Bordeaux to Biarritz; 900 kilometres.
While Paris may well be the city of romance and most tourists' first choice when visiting France, there is a lot more to this wonderful country than the City of Light. Once you have explored the capital, how about a revitalising trip south to inhale France in its most authentic country splendour? A road trip through the Aquitaine region in the south west will oxygenate your ideas and have you discovering stunning country landscapes, friendly locals and succulent produce.
• Wine tasting in the Médoc
• Driving by fields of flowers and animals with postcard- perfect Pyrenees backdrops
• Cute village markets with divine cheeses, paté basques, saucisson …
• Check into tourism office for village festivals, concerts in chateaux and other events
Day 1 Bordeaux
Bordeaux is calm and majestic with its wide streets, a pillared grand theatre, large parks and high monuments. Stroll the quay by the Garonne past the mirroir d’eau and the renovated warehouses-cum boutiques and cafés. Mosey through cobbledstoned old town St Pierre and pause to indulge in a canelé (delicious caramel sponge cake). Visit St Michel cathedral. Chomp tapas at the Marché des Capucins or, for something swish, try Gordon Ramsay’s Michelin starred Le Pressoir d’Argent.
Day 2 Route de Vins !
Vineyard day! There are six ‘routes’. Try the Médoc (north west on the D2, 80 kilometres) to discover the prestigious Grands Crus of Bordeaux and the Crus Bougeois. Leap out at 16th Century Château Margaux and waft through the vineyards, inhaling the heady scents of the grape. Pace yourself at the tastings though as there are many other drops to discuss. Stop along the way to explore the cute medieval village of Saint-Emilion, too.
Day 3 Navarrenx, Chateaux Laas, Marcus
Take the A63 south from Bordeaux, direction Bayonne exit 12 direction Dax to Navarrenx (207 kilometres and around 2 1/2 hours). Named the most beautiful village in France in 2014, this once fortified town on the Gave River has a delightful and quaint town centre with bastion amphitheatre-like ruins. Dive into the markets and chat with friendly and proud snail farmers, bee keepers, jam makers and cheese makers.
Visit the Chateau de Laàs (18 min and 11,9 kilometres via the D27) admiring its decorative arts (works include those of Breughel and Rubens) and splendid, vast gardens. Be pensive in the medieval village of Sauveterre (15 min and 9.4 kilometres from Laàs via the D27) with its 12th century church St André. Head to Barcus (41 mins and 39,5 kilometres via D936 et D59) and check into charming restaurant/hotel- Hotel Chilo.
Day 4 St Jean Pied de Port
Wind along mountain roads with breathtaking views of the Pyrenees to the traditional medieval basque town of St Jean Pied de Port (1h and 54,8 kilometres via D918) on the foot of the mountain Roncevaux. Check out the typical two-toned basque houses with their wooden shutter windows and visit the historic centre. From the citadelle gaze over the vineyards, the mountains and the basque country. Then contemplate a snack and get stuck into some spicy paté basque with fresh baguettes and lumps of excellent cheeses.
Day 5 Beaches and Biarritz
Travel 1 h 15 min (74,6 kilometres) via the D918 to the coast at Hendaye. Chill out by the water or take the route de la corniche (D912 7kilometres) to the famous basque village of Saint Jean de Luz for lunch. Travel North West for half an hour (A 63) and hit Biarritz! Trendy for European and English royalty in the 18th Century, this beach town on the Atlantic ocean is elegant, surfy, family-friendly and breezy. Inhale salty air, read a book, catch a wave, eat ice cream. Be happy. Be zen.
And if you fancy paella for dinner, well you’re only half an hour from Spain…