Living France - - DESTINATION -

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.

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