Learn about the former Aquitaine region, the other side of the South
Photo: CRT Aquitaine
Julius Caesar named the south-western part of France Aquitaine, after the Latin word 'aqua', meaning water. This was because his troops discovered an abundance of thermal springs, lakes and rivers coming down from the Pyrenees to meet the vast coastline of the Atlantic Ocean. Aquitaine lazily stretches its sandy beaches over 270 kilometres from the Pointe de Grave to the Adour, and the pines planted in the dunes protect this beautiful coastline. This seashore continues to the foot of the Pyrenees right to the Pays Basque, where it breaks up into many natural harbours.
There are many beaches that cater for all in this immense space. Families can enjoy quietness and protected bathing in resorts such as Hourtin, Vieux Boucau or Carcans. Surf-lovers, experienced or not, can ride the waves in places like Lacanau, Biarritz, Anglet or Arcachon. In the Arcachon Basin, a kind of Inland Sea, there is shelter for small boats and the oyster farms are the largest in France. One can visit, taste and buy oysters on the spot!
Bordeaux is famous the world over for its vineyards and wines, especially Médoc, Pomerol, Saint-Emilion and Sauternes. There is also the Jurançon and the Armagnac in the Pyrenees-Atlantiques. On the gastronomy side, regional specialities include foie gras and jambon de Bayonne. The fish and oysters are exquisite next to the fruits of the Lot-et-Garonne! You can enjoy an oenology course in the Bergerac region or a weekend of duck cuisine near Monflanquin.
The mild climate in Aquitaine allows you to play golf all year round on the 45 quality courses. Because of their geographical location, you can combine golf and other sports whilst discovering the rest of the region. This may be hiking in the beautiful forests, skiing in the Pyrenees, visiting the wine growing areas, or soaking up the regions art, culture, history and heritage. Aquitaine is also a fisherman’s paradise, with waters teeming with bass, turbot, meagre, sole, gilt-head, skate and dogfish. You can even go deep-sea fishing with professionals from St Jean de Luz or Biarritz and catch tuna and shark ! Enjoy a nature escapade around the Bay of Arcachon or a moment of sheer relaxation at a thalassotherapy centre in Biarritz.
Photo: CRT Aquitaine
Administratively, Aquitaine has five departments. Three of these are on the coast, Gironde with Bordeaux, Landes and the Pyrenees-Atlantiques which is made up of the ancient Bearn and the French part of the Pays Basque. Inland there is Lot-et-Garonne and Dordogne. Here you will find important Norman style architecture and the prehistoric Cave of Lascaux discovered in Dordogne in 1940. The whole region has inspired many to write, such as Montaigne, Montesquieu and Mauriac.
Aquitaine is only 1.5 hours by plane from London and Bordeaux airport connects to many internal and international destinations. By TGV train, Paris is only a 3 hour journey and there is an extensive network of good motorways and dual carriageways.
In Aquitaine the people tell you that Mother Nature is at her best. You will be captivated by the warmth and welcoming nature of the locals. Their innate sense of fun and natural 'joie de vivre' will make your time in Aquitaine an unforgettable experience.
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