminent member of the Académie de Médecine, advised him to seek treatment at Cambo-les-Bains, a small spa with a “toni-sedative” climate.

Edmond Rostand and his family, consisting of his wife Rosemonde Gérard and his two sons, Mauriceand Jeanmoved into the Villa Etchegorria in the autumn of 1900, during a period of healing.

Fallen in love with Cambo and the Basque country, Edmond Rostand returned in January 1902 to settle here permanently and build the house of his dreams. So begins the search for the ideal place to erect it…

During a ride on horseback, Rostand finally discovered the perfect location for his future home, a spur at the confluence of the Nive and a small stream, theArragafrom which the estate took its name.

Once the poet has made his decision, everything has to happen very quickly. The deed of purchase was signed in July 1902 and the architect chosen. They will be JosephAlbert Tournairearchitect of the Caisse d’Épargne de Marseille and Grand Prix de Rome in 1888, who came to Cambo in August 1902.

By March 1903the plans were ready and the contractors chosen: the future house would be off-center towards the spur to leave a vast space for the gardens.

Work begins and the site is quickly levelled. The Arnaga site is teeming with workers. Paul Faure recalls:“There are so many workers on this plateau, still so recently untamed, that you don’t know whether it’s a house being built or a town.”

Throughout the construction period, Edmond Rostand and Albert Tournaire corresponded almost daily, exchanging notes, observations, ideas, sketches and designs to improve the plans for the future home and gardens.

Arnaga’s construction is astonishingly fast. In 1906, Edmond Rostand his wife Rosemonde and their two sons, Maurice and Jean moved into a house still under construction, still to be decorated and furnished.

It’s worth pointing out that, for its time, Arnaga boasts all modern comforts. modern comforts heating (calorifier), hot water, telephone, etc.

A little anecdote In May 1906, Rosemonde visited the Horticultural Exhibition in Paris. For the Arnaga gardens, she selects extraordinary trees as well as rare and unique plants, such as the gold medal-winning Himalayan rhododendron and Japanese iris. She buys such a large quantity of plants for Arnaga that a whole wagonload will be needed to transport them !

Edmond Rostand died on December 2, 1918 of Spanish flu, at the age of 50 years old.

In 1922, a few years after the poet’s death and unable to afford the costly upkeep of the estate, his family parted with Arnaga’s furnishings in an auction. large auction sale which lasts 10 days, and then of the Villa Arnaga itself by selling it to Mr de Souza Costaowner of the Cambo thermal bathsHe had it demolished and rebuilt 200 meters away in 1930 in the Art Deco style by architect Henri Sajous.

OnSeptember 29, 1961the municipality of Cambo-les-Bains purchased Villa Arnaga from its second and last owner, Madame Flaisman. The house is devoid of furniture and has lost some of its original decor.

Since its purchase in 1961, the Municipality has been working to bring Villa Arnaga back to life. Thanks to donations from the Rostand family, private individuals and purchases at public auctions, the house is gradually regaining some of its lustre. Even today, the Villa Arnaga conservation team carries out meticulous research based on the 1919 inventory and period photos, in order to refurnish the house in a manner similar to that of the Rostands’ era.

In 2023, 60 pieces from the Mobilier national were added to the Villa Arnaga collection under a deposit agreement.

Villa Arnaga is now the Edmond Rostand Museum. It is classified Historic Monument and has been awarded the Museum of FranceMaison des Illustres, Remarkable Gardens and Remarkable Trees.

Practical information

Villa Arnaga is open from March 24 to November 3, 2024.

Tel: +33 (0)5 59 29 83 92

Where to eat in Cambo-les-Bains

Auberge Chez Tante Ursule

Auberge Chez Tante Ursule

Enjoy a friendly and convivial atmosphere in this family restaurant located in the old town, near by the Fronton. Traditional cuisine.

CAMBO-LES-BAINS
Le Bellevue

Le Bellevue

Located in the center of Cambo-les-Bains, Le Bellevue offers you a really nice terrace with panoramic view. French and regional inventive cuisine.

CAMBO-LES-BAINS
Salon Cyrano

Salon Cyrano

For a family or friends dinner, have a break on the sunny terrace. Tearoom, salads, salty and sweet tarts, homemade cakes, ice-cream. Every sunday, discover the homemade brunch.

CAMBO-LES-BAINS
Mendi Berdea

Mendi Berdea

Whether it’s a lunch break or an evening out with friends or family, we’ll do everything we can to make you want to come back again and again. The Chef will introduce…

CAMBO-LES-BAINS
Café du Trinquet

Café du Trinquet

In the middle of the city center, the Maisterena family welcomes you warmly for a complete breakfast. During all the year, sandwiches, quiches, toasted ham and cheese sandwiches.

CAMBO-LES-BAINS
Terrae

Terrae

Grégory and Lucile welcome you to their new establishment, TERRAE, in the heart of Cambo-Les-Bains. After several years working together in Michelin-starred establishments across France, they are delighted to be able to…

CAMBO-LES-BAINS
La petite pause

La petite pause

Tearoom, salty and sweet tarts, salads, homemade cakes. Think about booking your table.

CAMBO-LES-BAINS
Restaurant Ama

Restaurant Ama

The AMA restaurant offers semi-gastronomic cuisine with products selected from our local producers. Let yourself be carried away by a menu combining Basque terroir, creativity and travel inspiration. Enjoy our weekday lunch…

CAMBO-LES-BAINS
La Villa Bleue

La Villa Bleue

Italian and regional specialities. Homemade deserts, a simple and generous cuisine !

CAMBO-LES-BAINS
Au Mai Nuna

Au Mai Nuna

Located in a holiday resort, this restaurant offers traditional and regional cuisine. During summer, enjoy the outside seating area with a view on the mountains and the covered pool.

CAMBO-LES-BAINS
Le Pavillon bleu

Le Pavillon bleu

This restaurant takes place in the park of Cambo-les-Bains’ baths and has a panoramic terrace with a view on basque mounts. The restaurant offers two kind of cuisine : gastronomic and dietary…

CAMBO-LES-BAINS
Restaurant Aldaburua

Restaurant Aldaburua

Aldaburua, a restaurant, bar and hotel in a local, modern and very friendly atmosphere! In the heart of the village of Larressore, a stone’s throw from Espelette, taste the conviviality and local…

LARRESSORE
Restaurant Haize Hegoa

Restaurant Haize Hegoa

In Itxassou, a small Labourdin village known for its cherries, the Haize Hegoa brewery welcomes you below the pediment in a green setting where the mountains surround you. Come and enjoy a…

ITXASSOU
Restaurant du Fronton
Développement durable

Restaurant du Fronton

The hotel restaurant Le Fronton, located in the heart of the village of Itxassou, has been run by the Bonnet family for 4 generations, perpetuating the tradition of a warm welcome and…

ITXASSOU
Restaurant Txistulari

Restaurant Txistulari

Traditional restaurant located in the small town of Itxassou at the foot of the mountains. Jean-Jacques Usandisaga, the chef offers a generous and authentic local cuisine, made with fresh seasonal products. Chipiron…

ITXASSOU
Restaurant le Chêne

Restaurant le Chêne

At the foot of the mountains and the church, in a green setting, an ideal place to rest, visit the Basque Country and take a gastronomic break. The restaurant du Chêne is…

ITXASSOU
Restaurant du Labourd

Restaurant du Labourd

The Restaurant is located in the heart of the city of Ustaritz. The welcome is warm, the decoration is rustic and typical with a fireplace, wood and exposed stones The Chef offers…

USTARITZ
Auberge du Fronton
Développement durable

Auberge du Fronton

This inn has a bar area, a large room and a beautiful sunny terrace facing the fronton of the town. Parking nearby. In a cosy atmosphere, you will be able to taste…

USTARITZ
Ferme Erreka

Ferme Erreka

The Jauregui family shares their passion for quality products, mainly from their pig farm. The farm is located at the foot of the mountains, where the animals graze peacefully on the grasslands.…

ESPELETTE
Restaurant Bergara

Restaurant Bergara

3km from Espelette in the small village of Souraide, Bergara is a family restaurant run by the Massonde family for 5 generations You can discover a simple and authentic cuisine, highlighting the…

SOURAIDE
Restaurant Ogibarnia

Restaurant Ogibarnia

In the heart of the village of Macaye, the family inn Ogibarnia opens its doors to you. Here, passion is passed on from mother to daughter Elodie, Martine her mother in the…

MACAYE
Restaurant Argi Eder
Développement durable

Restaurant Argi Eder

A timeless moment… An exceptional frame on the heights of Ainhoa! Rustic and elegant decoration (air-conditioned dining room or terrace in front of the hills)! A creative and generous cuisine by Philippe…

AINHOA
Restaurant Ithurria
Développement durable

Restaurant Ithurria

Formerly a stopping place on the way to Saint Jacques de compostelle, the place has been converted into an outstanding bucolic place for a gastronomic stopover. Xavier Isabal will introduce you to…

AINHOA
Restaurant La Maison Oppoca
Développement durable

Restaurant La Maison Oppoca

In the depths of the village, the head chef Dominique Massonde welcomes you in this house of the 17th century. In the dining room or in the terrace, you will appreciate a…

AINHOA
Restaurant Ur Hegian

Restaurant Ur Hegian

The restaurant Ur-Hegian proposes you a traditional cooking. Numerous regional specialities as the paella, the salmi of wood pigeon, or still the “axoa” of calf : a full-flavored cooking!

AINHOA
Restaurant Barberaenea

Restaurant Barberaenea

Very old Basque inn The Elissetche family has been perpetuating, in an old setting, the family tradition of hospitality since 1875 The church square, where the restaurant is located, is set back…

BIDARRAY
Restaurant Eskualduna Chez Katina

Restaurant Eskualduna Chez Katina

Located in Saint-Martin-d’Arrossa, our establishment is 17 km from the Spanish border and 45 min from Biarritz. Built in 1745, Maison Eskualduna has always been in the family. Today, the third and…

SAINT-MARTIN-D’ARROSSA