The region of Aquitaine was once so huge, taking up almost half of modern France that the Romans had to split it into three to manage its territory effectively. Over the years, its provincial dynamics have changed and although its territory has been drastically reduced, the region covers such a diverse terrain that it’s difficult to identify a single thread of cultural heritage. If anything, diversity is this region’s defining feature.
Towards the Spanish border, for example, Basque culture, language and tradition rules with the Basque flag displayed prominently in towns and villages, while further north, in Dordogne, the landscape and attitudes are unmistakably French. Of course this rural department is a confirmed favourite among Brits looking for a home from home, and indeed has been nicknamed ‘Dordogneshire’.
The area’s rolling green hills carpeted with forests as well as chalky plateaux coursing with rivers is a picturesque place that’s perfect to take in the area’s locally produced wines. Stone properties requiring renovation still exist but thanks to the resident British community, stocks are deminishing fast.
If you want to live near a vineyard in Aquitaine, the capital Bordeaux is your most obvious bet. With over 113,000 hectacres of grape-growing area around the regional capital, it’s the largest fine-wine producing region in the world, making some of the world’s most expensive and well-known wines. Most famously home to a bounty of reds, Bordeaux is also home to rosés, sweet and dry white and even sparkling wine.
As the world’s largest UNESCO-listed urban area, the city has a one-of-a-kind charm that no amount of industrialisation has managed to rub away.
If you want a seaside setting, the Pyrénées-Atlantiques’ sweep of coastline boasts a cluster of seaside resorts that enjoy
A vineyard in the Aquitaine countryside
LOCAL SPECIALITIES a booming tourist trade, thanks in part to its close proximity to the Spanish border and good transport links. Although some of these towns can feel particularly touristy, there are some with real timeless charm, such as the charismatic village of St-Jean-de-Luz. With lots of warm character, the town’s old stone houses and authentic restaurants offer a calmer, more relaxed feel. Perhaps because of its popularity, the department is the region’s most expensive.
The region’s cosmopolitan character threads through to its wide variety of food and drink with traditional dishes ranging from Spanish-inspired seafood to typically French pastries. Even with such a fine choice on offer, there’s lots more to appreciate in Aquitaine than simply wine. With 19 golf courses, 120km of coastline and festivals aplenty, you’ll always find something to do.
History buffs will enjoy the many monuments and museums but if you’re more interested in the antiquity of Aquitaine’s wines, the countless opportunities for wine-tasting should quench your thirst for knowledge.