The Southwest includes the Bordeaux area, Béarn and the Basque Country, in addition to Gascony and Aquitaine. It is a land of contrasts, with large agricultural and forest plains beside sharply indented massifs and sunny seaside resorts, while vineyards cover much of the countryside. A bountiful land, like its inhabitants who are excessively keen on good food and local produce and have an age-old tradition of hospitality.
If the stones of Cordouan Lighthouse or the towers of La Rochelle could talk, they would tell tales with the flavor of salt spray, nourished by exotic shores and peopled with ardent seafarers. The boats that bob in the water by the banks of the Gironde and the wharves of La Palice and Île de Ré today were preceded by formidable sailing ships. From the ports of La Rochelle and Bordeaux they set out on long voyages to the colonies, threading their way between Ré and Oléron through the Passage of Antioch, named after an ancient city of the Middle East. This was a point of departure to the faraway Americas or neighboring England - the first country to take a keen interest in the wines of Bordeaux. Even the neighboring Poitou region, firmly anchored in its rich terroir, was affected by the desire for adventure: its House of Lusignan reigned over Cyprus for nearly three centuries.
“Just to glimpse the black, mysterious river at Domme from the beautiful bluff is something to be grateful for all one’s life,” wrote the American novelist Henry Miller after seeing the landscapes of the Dordogne. From its source in the Massif Central, the river winds across the Périgord from east to west, nurturing along its banks a spectacular collection of beautiful villages: Domme protected by its pale stone fortifications, La Roque Gageac at the foot of its limestone cliff, the castles of Castelnaud la Chapelle and Beynac et Cazenac. And of course the timemachine atmosphere of Sarlat, with its narrow streets, its traditional markets where business is conducted in a blend of French and Occitan. A land of plenty. “I believe that the Cro-Magnon man settled here because he was extremely intelligent and had a highly developed sense of beauty,” Miller added, in reference to another marvel: the painted cave of Lascaux, the “Sistine Chapel of Prehistory.”
Restaurant on the seafront. Concurrence beach stretches out at the foot of this beacon of gastronomy in the Charente. Just imagine a world where your pleasure comes first. The clocks have stopped on this Relais & Châteaux road to happiness letting you share a memorable experience. Today Chef Christopher has been strongly influenced by his father's legendary culinary rigour on which he puts his own personal stamp. However, the “signature” of the restaurant has not changed: superb seafood, sourced that very morning at the harbour market, creativity and passion for fine dining. Dare to ask for the secret behind that crispy line-caught sea bass in a shellfish foam. ... Learn moreless
Hotel and restaurant in the country. Just outside Limoges, there is a peaceful haven where the lush vegetation is at its most beautiful. Time seems to stand still at La Chapelle Saint-Martin, where guests can step back in time and experience what life in the private residence of this 19th century porcelain manufacturer would have been like. Those who are partial to a beautiful landscape will instantly fall in love with the chapel surrounded by 35 hectares of 200 year-old trees. The surrounding countryside is delightful, and the grounds, ponds and old dock are the perfect place for quiet contemplation. While the house and gardens are historic, the inspirational cuisine is refreshingly modern. ... Learn moreless
Restaurant and hotel in the country. Sébastien Bras has been at the helm of Le Suquet since 2009, and is forging his own path, reminiscent of the one his father also took. His intuitive and carefully crafted exceptional cuisine provides the perfect showcase for the treasures of the vegetable world offered by the Aubrac plateau. Imagination is given free rein in subtle pairings and harmonies which express this multifaceted living world. The pearly white monkfish and its black olive sauce tell of Gods battling in the skies over Aubrac: your plate is a fragment of the universe. Nature is at the very heart of the Bras family’s daily endeavours. ... Learn moreless
Hotel and restaurant in a village Historians are divided on the etymology of the name Mirepoix. For some, it comes from the Occitan language and means “he who watches fish”, while for others it comes from Latin, “he who looks at the mountain”. They will probably never agree when it comes to this little medieval castle town located between the clear waters of the river Hers and the impressive Tabe mountain range, except on one thing: its irresistible charm. The elegant Relais Royal makes you succumb to the charm of the inner courtyard, garden, swimming pool, majestic rooms and stone walls dressed in winding ivy. It is also ideally situated to explore Carcassonne and its Cathare castles. ... Learn moreless
Hotel and restaurant in a village. The beautiful island of Ré is really worth a visit. Among the charming ports linked by a network of pathways to be explored by bike, crisscrossing the sandy earth, Saint-Martin-de-Ré, surrounded by the Vauban fortifications, is the best place to stay. The hotel is a 17th century shipbuilder’s residence with windows overlooking the port, near the fortress by Vauban, a Unesco World Heritage site with spectacular views of the Atlantic. You might also want to stay at Villa Clarisse, an 18th-century townhouse located a stone's throw away. Here, the mast of a passing fishing boat may perhaps be the only thing to disturb your view of the setting sun. ... Learn moreless
Hotel and restaurant in a village. Wine enthusiasts will instantly recognise the name Saint-Émilion as one of the principal appellations of Bordeaux. Savour some great wines at the Hostellerie de Plaisance, where hosts Chantal and Gérard Perse warmly welcome guests to their elegant but relaxed retreat with stunning views of the vineyards as well as the medieval village, a Unesco World Heritage site. The interiors are an excellent blend of sophistication and comfort. At the restaurant be spoiled by the cuisine of the chef, who draws inspiration from the fresh food markets and the treasures of local farmers. ... Learn moreless
Restaurant and hotel in a vineyard. On the route of the châteaux, close to Château Lynch-Bages, grand cru classé of Pauillac, this 17th century charterhouse invites you to discover true art de vivre. Around a garden, the bright guestrooms with their muted, timeless décor, the pool, the sauna and the terraces near the vineyards create a haven of well-being. In the dining room, two-star Chef Jean-Luc Rocha, Best Craftsman of France, refines the products of the South West and proposes a delightful dialogue between a contemporary cuisine and the Bordeaux grand crus. Visits to châteaux, tasting classes, elaboration of own wine, strolling with the family in the village… Share the savoir-vivre of Epicurean Médoc. ... Learn moreless
Hotel and restaurant in a village. The Saint-James occupies buildings designed in 1989 by the famous architect Jean Nouvel. They nestle in the delightful little village of Bouliac, in a garden fragrant with lemon trees and antique roses. Inspired by the old tobacco drying lofts, four pavilions, linked by a gallery, create a modern pure space. Far away, you can see the Landes of Gascogne forest, the biggest collection of maritime pines in Europe. The gourmet cuisine is one of the major attractions of the Saint James: the chef serves cuisine which is full of flavour and based on local market ingredients, rounded off by the selection of wines from an outstanding cellar and panoramic views of Bordeaux. ... Learn moreless
Hotel and restaurant on a river. The Queen Mother of England made this charming hotel her base when she visited Albi, the native town of the artist Toulouse-Lautrec. In 2010, Unesco classified this episcopal city, a medieval gem constructed in red brick, a World Heritage site. Just as the royal visitor did, appreciate the gentle way of life, the spacious rooms opening onto the beautiful park, and dinners in the restaurant or terrace, with magnificent views of the river Tarn. With a glass of Gaillac in hand, discover the beauty of post-Impressionist landscapes whilst learning how Albi witnessed the birth of Catharism and, during the Renaissance, supplied pigments to the greatest painters of the age. ... Learn moreless
Hotel and restaurant on a golf course. The Domaine d’Auriac is built on the ancient Carsac oppidum, where the story of Carcassonne, a Unesco World Heritage site, begins. For three generations, the Rigaudis Family has reinvented this 19th-century townhouse, built over the cellars of a Carolingian Abbey – ruled over by calm and fine dining in the shade of the 300-year-old surrounding park. The restaurant at the Domaine serves the original recipe for the typical local “Dieu le Fils” cassoulet. In a region where history, mysteries and legends, such as the story of Abbot Saunière’s treasure in Rennes-le-Château, abound, discover Cathare abbeys and castles whose ruins rise from cliff tops and rocky promontories. ... Learn moreless