The Cote d'Azur is a great place to travel to year round. With beaches for summer and the Alpes in the winter, there are outdoor activities for everyone. Sailing and the charter yachting scene is also impressive, with trips for friends and family.
Lisbon (Lisboa) must be the secret that everybody knows and doesn't bother keeping it for themselves. Lisbon is known for the stunning tiles or azulejo that have made this city famous for centuries. From Pastel de Nata, cod, conservas and great wines, you'll be sure to eat well in this historic city!
Our first stop was for a carriage ride (balade en caleche) through the estuary, at Marais du Vigueirat. We took the tour in the late afternoon and it was rather hot this June day, so I would recommend an earlier morning visit. It was around an hour long and all in French, but the scenery was incredible and we learned a lot. Especially how important the role of the black bulls are. The course Camargue (bull fights) held in the Camargue are not to the death and the 'Razeteurs' (bull fighters) are less important than the bull.
We visited the east bank of the estuary right before the summer break in 2021, crossing from our home in Gironde into the department of Charente Maritime, luckily when restaurants were just restarting their on-site service. Being so close to the water, it was no surprise to learn how important the fishing sector has been throughout the years, with a few typical varieties getting the podium: the Lamprey, the Meagre (that, despite the name is of XXL size and can weight up to 55kg) and the Sturgeon that is a protected specie since 1982, after being overfished to the point of risking extinction in barely 60 years since the French "discovery" of caviar.
Built along the Garonne river, the historic part of the city is found on the left bank. If it feels like a mini Paris, you wouldn't be mistaken. 'Modern' 19th century Paris was modeled after 18th century Bordeaux. Even the Paris Opera was inspired by the Bordeaux Opera house. My favorite area to wander is probably along the narrow streets between the Grosse Cloche and the Eglise Saint Pierre. It's a great area to wonder around and find some of the old Medieval buildings on streets with names like 'Rue du Loup', named after the trades of people who used to work on them, in this case selling wolf skins. You can taste historic dishes like lamproie a la Bordelaise at the oldest restaurant La Tupina or more modern and unique meals at chef owned restaurant C'Yusha.
After a year of partial confinement in the French countryside, we looked forward being at sea as much as possible. Luck was on our side when friends told us they were going to Sardinia and accommodation in their same residence was available, at friend's discounted rate. Sardinia / Sardenga is an island south of the French island of Corsica. It is often thought of being filled with yachts belonging to the rich and famous. It's so much more, the natural landscapes and seemingly endless supply of beaches make it a nature lovers paradise.
The Dordogne and Perigord Noir is a magical part part of South-West France. There are museums tracing some of the earliest peoples in France. Great local delicacies like black Perigord truffle, foie gras and walnuts. The best time to visit is the fall, when the leaves are changing color and the air is crisp enough to make a fire.
pilgrimages towards St. Jacques de Compostela. With it's cathedral from the 12th century and beautiful brickwork, Rieux-Volvestres charm will surprise every traveler that arrives here on purpose...or by just getting lost along secondary roads boarded by the many corn and sunflowers fields.
Finally, the day has come (June 9), when Americans are allowed back into France with proof of vaccination and a negative PCR covid test. Here are some things to know before you book your flight :
Where do you go to get away from it all? One of the great escapes for someone living in Bordeaux, or Gironde as a whole, is a trip to the Atlantic Coast. One of my favorite places is Cap Ferret, a peninsula that offers both Atlantic coast beaches and Bassin d'Arcachon shores which are perfect for small children. Granted, during high season it can be a like Saint Tropez in summer...filled with people, cars and boats.
A culinary tour is one of the best ways to see a new place, learn a bit of history and understand more of the culture. It's a multisensory journey...if you are looking for something a bit different, off the beaten path? find that countryside cottage or villa in the vines to cook your locally sourced products to enjoy that farm-to-table style life. If you should want to visit coastal oyster farms or the inland caviar farms...
From Bordeaux you can take a non-stop flight on multiple airlines, generally for under 50 EURO round-trip if you are flexible date-wise. I flew Volotea this time, which has a lot of great priced flights from Bordeaux....If not, find a tour. Mine, naturally, was food focused, light hearted and really fun. It was around three hours long and took you into the belly of Naples...Take a ferry from Naples to any of the Islands, Capri is beautiful but I spent to many summers only seeing that island, so on this trip I decided to go to Procida
If you're looking for a pretty location to go with kids to visit a family owned goat farm, see historic castles, centuries old ruins, and meet a confiture artisan métier...look no further than Prechac in Gironde.
...after flying over water to see this barren island in the middle of nowhere, with clear skies, we were all excited about our adventure...the apartment we stayed at on the North Coast. It was a perfect escape from the world. What is great about Lanzarote, most everything you'll want to see is outside and the wind blows year round so it's fresh air all the time. It is a rough, moon-like landscape due to a large volcanic eruption almost three-hundred years ago (smaller one since). It's not a tropical island, but it has its own wild beauty.
Reunion Island is an actively volcanic island, which has a fascinating history. When first discovered there was very little animal life and had never been inhabited...while the origins of vanilla are Central and South American, prior attempts to grow the beans in Europe always failed. The natural pollinators were a special species of bees that didn't live in Europe, but this was not known at the time. A slave, a young boy by the name of Edmund Albias, created the hand pollination method and completely transformed the vanilla industry.
When I was visiting Libourne a few months ago, I realized I needed to know more and knew just the person to ask - Jennifer Poe of 'My Bordeaux Tours', who is an experienced local tour guide and American expat living in Bordeaux. She is the blogger behind 'American Mom in Bordeaux' and has worked with multiple river cruise companies offering tours to their clients. Libourne has a lot to offer any visitor from walking along the port, wandering through the old bastide section of town, a lovely fine arts museum and exploring it's variety of stores, cafes and restaurants. Especially on market days, Tuesday, Friday and Sunday mornings - this town is alive and vibrant - not just around the holidays.
There are unlimited amounts of things to do with children in Aquitaine, from Atlantic coast beaches to Bordeaux parks and museums. It's a very family friendly area, with lots of great camping grounds in all price ranges (the French version of a holiday home/camping/vacation park). Most larger French towns have a beautiful old carousel which kids adore, good parks and public pools.
Unfortunately, I don’t live in the center of Bordeaux and the charming promenade along the Garonne river is not included in my permitted 1h daily walk. So now while all I can do is dream about deconfinement, I want to share with you the three things that I plan to do once I’m allowed to return to Bordeaux!
I was hooked almost straight away. Even though we didn’t travel far and wide with that first trip, I loved the idea of the freedom and flexibility a CV would give us. I couldn’t stop thinking about how useful it would be to own one, especially here in the Nouvelle Aquitaine with so many wonderful places to visit literally on our doorstep. Not only could we go on long summer holidays, we could also decide on a whim to take a weekend break or overnight stop to the coast, or the mountains if the weather is good.