The region of Aquitaine consists of 5 departments:
- 24 Dordogne – main city Périgueux
- 33 Gironde – main city Bordeaux
- 40 Landes – main city Mont de Marsan
- 64 Pyrennees Atlantiques – main city Pau
- 47 Lot et Garonne – main city Agen
Regional capital: Bordeaux
Aquitaine, in the south-west, is the largest region of France. It has a long, straight west coast, which stretches 200 km from the mouth of the Gironde estuary down to Spanish border. There are two main resorts, Biarritz in the south and Arcachon to the north. Apart from these resorts the beaches of this coastline are half-empty during the summer months compared to France’s packed Mediterranean coast. The Pyrenees mountain range steadily begins to rise in the Pyrénées Atlantiques, the southernmost department of Aquitaine. Part of the Pyrénées-Atlantiques is Basque country (Pays Basque) where some 80,000 Basques live. The remaining 600,000 reside across the border in Spain.
Aquitaine‘s coastline is flanked by a large expanse of pine forests that make up most of the Landes department. These forests were planted in the 19th century to stabilise drifting sands. Above Landes, the Gironde department around Bordeaux is home to some of the world’s most celebrated vineyards, such as those in the fairly flat Medoc, west of the river Gironde, and around towards the increasingly hilly area about St-Emilion. Agriculture has long been important to the economy and the Aquitaine grows half of France’s kiwi fruit, almost half its strawberries, and most of its prunes. Potatoes, asparagus and maize are also important crops. Around Bergerac many tobacco fields are to be found and the forests of Landes produce a large quantity of planking for floors, roofing and wall cladding. Landes, also has far reaching fields growing carrots. Arcachon is famous throughout France for its oysters and it is possible to see the oyster beds at low tide. Although the oyster production has suffered several major setbacks, they are now flourishing again thanks to Japanese and Canadian breeding stocks.
The northern, inland area of Aquitaine contains one of the most popular departments with the British – the Dordogne, named after what many argue as France’s most beautiful river. The British call the area Dordogne, but to the French it is known as Périgord. Each area of Périgord has been assigned a descriptive colour. The south-east around Sarlat is called Perigord Noir because of its dense oak forests; the limestone area around the River Isle and Périgueux, capital of the region, is called Perigord Blanc after the light colour of its rock; Périgord Poupre refers to the wine-growing area around Bergerac; and the very green wooded area and pasturelands to the north is Perigord Vert. Apart from the lucrative tourist trade, this is an economically fragile and depopulated region. The two largest towns, each with populations just over 50,000, are Périgueux known for its domed cathedral, and Bergerac an important wine centre. Brantôme, on a bend of the River Dronne, is much loved by British tourists.
Bordeaux’s 57 appellations provide red, rosé, dry white and sweet white wines with world famous names like Médoc and Graves, Bordeaux and Bordeaux Supérieur, or village names like Sauternes, Saint-Estèphe, Pomerol and Saint-Emilion.
Traditional specialties for this area are foie gras, confit d’oie aux cèpes (goose confit with ceps), confit de canard (duck confit), garbure (a type of vegetable soup), poulet basquaise, salade landaise (salad with duck meat and gizzards), peanut oil, pralines de Blaye (almond candies), gratin de poires au Sauternes (pear dessert), cannelé (mini-cakes from Bordeaux), and macaroons from Saint-Émilion. Rregional cheeses to try are Brebiou, Cabécou, Etorki, Ossau-Iraty, Rocamadour, and bleu des Basques.
Transport UK France , To and from Aquitane
Bordeaux is about 3 hours from Paris, 4 hours from Nantes, and 5 hours from Lille on the high-speed TGV train.
Regional flights from Paris to Bordeaux Airport last about an hour. You can also fly into Bordeaux from Nice, Toulouse, Marseille, and several other French cities. The Biarritz-Anglet-Bayonne Airport is located closer to the Spanish border and can be reached from Paris, Lyon, and several other French cities.
Paris to Bordeaux is 571 km (about 5.5 hours) on the A10 Autoroute
For Toulouse to Bordeaux, take the A62
For Biarritz to Bordeaux, take the A63
For Clermont-Ferrand to Bordeaux, take the A89
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