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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 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 on a lake. In the 1980s, Serge Blanco was an elegant rugby player responsible for some of the most glorious moments in the history of the French national team. Today, this fan of sport and gastronomy owns the unspoilt, romantic Château de Brindos, where Sir Reginald Wright, an influential English senator, hosted tea dances in the 1930s. The château stands next to the largest private lake in France, a huge mirror, where water lilies meet mallards and a light nostalgic mist is floating in autumn. This is the perfect place for peaceful strolls and romantic stays, enjoying the gentle way of life of the Basque Country. ... 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 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 on a river. The towers of this château are so close to the river that it feels as if they are floating on it. Located between the Lot, known as the “land of marvels”, and the Dordogne, home to more than one thousand châteaux, the Château de la Treyne is the ideal base from which to set off and explore this fascinating region. The Chef adapts the cuisine of the terroir, based on foie gras or lamb from the Causses du Quercy nature park. A delicious dinner can be enjoyed in the Grand Louis XIII Salon, or on the terrace overlooking the Dordogne. Breathe in pure, fresh air and look around wide-eyed to take in this extraordinary setting. ... 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
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
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. 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