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Sunset on a Mimizan beach
|• Mayor (2008–2014)||Christian Plantier|
|114.83 km2 (44.34 sq mi)|
|• Density||61/km2 (160/sq mi)|
|Time zone||UTC+01:00 (CET)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC+02:00 (CEST)|
|Elevation||0–80 m (0–262 ft)|
|1 French Land Register data, which excludes lakes, ponds, glaciers > 1 km2 (0.386 sq mi or 247 acres) and river estuaries.|
Mimizan is a seaside resort on the Atlantic Ocean in southwestern France.
This Mimizanaise resort was divided in two by the current: Mimizan North Beach where the majority of summer activities take place, the seasonal markets, the pedestrian street and Mimizan South Beach with cycling paths and walking trails make it an exceptional holiday location. The stretches of fine sand of the Mimizan Beach acquired the nickname the "Pearl of the Silver Coast" when the poet Maurice Martin made a stop with his caravan in 1905. Mimizan Beach has also witnessed major events such as the emergency landing of the Canary Bird, also commonly referred to as the Yellow Bird, out of fuel on the Plage-des-Ailes on 16 June 1929. Coming from Old Orchard (the United States), on the occasion of France's first Atlantic crossing by plane (see Alcock and Brown, 1919, for the first transatlantic flight), the young flamboyant crew included Jean Assolant, René LeFevre, Armand Lotti, and a stowaway named Arthur Schreiber, whose extra weight was the reason for the fuel shortage.
Coming out of Aureilhan lake, Mimizan Current that is 7 km long is also the spillway for the three lakes in the North of Landes (Cazeaux-Sanguinet, Parentis-Biscarosse and Aureilhan-Mimizan). A natural boundary, it marks out the north and south areas of the district. Its history is like the meanders of its course. In 1812, it flowed into the ocean at 3.5 km more in the south (a locality named Maillouyère). In 1928, a strong current of water destroyed the littoral dune on the origin mouth. Two dikes built by man dictate its course today. But sea erosion does not always suit the infrastructures and the current is still subject to close monitoring. At the edge of Courant, enthusiasts meet throughout the year to partake in the age-old, and strictly regulated, sport of elver fishing. During the summer months children can also learn the delights of rod fishing; lessons can be arranged at the fishing school near the lake.
In Neolithic times, the countries of the oceanic fringe were populated by people who hunted and fished, leaving archaeological evidence behind. At the end of the Neolithic Age, small groups of farmers began to settle. During the first Iron Age (7th to 5th c. BC), small tribes who can be considered as proto-Celts, settled in the area. The presence of a civilization called the Boïens installed in the Buch countryside and who moved down to Born country have also been recorded. However, these small tribes were not deeply implanted in the Lande. When the Romans invaded the Aquitaine, they discovered tribes quite distinct from these Celtic tribes, more like the Iberians, organized in ethnic groups known under the name of the Novempopulania.
At the end of the third century the region under Rome’s rule organized itself into one province: Aquitania Tertia. It would be lined with roads listed in the Antonine Itinerary, which in the early fourth century retraced the Roman routes, symbols of an economic opening, e.g., the "coastal" path and the railway station of Segosa (Saint-Paul-le-Vieux). In Born and Marensin, the bays which had not yet been closed off by dunes obviously served as ports that permitted trade and commerce, such as that of resin collected in the ancient dune forests.
The period of barbarian invasion was subject to controversy because several legends took birth there (like at Mimizan that at the battle where St. Galatoire perished under the assault of invaders). However, it was unquestionably after the Roman era the invasion of sand forming modern dunes saw the closure of bays and then the ruin of little ports. Among the people that we meet between the 5th and 10th centuries are the Gascons. In 602 the name Vasconia appeared for the first time, to describe the countryside situated between Garonne and the Pyrenees. The Carolingian influence transformed Vasconia into Gascogne. Next the country was to face the Norman invasions.
- The Medieval Era
The Aquitaine duchy sprawling out from the Loire to the Pyrenees was constructed in the 11th century. It was also from this time on, and for seven centuries, that the pilgrimage to saint Jacques de Compostelle began. Pilgrims came from all over Europe crossing the Landes. They followed itineraries that outlined resting stops, places of worship, castles or mottes surrounded by stakes. They used three routes including that of the coast. A number of commandaries or hospitals erected by the Templars or the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem (e.g., Contis, Saint-Paul-en-Born, Parentis, etc.) were regrouped on this coast road. Mimizan was created as a Sauveté (a sacred refuge created by the church for the protection of the weak). Its limits were set by nine monumental posts (safety posts) in the form of pyramids. Today, only five still exist and are classified as historical monuments. If the first mention of salvitas (sauvetat) did not appear until 1270, the term frangitas was employed during 1009–1032. In 1154, the Aquitaine Duchy entered into the Kingdom of England by the marriage of Alinéor (Eleanor) of Aquitaine with Henri II Plantagenêt, and remained so up to 1453. Born was part of the diocese of Bordeaux. The large Albret family played on the rivalry between the King of France and the King-Duke. They came from the heart of the Landais countryside and carried the modest title of senhor of Labrit up to 1312, then through purchases, marriages, and inheritances went on to settle in Marensin and Born and then Bazadais. In writings the name of another family who would go on to mark history also appears: Foix-Béarn.
- The Belle Epoque
After 1890, the construction of railway tracks opened up the country. The forges closed down one by one but sawmills and distilleries of resin products multiplied. The renewal of Landes, desired by the Emperor Napoleon III, the arrival of the trains of the Mediterranean Railway Companies (from 1907 up to 1960), the trend of bathing in the sea inspired by the Empress Eugenie and the benefits of the sea air on the health of those with tuberculosis all aided in the rapid expansion of the seaside resort of Mimizan-Plage (first called Mimizan-les-Bains). The town is graced with a sea-bathing establishment constructed out of wood. This drew a number of tourists and contributed to the fame of Mimizan. One of the events to mark this period was the passage of a caravan named by the journalist and writer Maurice Martin and driven by Maurice Vignau and Alphonse Bacon. It traveled around Landes from Arcachon to trace a route for automobiles toward Biarritz. Maurice Martin was in awe of the beauty of the countryside (sky, ocean, forest) and would during a banquet on 20 March 1905 baptize the place "La Côte d’Argent" (The Silver Coast).
Château Woolsack, "A Royal Shrine at the Edge of the Lake" In 1911 Hughes Richard Arthur Grosvenor, Duke of Westminster, had this sublime building erected as a royal reward in recognition of his bravery during the Boer War. Designed by architects Detmar Blow and Fernand Billerey, Woolsack Castle welcomed numerous famous people during the interwar period. For 10 years Coco Chanel came here to relax, sometimes in the company of the seamstresses of her workshop to whom she offered this dream holiday in a villa situated at Mimizan-Plage (now Pylone holiday camp): paid holiday before its time! Charlie Chaplin, Salvador Dalí, Suzanne Leglen all came in their time to profit from this jewel of Victorian architecture. Winston Churchill, a close friend of the Duke’s, even painted some 20 paintings on the banks of Lake Aureilhan. After its purchase by the Gascogne Group, the Woolsack Castle is today privately owned.
The forest: land of history and history of a land.
The largest cultivated forest in Europe was imagined by man who fought with a hostile insanitary territory made up of invasive sands, marshes, dried-up moors, where the fragile balance of an agro-sylvo-pastoral economy subsisted. The dunes became stable thanks to local plant species. By his ingenuity, man dried out the marshes and planted thousands of acres of maritime pines. Profiting from an embargo by the United States during its Civil War, harvesting resin really took off in France, and this right up to the 19th century. Prices started to fall until a total cease of activity around 1970. The Landais had to adapt, once again, to an economic reconversion, and the production of wood has been the main forest industry since then. The Landes Forest can still be distinguished today by it unique species of "maritime pine" and its straight lines the symbol of a rigorous silvicultural exploitation, the most beautiful trees destined for the most modern sawmills (to be turned into beams, wooden houses, floors, paneling, and plywood). Less interesting trees, the by-products of the forest are turned into paper and different types of wood-fiber or particle boards. Constantly over 50 percent replanted, this PEFC certified forest (Pan European Forest Certification) is the pledge of sustainable management of the environment. The top local employer, the wood industry generates one job out of three and constitutes the second largest industrial employer in the Aquitaine region. The forest is the source of a multitude of activities and was able to adapt to modern demands. Cultivated and 94% privately owned, this young and fragile ecosystem is nonetheless open to the public through an immense network of cycling paths, walking trails, guided tours for all ages and fun activities for children.
Wetlands, a natural heritage that must be preserved
The Landes has a history as dense as the dunes which make it so special. The combined effect of the winds and marine regression is at the origin of these "sand mountains" obstructing river estuaries, to slowly but surely create a number Landais lakes and ponds. Aureilhan-Mimizan Lake, Bias pond, Mailloueyre ponds and surroundings, all assemble different types of environments : dunes, waterways, rivers, marshlands and forests. These environments are ideal for the observation of flora and fauna by the relevant competent services and make the ideal location for water and outdoor activities that can be enjoyed all-year round. And if, on a path detour you come across a hairy bovine, don’t worry, he is working to maintain the pastures that welcome tired and hungry birds from their migratory trip.
The forest, a living universe
In the microclimate of coastal Aquitaine you will find characteristic flora that can be discovered randomly along paths and trails. Coastal dunes on the edge of Lande, broom, gorse, heather, oak (green or cork) line the landscape. For food lovers, the walk transforms into a hunt for wild strawberries, blackberries, or delicious mushrooms (chanterelles, pine mushrooms). To find just as astonishing specimens head towards Saint-Paul-en-Born. In this small flowery village by the side of the forest, you will find centuries old majestic trees as well as numerous overhanging forest trees. These natural wonders cover all the rivers running through the town. Fauna includes deer, roe deer, foxes, badgers, martens, hedgehogs, squirrels, wild boar, hares and rabbits. If you lift your eyes to the sky you might see birds flying such as chickadees, cuckoos, finches, owls and other nesting birds whose nests can be found in the branches of pine trees. At certain moments during the year you can even witness the amazing scene of migration birds such as wood pigeons, ortolans, ducks, woodcocks and other cocks that have decided to spend winter in the Landais climate.
Floral towns and villages
In nearly 50 years, the "Villes et Villages Fleuris" label has become the symbol of a real social phenomenon. This phenomenon is ever increasing: each year 12,000 communities present their accomplishments at the Floral Towns and Villages competition; 3,258 communes have been awarded, 201 which won either the Quatre Fleurs (Four Flowers) or the Grand Prize.
The jury takes the following three criteria into consideration :
- The overall planting of the district (trees, shrubs and flowers)
- The living environment of the commune (awareness, respect for the environment and embellishment of buildings)
- The activities undertaken and level of participation by inhabitants in developing and maintaining a clean pleasant environment.
For over 30 years, the Community of Mimizan Communes has been actively involved in improving the quality of the environment. Mimizan commune obtained its first Fleur in 1981 and its fourth in 1995 rewarding all of daily efforts of the environmental service (16 full-time and five seasonal employees). Since 1996, the communes of Pontenx-les-Forges and of Saint-Paul-en-Born are equally committed to improving the living environment of their commune, and are achieving this through regular gardening managed by the relevant services and the participation by the population. This is how the commune of Pontenx-les-Forges obtained a Fleur, in 2002, and Saint-Paul-en-Born obtained 2 Flowers in 2003. Finally, for those who take pleasure in rich aromas and colors the appropriately named Floral Promenade reserves an unequaled show. floral paradise, bordering Aureilhan pond is really worth seeing and accessible throughout the year. "L’Île de la Promenade Fleurie" (The Isle of the Flowery Promenade) is an amazing floral haven, situated in the inlet of the lake joining land via a wooden bridge; it hosts over 300 different varieties of plants.
Places and monuments
The bell tower of the old church is on UNESCO's World Heritage List as part of the Sites of the Routes of Santiago de Compostela in France. The hunting lodge Château de Woolsack was built in 1911 for the British Duke of Westminster (the architect was Detmar Blow).
Pioneer aviators Assolant, Lefèvre and Lotti linked Old Orchard Beach (USA) to Mimizan (landing on 16 June 1929) on board the Oiseau Canari.
Popular activities include surfing, fishing, cycling and sunbathing.
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