Bullflighting in Southwest France, Corrida

When we lived in Barcelona we would often take visitors to the beautiful old bullring, La Monumental, which had been disused since the region of Catalonia banned bullfighting in 2010. A small museum shows the costumes of some of the matadors and the heads of a few prized animals. The gift shop has old posters and figurines. After nearly 100 years in use for the corrida, it is now used as a site for food truck and music events.

During tours of La Boqueria (old covered market in Barcelona), I would mention how years ago you could find bull meat after a fight. It was considered a delicacy, although the meat itself was tough and needed stewing for hours if not days. There are still some restaurants serving bull meat, but it’s a rare occurrence. One might be able to argue that in this case, the death of an animal was not in vain.*

Bullrings are found in only 10% of French territory and mainly in the South of France. In Captieux, about 20 minutes from Bazas, there is a small bullring used in the amateur bullfighting circuit every year for the Rugby y Toros. Some big names have passed through this arena, like El Juli, while others started here on their way to matador stardom.

They still use this ring – and it’s brutal. A lot of missed and failed attempts to quickly down the bull occurred during my short time there. The horses, covered in thick quilted blankets were charged. Here, in the end, the animal is not used for human consumption. A man I spoke with argued the meat is too tough and not worth it. There was a journalist next to me and we both kept looking around at the people cheering, some as young as five years old.

Cultural differences and traditions aside, I’m actually incredibly surprised that the French government still allows this to happen anywhere. There are alternatives where animals are not hurt, which embrace the corrida and are equal part arts and athleticism, like the Basque Country recortadores.

Invisible Bordeaux wrote an article on the local Bordeaux bullrings, if you want to read here. For more information on the anti-bullfight movement in France, read here.

*I only mention this to show what could be the natural progression for an animals life in such circumstances, not to simplify what is an incredibly delicate discussion (all that to say, I am against bull fighting).

Fete des Boeufs Gras a Bazas

EVENT : February 20th, 2020 – The Fete des Boeufs Gras is in its 737th year and has been held in very much the same was as since medieval times. The date moves from year to year but is always held the Thursday before Carnival, Fat Thursday. Bazas, normally under 5,000 inhabitants, swells to accommodate over 20,000 visitors.

This Fete was a response to the demand in the 13th century that all butchers should give the clergy a bull for the Fete de Saint Jean in June. The compensation was that the farmers of Bazadais cattle could choose their best representative of the breed, place large wreaths and crowns of flowers on them and bring the animal into town to the delight of many admiring onlookers in February. The element of ‘competition’ for the best cattle is a later addition, but which is still held towards the end of the afternoon.

Throughout the day there are parades, traditional Landaise dancing with men sporting the large stilts of the sheep herding men before the Landes Forest was planted (great article here).

By the afternoon, the cattle are all lined up in the center of town on display for the crowds to admire before heading to their final destination. There is a large sign in town that will show the name of the animal and where it will ultimately end up, be it a butcher or super market. A little bit of reality shed on an otherwise happy event.

Then the dancing continues, the wine flows, and there is eventually a concert and dinner in the local community hall (reservation required).

FOOD : The streets will smell of grilled meat with every local restaurant and organization selling their own version of fat cow…from steaks with roasted vegetables to sandwiches with shallots. If you want a table at a restaurant, book now as they are all offering special menus for the day and go fast (Caro&Co, Le Boeuf Pop!, Le Maquignon, Indigo, Hugo Delices and Le Bistro Saint Jean, to name a few). Prices are usually between 35-50 EURO for a three course meal.

BUTCHERS : If you want to take some Bazadais home, there are butchers all over town who will have the breed, Bazadais, or local cows, Boeuf de Bazas. If you see the label Boeuf de Bazas, you might be getting Bazadais…or maybe Blonde d’Aquitaine or another breed which was born and raised in the Bazadais region.

TOURS : Aquitaine Travel Guide will be offering 2hr tours in English of the city and the Bazadais, with a tasting of local food and wine after. Please call us at +33 (0)6 33 91 37 90 or email to book your place, tours are 10 EURO per adult (cash only), with kids under 10 years of age free. Meeting point is the Hotel le Rodin / 1 Allee Saint Sauveur, 33430 BAZAS

February the 19th at 3pm

February the 20th at 930am and 1030am

For morning visits in French, please contact the local tourism office located in the town square.

ACCESS : Bazas is not accessible by train and there are very limited buses from the Langon Gare, which are either very early in the morning or will not get you in until after lunch.

Parking is not available in the center of town during this event. Arrive early to get the best places, you’ll likely need about 10 minutes walk to get into the center of town, but it’s an easy walk.

It is not recommended to bring your dogs as the crowds are tight and they can overwhelm the cattle.

Visiting Bazas

UPDATED Jan 2020

There are so many lovely towns to visit within an hour of Bordeaux. One of the most authentic and unspoiled French countryside towns might be Bazas. Its arcaded town square, beautiful Saturday morning markets and unique festivals are only a few of the reasons to visit. Come for a taste of what French life was, and has been, for centuries.

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Lovely Spring Morning on Cathedral Square

How to Get There:

The closest airport is Bordeaux BOD which is serviced by AirFrance, Vueling, Easyjet, RyanAir and Volotea among others. A bus can take you to Bordeaux Saint-Jean Gare for 8 EURO one way and departs every 30 minutes and tickets can be purchased online, inadvance with http://www.30direct.com.

The closest train station is Langon (Nouvelle-Aquitaine) which has regular service from Bordeaux Saint-Jean Gare. The round-trip fare is around 18 EURO for adults. There are car rental companies within walking distance to the train station.

There is limited bus service which makes arriving by car the only way to visit Bazas and is the main reason it has retained its authentic French countryside charm.

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What to See : There are tours of Bazas village, Saint-Jean the Baptiste Cathedral, the ancient hospital apothecary, summer underground visits and even theatricla tours for children through the Bazadais Tourism Office, in French. There is a small archeological museum underneath the mairie which can be visited during high season on Thursday or Saturday, or with a guided tour. This traces the growth of the village and area from prehistoric times, with displayed artifacts collected over the centuries of habitation. Hours vary depending on season / +33 5 56 25 25 84 / Place de la Cathedrale, 33430 Bazas

The Cathedral and town itself is considered a UNESCO heritage site due to its placement on the Saint-Jacques Compostelle Trail. The building suffered through the Protestant Reformation and the French Revolution, with many of it’s riches stolen or destroyed. One can still appreciate its significance by strolling through the aisles or by watching one of the local concerts from the pews.

For a bit of nature, take a walk along La Breche, a path along the outside wall of the cathedral with a pastural view of the town. Or, rent a bike with Les Cycles du Bazadais to tour the town and surrounding area as there are plenty of bike paths. Half day starting at 10 EURO / +33 (0)5 56 25 48 26 / 5 allées St Sauveur, 33430 BAZAS

Private tours of the town and food tours visiting the local farms can be booked through Aquitaine Travel Guide, contact directly for pricing and times / aquitaineguide@gmail.com / +33 (0)6 33 91 37 90

Chateau Cazeneuve 15 minutes drive from Bazas, in Cazeneuve, this chateau was started in the 13th century. The residence of Henri IV and Queen Margot has amazing gardens on its grounds for picnics and an enchanting walk to the queens grotto. Tours in French only / 11,50 EURO adults / check website for hours / +33 (0)5 56 25 48 16

Chateau Roquetaillade 15 minutes drive from Bazas, in Mazeres, is a chateau started during the 100 years war with a rather unique style. They also have a beautiful heard of Bazadais on their property and a farming museum (open in summer). Tours in French or English on demand / 9.50 EURO adults / Winter hours are Sunday only with more tours during high season / +33 (0)5 56 76 14 16

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Queens Grotto at Cazeneuve

Where to Stay : While Bazas works as a day-trip from Bordeaux, there is plenty to see and it’s worth an overnight stay.

Le Sorbet, is a bed and breakfast in the hills just 5min walk to Bazas. Their stunning French countryside bedroom with balconied bathroom is a relaxing countryside escape with a garden view over the cathedral. 90 EURO for double occupancy / +33 (0)6 32 31 74 64 / 3 Sorbet, 33430 Bazas 

Le Clos de la Cathedrale opened in 2019, the larger bed and breakfast has elegant rooms in an old mansion with garden, in the center of town near the cathedral. 86 EURO for double occupancy with breakfast / Book online / 9 Rue de la Taillade, 33430 Bazas

Domaine de Fompeyre*** is a larger hotel, about 15 minutes walk into town, with a great view of Bazas and covered, heated pool. They also have a restaurant and substantial parking. Rooms start around 70 EURO a night for double occupancy / +33 (0)5 56 25 98 00 / reservation@domaine-de-fompeyre.com / Route de Mont de Marsan, 33430 Bazas 

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No matter where you eat, you’ll want to try some Boeuf Bazadais! (pictured at Caro&Co)

What to Eat : There are a great selection of restaurants for this small town, all with their own unique charm and great lunch menus. However, don’t miss this opportunity to taste some of the Boeuf Bazadais*.

Boeuf Pop! offers up a great burger with fois gras and works with local farmers to serve locally sourced meats and cheeses with lunches under 30 EURO. Ask for a terrace seat in summer. Reservations recommended by calling / +33 (0)9 83 72 28 28 / 30 Place de la Cathedrale, 33430 Bazas

Caro&Co works with local farmers and has a light touch with their food, incorporating a lot of seasonal vegetables and beautiful plating and a lunch menu around 18 EURO. Nice garden area for dining in summer. Reservations recommended by calling / +33 (0)5 56 65 24 58 / 38 Place de la Cathedrale, 33430 Bazas

Hugo Delices does classical French and some international plates with a French touch and lunch menus at 16 EURO. Small, so request indoor dining in winter. Reservations recommended by calling / +33 5 56 25 54 34 / 23 Place de la Cathedrale, 33430 Bazas

Indigo has great classics like sweetbreads with truffle sauce but also incorporates hints of SE Asia in many dishes and lunch menu at 16 EURO. Nice for date night. Reservations can be made with LaFourchette well in advance / +33 (0)5 56 25 25 52 / 25 Rue Fondespan, 33430 Bazas

Le Maquignon has an open grill to sear your Bazadais steak to perfection, a cold buffet and a lunch menu at 14 EURO. Good for groups and they have a covered terrace out back for summer months. +33 (0)5 56 65 58 73 / 4 Cours du Marechal Foch, 33430 Bazas

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La Breche Antiques Hunting

Where to Shop : Not all the shopping is found on the pedestrian street of Rue Fondespan and antiques lovers will want to come Saturday when all of the antiques stores are open.

Antiques of all varieties and pricing can be found in Bazas. The charming Jean-Luc Creiche on 8 Rue Bragous has a collection of tableware, light fixtures and furnishings of all price ranges and will search for whatever you need. Un Air de Curiosities specializes in fine French countryside antiques in a romantic shop under the arcades at 43 Place de la Cathedrale. When you look to the Cathedral, notice a small road leading to the right called Rue Theophile Servieres and you will discover Antiquites La Breche which is like going into your grandmothers garage and realizing she collected unique antiques during her travels.

Fine foods and fresh produce can be found at the idyllic green grocer Serge Baradat on Rue Fondespan who sells fois gras products from Palmagri in nearby Auros. The Concerverie Lamigeon under the arcades at 26 Place de la Cathedrale has been making excellent pate since the 1940s, like porc pate with Sauternes wine and pate of boar or deer.

If you are looking for a nice memento of your visit in Bazas, look no further than the Bazas Tourism Office with mugs, aprons, books and other items for sale. The tableware and caviste Tradition, on Rue Fondespan, has charming plates with the Bazadais cattle or palombes on them to take home, amongst other specialties.

When to Visit : Outside of festivals the town is great to visit most days, except Monday when everything tends to be closed. Oddly, for a small town, on Sunday mornings and early afternoon there are shops and restaurants open. Saturday, however, might be the most charming day to come and enjoy the market, shops and dining. During festivals and market days, the parking in the main square is closed. Try finding a spot on Avenue Anatole de Monzie (near the rugby stadium) and take the 5 minute walk into town.

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Fete de Boeuf Gras 2019

20 February, 2020 – for the Boeuf Gras Festival, get there early as this town of 5,000 people swells to 20,000 to celebrate epiphany and the cattle bearing their name. Bazadais cattle were originally brought over by the Moors during the 400AD invasion. A smaller breed, they were used for pulling carts and work but in 1980’s were brought back from near extinction and have found their place as one of the finest beef products for their marbled, fatty flesh. Bazadais have been celebrated since 1283 with parades, demonstrations and stands serving any style of beef. Restaurants also have special menus this day,  but you’ll need to book at least two weeks in advance.

24 June 2020Festival of Saint Jean, to coincide around the summer solstice, is an evening parade (arrive early for a good view) and fire spectacle with people jumping through bonfires by the end. The entire town turns into outdoor bars, live music and restauration during multiple days. It can get messy in the late hours but the day time is fun, there is even a carnival for the kids by the library.

TBA September/October 2020Fete de la Palombe, a celebration of the hunting season. Specifically, the wild pigeons. Come learn about this unique hunting method and hear bird calling coemptions, witness the blessing of the pigeons in the cathedral, horn concerts and meet the brotherhoods celebrating the palombe and other regional delicacies.

Saint Jean Festival

Fete de Saint Jean

 *Restaurants in alphabetical order and not exhaustive. Boeuf Bazadais represents a race and could have been raised and slaughtered anywhere in the country. If the restaurant is serving Boeuf de Bazas, this is an animal raised and slaughtered in the area but could be a Blonde d’Aquitaine, Bazadais or other race.

Bazas

This town is easy to drive past, and off the typical tourist map, as there are no trains or public transportation to take you here from Bordeaux. Which is probably how everyone locally would like it to stay…a historical gem in the countryside. It’s location, just on the outskirts of Graves and before heading into the stark Landes was why it was once considered the last bit of civilization.

Walking into town is most idealic on Rue Fondespan, with it’s cobbled street and small businesses. This opens into the large Place de la Cathedrale, with Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Bazas (a UNESCO site) which was sadly vandalized during the Protestant reformation. The structure itself is still breathtaking and the small Jardin du Chapitre to the right is a lovely place to stroll and look over the valley below.

The town square is surrounded by arcaded buildings, some dating back to the 14th century. Take a walk down any of the side streets to see wooden timbered facades, ornate stonework and secret courtyards. To see Bazas on a Saturday morning, filled with stalls of vegetable, meats and local product vendors is like stepping back into time. It has to be one of the most beautiful markets in the area.

The Bazas Tourist Office is incredibly helpful and offers weekly tours on the history of Bazas or the ancient city hospital Apothecary. These tours need to be booked in advance and are only offered in French at this time. Please fill out the form below for someone to translate the tours for free.

 

For a town of under 5,000 people, there are a large number of really wonderful places to eat and you’ll likely never have a bad meal. All will over the famous boeuf Bazadais, a large breed of cattle which are raised upwards of seven years, living on grass in large pastures before slaughter. There is the yearly Fete des Boeufs Gras which can draw 10,000 visitors into town to watch these cattle parade down the streets, with flower decorations and local dancers in historic costume.

Bazas also holds a wonderful animation for the Fete de Saint Jean in June and the Fete de la Palombe in the autumn for hunting season. The energy of the town and the pride the Bazadais have for their history is clearly evident.

 

GUIDE

SEE

Cathedral Saint Jean – There is a mass in French on Sundays at 1030am, but you are welcome to visit and walk around anytime as the church remains open. There are occasional concerts inside as well as the Secrets of Bazas Tour which is at 1030am on Tuesdays starting April 16th for 5 Euro. Check the Bazas Tourism Office for events www.tourisme-sud-gironde.com

Apothecary of Hospital de Bazas – Attached to the old hospital, built in the 18th century and in use until only 50 years ago, the Apothecary is one of the best preserved in France. While not open to the public on a general basis, there are tours offered through the Bazas Tourism Office at 1 Place de la Cathedral. Contact to inquire on dates and times. Phone +33 (0)5 56 25 25 84 / www.tourisme-sud-gironde.com

Antiques Shops – there are many all over town, but Saturday is the best day to stop by as they will all be open. The owners are fun to talk with and discuss items histories, and while prices are usually good compared to big cities, if something seems too much, you can try to negotiate pricing. Hours vary.

 

STAY

Airbnb offers great options in town starting around 40 Euro a night, including our home…so why not stay with us?

Domaine de Fompeyre – 10 minutes by foot from town square, up on a hill overlooking the town, is this classical hotel with a restaurant and pool. Parking on site. Prices are very reasonable, starting around 65 Euro a night. 1 Fompeyre – Phone +33 (0)5 56 25 98 00 / reservation@domaine-de-fompeyre.com / http://domaine-de-fompeyre.com/

 

RESTAURANTS

Most are only open for lunch during the week and offer great menus starting at 14 Euros, but all will over a nice cut of Bazadais beef! Best to book in advance for weekends or evenings.

Caro&Co – South African female chef and co-owner with her French husband, this couple have a fabulous restaurant using local and seasonal products from nearby farms and shops. Plates are beautiful and often have lots of colorful vegetables, not seen in many French restaurants! 38 Place de la Cathedral – Open daily for lunch, dinner on Friday and Saturday, closed Wednesday and Sunday – Phone +33 (0)5 56 65 24 58 / www.restaurantcaroandco.fr

Boeuf Pop! – Friendly meat-centric restaurant popular with locals. They have a great terrace onto the Cathedral Square for taking in the spring sunshine. Local Bazadias beef, sheep and pork with duck fat fries…also have an amazing burger with local cheese and caramelized onions! 30 Place de la Cathedral – Open for lunch Monday – Saturday and dinner Friday/Saturday – +33 (0)5 56 65 77 56 / https://www.facebook.com/Leboeufpop

Indigo – Chef owned restaurant serving unique dishes with local ingredients and a SE Asian twist. Great valued lunch menu at 14 Euro. Perfect for a date night. Also own Café Noosa on Cathedral Square, which has a light salad lunch menu and is a great place to grab a coffee or ‘gouter’ (sweek snack). 25 Rue Fondespan – Open for lunch and dinner Tuesday – Saturday – Phone +33 (0)5 56 25 25 52 / https://www.thefork.com/restaurant/indigo/44162

 

BUY

Lamigeon – Pate and canned goods store in Bazas which has been making local products for nearly 80 years. You can find all sorts – wild boar, deer, fois gras and classic pate de campagne. If you are traveling back into the USA, I have made it through with canned products from there with no problem. Unique, reasonably priced gifts to give to family and friends, or to bring as a thank you for staying with someone! Open Wednesday-Saturday, from 10am-1230pm and 3pm-7pm – Phone +33 (0)5 56 65 58 49 / alainlamigeon@orange.fr / http://www.lamigeon.fr/

Bazas Food and Farm Tour

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  • 10am Visit fois gras farm to learn how fois gras is made and taste products
  • 11am Bazas tour of city and learn the history of this UNESCO cathedral village
  • 1230pm Stop by butcher who will show us the famous Bazadais beef cuts
  • 1pm Lunch of Bazadais beef cooked by chef and owner of local restaurant
  • 3pm Visit goat cheese farm

 

 

 

Boucherie Bazas Tbone,entrecote and rumpstakeTour, with translator and guide starts at 100 Euro per person (two person minimum) and includes all visiting fees, tasting fees, and a lunch of Bazadais beef with dessert and one glass of graves wine. Tours offered on Monday, Thursday and Friday.

Please be sure to advise of any food allergies or aversions at least one week in advance.

Can also include chauffeured car with pick up from nearby train station in Langon, please contact us for pricing.

Please bring comfortable clothing and closed toe shoes (preferably ones you don’t mind getting a little dirty)

Feel free to ask questions and have fun! These are small farms and this is the livelihood for these farmers / butchers / chefs and their families and they are happy to share their passions with you!

This tour will happen, rain or shine, so please dress for the occasion 😊