Aquitaine

Aquitaine

 

Aquitaine is a many-faceted gem and maybe the most diverse French region thanks to its size and geography. As a matter of fact it is spread over five "départements' and 41 308 km2, with a 2,3 millions population.

  • Pyrénées-Atlantiques on the Southern coastline and marking the border with Spain. Also known as 'Pays Basque' this 'département' has a strong and endearing personality.
  • Then come Landes still along the coastline, a rural area dedicated to forestry, agriculture, tourism and bathed by the Atlantic Ocean.
  • Gironde comes next on the Atlantic coastline and is renowned for the Bordeaux vineyard, but also for the Unesco listed city of Bordeaux and a beautiful coastline culminating on the Pyla Dune.
  • The famous Dordogne, also called 'Dordogneshire' and well known to the British is a rural area with a gentle landscape and picturesque architecture.
  • Right beneath is Lot-et-Garonne, also a rural area bathed by two big rivers, the Garonne River and the Lot River.

Aquitaine is bathed by a mild and clement Oceanic climate provided by the Gulf stream. With 2,200 hours of sunshine a year recorded in Bordeaux, the region can easily compete with the Mediterranean, even if rainy days are more numerous but also well-distributed over the year.


A very long and almost wild coastline

 

One facet is undoubtedly its long (250 km) and still rather unspoilt coastline facing the Atlantic Ocean. From the Gironde estuary north of Bordeaux to Biarritz the coast is a succession of dunes and long sandy beaches, most of them still wild and very little urbanised.

From Biarritz and down to the Spanish border, the coastline becomes more varied and picturesque with a succession of rocks, cliffs, creeks, sandy beaches and bays, culminating with the dramatic scenic road of ‘La corniche basque’ from Saint-Jean-de-Luz to Hendaye, with the beautiful Bay of St Jean de Luz or the long beach of Hendaye.

The ‘basco-landaise’ coast is renowned for its excellent surfing conditions. In summer the water temperature is almost invariably a warm 21°C . The long strip of beach allows for everyone to find easily a spot but it is recommanded to swim in the supervised area.

A protected nature

 

In addition to the Pyrenees National Park Aquitaine shelters the ‘Landes de Gascogne Regional Nature Park’ which includes part of the Bay of Arcachon and the immense pine forest of ‘Les Landes’ running from the Médoc down to the Pays Basque and covering a vast triangle of land 150 km wide and 200 km long.

You can discover this forest on the many cycling tracks that run bellow the sweet smelling pine trees. Natural lakes in the middle of the pine tree forest form part of the charm of the Landes and provide a shelter for sailing and swimming.

Mountain for all seasons

 

Aquitaine is bordered to the South by the vast and majestic range of the Pyrenees Mountains.

From the Rhune mountain (900m) overlooking the basque town of Saint-Jean-de-Luz to the Pic d’Ossau culminating at 2884m, the Pyrenees in Aquitaine stretch over 110 km thus offering a wide range of activities all year round: winter sports from November to early April, and the rest of the year hiking, cycling, climbing, horse riding, fishing, paragliding, white water sports. Part of the Pyrenees is protected in the Pyrenees National Park.

 

 

Varied leisure activities

 

For coastal Aquitaine leisure activities are as varied as sun bathing, swimming, surfing, fishing, sailing, or relaxing in thalassotherapy.


For inland Aquitaine leisure activities range from golfing in one of the 48 golf courses (fairways), cycling in the shade of pine trees, walking along the ‘sentier du littoral’ overlooking the Ocean, horse riding, and all kind of mountain activities in the Pyrenean Aquitaine. In France, Aquitaine is the 4th region for the number of Golf courses, with probably the best landscapes since many combine a view on the Pyrenees with a view on the Atlantic Ocean.

Outstanding heritage


 

Once you will be finished with the seaside, mountain and country activities you may want to turn towards cultural activities. And there is plenty to do!

The heritage starts with Prehistory at the Lascaux Cave in the Dordogne. The region is also rich of testimonies of less ancient times with many abbeys, churches, chapels dotted along the Way to St James. Towns and villages form also part of this well-preserved heritage: Middle Ages castles and fortified towns flourish in the Dordogne, along with a bunch of the 'prettiest villages in France’ and the beautiful XVIIIth city of Bordeaux classified on Unesco world heritage list. Without being listed on the UNESCO World heritage, such towns as St Jean de Luz with its outstanding natural scenery, the Belle Epoque and internationally renowned Biarritz, and the less famous but all the more endearing Bayonne are worth several and regular visits.

The wine country and Gourmet paradise

 

It would be difficult to reduce the world’s most famous winegrowing area to just a few words when some write books to describe it, but to put it simply it is part of the trip in Aquitaine!

Lifestyle in South-West France is largely built around its culinary delights. Here is a short list of mouth-watering dishes that you have certainly heard of: duck liver (‘foie gras’ in French), duck breast with Sarlat potatoes, confit de canard, Landes salad, Bayonne Ham, tapas, Bordeaux entrecote steack with wine sauce, chicken stew (‘Poule au pot’), garbure, piperade, veal axoa, basque chicken, gateau basque, cannelés de Bordeaux, pastis landais, and the list could go on for a while, especially when talking about food with a French!


It must be thanks to the vast stretches of unspoilt nature that Aquitaine offers such a wide range of top quality produce. Furthermore these seasonal produce are available on the many lively markets that are a real pleasure to the eyes and the palate. Markets are a huge tradition in South West France, whether they are covered, like the magnificent market in Sarlat curiously set in a former church, or as we call them "marché de plein vent" (open wind market in a attempt of translation!). Going to the market ,as we say in French, is a good...and pleasant way of getting immersed in the French culture.

Access

Aquitaine is the southern part of France which is the most easily accessible from across the Channel.

  • Airports: 4 international airports: Bayonne-Anglet-Biarritz airport with direct flights to/from the UK and Ireland on Ryanair, BmiBaby, Easyjet, British Airways and Flybe. Pau airport, Bordeaux airport, and Bergerac Airport. Airports in San Sebastian and Limoges might be handy too.
  • Motorways: A63 winds along the coast connecting Spain to Biarritz and Bordeaux, meets the A64 in Bayonne coming from Toulouse via Pau. The brand new and beautiful A10 connects Dordogne with Paris via Limoges.
  • Railway: TGV serves Agen, Arcachon, Biarritz, Bordeaux, Dax, Hendaye and Pau and journey last 3 to 4 hours.
  • Ferry harbours: Portsmouth – Bilbao or Santander