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Aquitaine is a region located in the south-west of France known for its ‘good life’. The locals love their food and wine, and because of this you will find a collection of tasty things where ever you are. Beyond the wining and dining there lies an excellent array of architecture and natural scenery, including ornate palaces, charming châteaux and enchanting gardens.
Start your journey in the city of Bordeaux. Voted Lonely Planet’s best city for 2017, it’s not hard to see why this buzzing French city took the top spot. To start with, over half the city is classified as UNESCO-listed; its eclectic mix of architecture styles work harmoniously together to create a truly remarkable city.
Wake up bright and early and head over to La Parenthese or Plume Bakery & Coffee for a delicious breakfast and fresh coffee to start your day. After breakfast, visit the Place de la Bourse, probably the best-known site in the city. The mirror pool is a sight to behold as the 18th century building and sky reflect in the water.
Next journey to La Cité du Vin for all things wine-related. At this wine museum you’ll learn about the history of wine, and in particular, about the famous Bordeaux style. When it’s time for lunch, Bordeaux hosts a range of restaurants and cafes to choose from.
In the afternoon partake in a rendezvous to Saint-Emilion, a 40-minute drive east of Bordeaux. This medieval town is known for its Grand Cru wine and cobbled streets. Feel free to stay the night and drive back to Bordeaux in the morning, there’s a mix of traditional and modern accommodation to choose from. Also, wine.
Next on the list is Mimizan, a 1 and a half hour drive south-west of Bordeaux. It’s a laidback coastal town, with surf vibes and fresh seafood. Outdoor activities are king here, so if you’d rather stay inside then this may not be the place for you.
Start the day with a croissant or pastry from Le Bellis, it may seem cliché but these bakers know their stuff and you won’t be disappointed. Relax on Mimizan beach or stroll along Avenue de la Côté d'Argent to soak in the morning sun.
Mimizan offers all sorts of water sports; you can join in a stand-up paddle boarding class at the main beach or hire a kayak at Lake Mimizan.
Finish the day with a cold drink in hand watching the sunset over the water. We suggest you either book accommodation for the beach-side of town well in advance or stay further inland. As you have a car, it’s not really a problem either way.
Depart Mimizan via the D44 and drive an hour east to Mont-de-Marsan. The town is a bastide town which means it was created as a walled settlement in the 1100s. You can still see a few of the original houses and remnants of old walls poking through. It also sits on the intersection of the Douze and Andou Rivers.
Check out the Donjon Lacataye, a 14th century castle keep that now contains the figurative sculpture museum, Musée Despiau Wlérick. Not only will you get to experience a fine medieval structure, but also an interesting body of work from two local artists, a library to peruse and gardens to explore.
Spend the afternoon at a café with a good book and freshly roasted coffee in hand. This sleepy town is great for relaxing by the river and appreciating historical permanence.
A one and a half hours drive south of Mont-de-Marsan (and back on the French coast) is Biarritz. This seaside town was put on the map in the 19th century by the Empress Eugénie de Montijo, the wife of Napoleon III. The empress had a summer home built here and it attracted other European royalty and aristocracy to visit. This palatial summer retreat is now known as the Hôtel du Palais and you can even stay the night.
Biarritz today has old-world charm from its blend of French and Spanish influences. To give you an idea of how close Biarritz is to the Spanish border, you can drive to the lovely Spanish resort town of San Sebastián in 45 minutes. You can further see the Spaniard’s touch in the signature food of Biarritz, full of ‘Piments D’Espelette’. This chilli pepper has been growing in the region ever since Spanish conquistadors brought it back from America.As this town sits on the coast, water activities are ideal; however the town has a number of museums and historical sites to visit. We recommend the Musée Asiatica, the Cite de l’Ocean and the splendid Church of Saint Eugenie de Biarritz.
Biarritz is also a great base to travel to nearby towns from. One of which is Sare, located 30 minutes away by car. Make sure you visit the Le Musee du Gateau Basque, a beautiful little museum that is set in the heart of the Basque region. You can learn to make the region’s famous Gateau (a delicious cake). The drive there is worth the visit alone, you’ll see stone farm houses, rolling hills, forest and lovely countryside.
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