Don’t Forget our Regional Attractions
There are many reasons why we could be tempted to buzz off and take a day trip or enjoy a weekend away, without ever leaving this part of France. Here are just a few of our “regional attractions”.
Gironde is named after the 70km, tidal Gironde Estuary, the largest estuary in Europe. With the Atlantic Ocean and the Bay of Biscay to the west, it is also home to the gigantic 105m high, 2.7km long sand Dune du Pilat (Pyla). The Parc Ornithologique du Teich has welcomed over 300 species of birds in the last 43 years and, of course, oyster farms populate the Bassins. A visit to Bordeaux will have you enthralled with its history, art galleries and stunning architecture, especially in the Place de la Bourse, Esplanade des Quinconces and around the impressive Pont de Pierre. In contrast, the vine-filled, rocky limestone hillside of St Emilion also invites you to enter its 8th and 10th-century catacombs. Other world famous wine-growing areas include the Médoc, Graves and Entre Deux Mers.
“The land of 1001 châteaux”. The Benedictine Abbey de Brantôme, 500-years of knife-making at Nontron, and even panning for gold in the Musée de l’Or can be found in the lush green valleys of Périgord Vert. Colombage buildings, a military museum, and Le Jardin des Arènes amphitheatre are some of the treasures in Périgord Blanc with its limestone plateaux. The vineyards and rolling hills of Périgord Pourpre give way to medieval towns like Issigeac, beautiful Monpazier and its 30 national monuments, and Bergerac with its Cyrano legend. Thick woods line the Dordogne and Vézère rivers flowing beneath spectacular fortified settings such as Domme in Périgord Noir. For caves visit Les Eyries de Tayac, or go back in time at Musée National de la Préhistoire.
LOT ET GARONNE
Apart from Agen prunes, fields of sunflowers and the famous Marmande tomatoes, Lot et Garonne is known for many things, including its undulating countryside and, of course, its rivers and canals. At Villascopia, Castelculier, experience a recreated 4th-century spa and, in Agen itself, take a cycle ride or barge across the sky-high Agen aqueduct before visiting works by Goya at Musée des Beaux Arts. There are a wealth of ancient châteaux too such as those at Bonaguil, Gavaudun and Duras, and bastide towns such as Monflanquin and its Maison du Prince Noir, Villeréal and the old Leper House, and Tournon-d’Agenais with its 17th-century bell tower.
Three rivers with magnificent causses (valleys), limestone cliffs, picturesque châteaux, wooded slopes and pastureland surrounding pretty bastide towns make up Lot. Half-timbered buildings are the hallmark of historic Figeac where you can gain an understanding of the Rosetta Stone, whilst the sacred spot of Rocamadour, the second most visited place by pilgrims as part of the route to Santiago de Compostela, sits high above the Alzou canyon. Experience medieval life at the Rignault Museum at Saint Cirq Lapopie, or wonder at the 29,000+ year old Spotted Horses cave art at the Pech-Merle caves. Enjoy local cheese, melon and walnuts and see how saffron is grown.
Geese, ducks, sunflowers, Armagnac and, of course, D’Artagnan spring to mind in this scenic department full of regional attractions. It has its share of medieval towns too such as Mauvezin, Fleurance and Bassoues, as well as renaissance architecture such as Château de Caumont, and cathedrals like the 13th-century Gothic Cathédrale Sainte Marie in Auch. This is “Musketeer country” thanks to D’Artagnan who came from Lupiac and, today, sits astride a 3.5m bronze statue close to the D’Artagnan museum. Quaint Larressingle brings a real taste of the middle ages with its museum and re-enactments, whilst Condom is host to a multitude of Armagnac producers, seven churches and 100 towers.
TARN ET GARONNE
With fertile, agricultural land, hills dotted with vineyards, and the Canal des Mers, it is no surprise that Tarn et Garonne is ideal for nature lovers. Flora and fauna on sheer limestone cliffs in the Aveyron and Bonnette river valleys combine with over 1000 acres in the Agre Forest at Montech where protected species of birds are regularly spotted. Historic towns include 10th-century Montauban with its Musée d’Ingres, and Auvillar, once a port on the Garonne river. Moissac has a religious and artistic heritage, Lauzerte features Le Jardin du Pèlerin, Lavit de Lomagne was once HQ to the royal court, and Bruniquel has its fabulous châteaux.
N HAUTE GARONNE
Thousands of tourists flock to the Toulouse area, not just for the architecture, Canal du Midi and River Garonne but also as part of their Camino Francés to Santiago pilgrimage. As France’s fourth largest city, La Ville Rose, as Toulouse is known, is famous for its red brick structures as well as its neo-classical architecture such as the 17/18th-century Capitole City Hall. For a tour of the city from the days of the Celts and Romans visit Musée St Raymond, or marvel at the 14th and 15th-century stained glass windows in the Cathédrale St Etienne. Take a bateaux-mouches on the river or a barge along the Midi or Brienne canals for a glorious view of the city. Aviation and space are particularly important in this part of the world with Airbus and Cité de l’Espace both on the doorstep and forming part of our incredible regional attractions.
You can read more about the region in the Area Information pages on our website. A look through the business directory will also reveal ideas for days out, where to stay, sports activities, art galleries, museums, and even zoos! As a taster, you will find regional recipes at the end of each area information page as well as in our articles on food and drink.
First published in our Jul/Aug 2022 issue