Behind the shattered rocks at Biarritz is a long, smooth beach, curved like a crescent and paved with a hard floor of sand. On this, as is usual in European seaside resorts, stands the Casino, a rather showily painted and gilded edifice, whose Moorish arches are, in the season, thronged with Spanish, French, and English visitors, and resound to pleasing music. With the downfall of the Empire, however, the special glory of Biarritz departed, and it is hardly probable that it will ever again become the favorite resort of the beau monde, so famous during the reign of Napoleon III.
Rocks At Biarritz.
The Casino And Hotels At Biarritz.
The Empress Eugenie (perhaps from its proximity to Spain, her native land) had a particular liking for this place, and regularly passed some portion of the summer here. In fact, the finest structure in Biarritz is the Villa Eugenie, built by Napoleon III to gratify his wife. I found it a sad object to visit. Once the abode of the most brilliant, fashionable court in Europe, it stands now separated from the town, as if abandoned to the sea. Its very isolation, which in the period of its glory gave to it distinction and exclusiveness, renders it now more desolate and dreary. I was not allowed to enter it, but through its barricaded windows I distinguished beautifully inlaid floors, mirrors and marble clocks, and handsome furniture which seemed awaiting the return of its owners to make them comfortable. Over the cornices of doors and windows I read the device: "N. E.," a melancholy reminder of the days when this was the seaside residence of the imperial household, and when the diplomats of Europe, as well as the highest dignitaries of France, paid homage here to the nephew of the great Emperor. To some extent, however, the formality of the Tuileries was laid aside here, and Biarritz was regarded by the Empress especially as a kind of neutral ground where she could meet with greater freedom her Spanish relatives and friends. Since my visit here, I understand that this imperial estate has been sold by Eugenie to a syndicate for one hundred thousand dollars, and will probably be converted into a hotel or casino. Curiously enough, the purchasers are obliged, by a clause in the deed of sale, to have masses celebrated every year in the churches of Biarritz on the anniversaries of the deaths of Napoleon III and the Prince Imperial.
In strolling on the sands between this villa and the town which it largely called into existence, one finds abundant food for thought. One hundred years ago, France entered on a marvelous cycle, which seems now completed. At the beginning, as at the end, of this eventful century, we see a French Republic. And yet between them how immense the contrast, how blood-stained are the intervening steps! Through all the chaos of the Revolution, which swept away the throne of Marie Antoinette; amidst the gory executions of the Reign of Terror; over the dazzling heights of Aus-terlitz and Wagram, and through the bloody depths of Waterloo and Sedan, poor France has moved heroically on, now dazed with glory - now dumb with fear. To forty years of this strange history has been affixed the letter "N." One half of these have centred round the first Napoleon, the rest around Napoleon III. One was colossal and heroic; the other, by comparison, insignificant and weak. The voice of one was a clarion call to victory; that of the other an imperfect echo. One was a Caesar, born to rule; the other an Augustulus, last of the Roman Emperors, who, if he wore for a time the imperial robe, did so because that mantle once adorned the man who perished, like Prometheus, on the seagirt rock of St. Helena.
Casino And The Villa Eugenie.
One lovely day in spring, a short and picturesque railway journey conducted us from Biarritz to Pau, - the best known portal to the Pyrenees. We had already seen a number of these mountains looming up on the horizon, for the huge barrier wall dividing France from Spain, extends from the surges of the Bay of Biscay to the classic waters of the Mediterranean; but it was only at Pau that we began to appreciate their grandeur and extent. Pau is to the Pyrenees what Berne is to the Bernese Oberland, or Molde to the mountains near the Romsdal. When I stepped out upon the balcony of one of Pau's palatial hotels, and saw, directly opposite, and seventy miles in length, a glorious panorama of sharp-cut, snowy peaks, I felt as if I were looking on a glorious mosaic of silver, set in a frame of lapis lazuli. If I am to be in the presence of mountains for any length of time, I prefer looking at them from a distance, to seeing them close at hand. For when their towering cliffs shut out the sunshine from the valley, and their stupendous areas of rock and ice enclose me like huge prison walls, I feel a stifling sensation, and long to gaze upon them from a standpoint nearer to the outside world, where they can no more crush my spirits by their magnitude nor fetter my imagination by their terrible reality. In this respect the view from Pau, while stimulating and inspiring, is thoroughly restful and enjoyable. It is true, the names of the principal summits in this silvery chain are not familiar to us, as are those of Switzerland, but their acquaintance is soon formed, and presently the Pic du Midi, the Vignemale, and the Maladetta become as well known as Mont Blanc, the Rigi, and the Matterhorn.