One of the best surprises when visiting San Sebastian years ago, was that this incredible, vibrant and culinarily inspiring culture didn't stop at the French border. The Basque (or Iparralde in Basque) goes well into France, touching the lower half of Les Landes in Nouvelle Aquitaine. The Basque language, Euskera, like the people, one of... Continue Reading →
Villandraut is around an hour from Bordeaux, only accessible by car or bicycle, but full of history. The Chateau which dominates the center of town was built by Pope Clement V who was born in Villandraut. The Ciron River flows through, offering water activites in the summer, and a weekly Thursday market is a great way to take in the local culinary culture!
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.
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.
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.
...best way to see the real France and during these covid times a great way to have fun, avoid large groups of people and support smaller communities. Captieux has a lake, Lac de Taste, incredible farms like La Ferme des Filles, is home to one of the most Northern bull rings, and is where the delectable 'puits d'amour' pastry is from! Besides selling incredible produce from seasonal vegetables to eggs on-site, La Ferme des Filles has gites to rent, will eventually run educational events (when covid allows), and offers a lovely large area for your children to roam and meet goats, sheep and chickens...
Gironde has so many beautiful places to visit, some of my favorite (especially in the summer months) are the Langon market (Friday), Verdelais, and Saint-Croix-du-Months. Ira of Lost in Bordeaux came with me a few weeks ago and her talents created a really fun video of some of my favorite places. I wanted to share the addresses and a few more if you should end up that way! A day trip from Bordeaux in Southeast Gironde / Discovering the Southwest of France - YouTube
At the bottom of the hill to Saint Macaire, the Garonne river used to touch the town and boat loads of wine would make their way to Bordeaux. Sadly, the rare Saint Macaire grape isn't grown much in the region anymore, but biodynamic producer Chateau Cazebonne will have their first bottle of 2020 Saint Macaire ready next year!
In the Basque Country, this tree is not valued as much for its fruits, but rather for its wood, used to create the typical stick of the region, la makila.
Along the narrow and steep streets of the center there are nice timber-framed buildings, a house where Henry II spent a night, and The Musee des Jacobins (also known as Musee des Ameriques) hosting the second most important collection of pre-Colombian artefacts.
Visting the historic center of Gironde, circa 1400. UNESCO Cathedral, Saturday Markets and Cultural Festivals.
What is tricky about most wines in the Bordeaux region is that they vary in taste from house to house, based on different grape blends, materials used during aging, and the very unique distinction of terroir (environmental factors such as soil and climate). Around Saint Emilion you find lots of gravel, sand, limestone, and a special blue clay which can add different mineral or earthiness to the grapes.