Sunday, December 20, 2009

What is Aquitaine?

Aquitaine is a region in the southwest of France. It starts roughly at Bordeaux and goes down to the Spanish border. It contains five `départements': Gironde, les Landes, Pyrénées Atlantiques, Lot-et-Garonne and Dordorgne. As always in France, each part has its own identity.

bordeaux by night

Gironde is mostly known for the great city of Bordeaux and the surrounding vineyards.

atlantic coast of Landes in southwest of France

Les Landes is famous for its 100 km of white sandy beaches, that stretches north into Gironde for another 100 km. The pine trees form Europe's biggest planted forest. 

rhune mountain in Pyrenees Atlantiques in France

Pyrénées Atlantiques is of course known for its mountains, from steep parts to rolling hills. It has also part of the atlantic coast, but a rougher, more cliffy version with small beaches. And a strong basque culture!

Penne d'Agenais in Lot-et-Garonne seen from the basilica

Lot-et-Garonne is the part with the least number of tourists. It is often called the secret garden, because of its agricultural focus. Very charming with many little gems to discover.

The Milandes castle in Dordogne

Dordogne is a fairytale landscape, with 1001 castles and many prehistoric caves to explore. Every stone seems to have a history to tell.

Common to all of them is excellent food, with regional differences. There is also wine to be found everywhere, not only in Bordeaux!

If you use the highway, you can go from north to south in about two hours, so all these different cultures are within a relatively small area. Beaches and mountains, castles and wineyards, what more do you need?

For me, Aquitaine is special also for its festive culture. 331 villages and 331 festivals each year! Some of them are known all over France, like the Bayonne festival, with over a million visitors.

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