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 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 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
Restaurant and hotel in the country. A small country palace, on the borders of the Landes and Béarn regions, a romantic haven, a feast for the senses, for pampering your body and letting your mind wander. This family home is an invitation to happiness. Fairytale gardens, aristocratic abode and symphonic cuisine. In this small village, once placed under the patronage of Empress Eugénie, herb gardens, majestic trees and ancient roses line the pathway to a stunning spa, La Ferme Thermale®. In the kitchen, Michel Guérard, who "cooks the way a bird sings", creates celestial marvels. Everywhere else, Christine casts her poetic touch. ... Learn moreless
Hotel and restaurant in the country. Protected by the village’s medieval church and in the shade of old plane trees, stands this beautiful 18th century charterhouse. The stone arcades of its sand colored frontage invite you to discover an elegant succession of living and dining rooms. An afternoon by the fireplace in the library, a summer night dining under the lime-tree, tasting Armagnac from its vineyards, nestled in its soft sofas: all this generous joy, real hymn to the delicious products of Gascony, matches the harmony of its luminous simplicity. In the gardens, benefit from the expert treatments provided at the Thermal Spa. ... Learn moreless
Hotel and restaurant in the country. Between Cognac and Bordeaux, two renowned wine-growing regions, this Renaissance-style château enjoys a commanding position in the heart of a superb eight-hectare park overlooking the Gironde estuary. You lose all sense of time in this residence which boasts a past which is rich in art and history, with its exquisite fabrics, antique furniture and crystal chandeliers. Château de Mirambeau, which expresses a French art de vivre that is sophisticated yet unpretentious, offers delightful gourmet cuisine. When evening comes, one of the most fascinating rooms in the château, the “Cognathèque”, is the ideal place if you want to taste wine and the best cognacs. ... Learn moreless
Hotel and restaurant on a river. In an unspoilt valley in French Catalonia, looking out at the snow-topped mount Canigou, you will find the Château de Riell, perched among parasol pines and oleander trees. This hotel is made for hedonists, with its baroque interiors and a restaurant whose highlights include lamb and seafood. Sports enthusiasts can choose from the huge range of outdoor activities against a backdrop of breathtaking scenery and the open-air pool set on the castle’s ramparts. Discerning gentlemen travellers will be impressed by the ambiance of the Out of Africa bar and the dacha, where you can sit and read or enjoy breakfast. A splendid escape in Romanesque Roussillon. ... Learn moreless
Hotel and restaurant in a vineyard. Staying in this 13th century château overlooking the Lot valley is a truly unique experience, an authentic immersion in the history of France during the Middle Ages. Built on a rocky promontory, this was the summer residence of the Counts and Bishops of Cahors for seven centuries. Today, the chef draws his inspiration from local producers, and has won an international reputation for working wonders with black Lalbenque truffles and Quercy lamb. The wine list includes the great Malbec wines and vintages produced in the château’s very own wine cellars, because before being the owner, Mr. Vigouroux was the wine grower. ... Learn moreless
Hotel and restaurant in a park. Just a few minutes’ walk from the beach and the city centre, this 19th century Napoleon III-style mansion in Saint-Jean-de-Luz, a charming harbour city, in the heart of the Basque Country, offers an intimate setting sheltered by century-old trees. Close to both ocean and mountains, there is an abundance of activities, including swimming in the pool in the middle of the park. Inside the Hotel Parc Victoria an Art deco interior décor and furniture. At the restaurant a convivial, generous and regional cuisine, inspired by the markets of the Basque Country, can be enjoyed, including hake from Saint-Jean-de-Luz, squids, peppers or Espelette pepper. ... 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