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.”
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
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
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 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 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 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 in a village. Author Henry Miller knew and loved France better than many French people. He was always in search of, inspirational locations. He originally planned to spend a week at this hotel in the heart of the black Périgord but ended up staying a month. Inside the former tobacco drying barn that has been converted into a dining room or outside under the linden trees, Miller’s spirit lives on. Like the author, you will appreciate the tranquillity of this former priory with its lovely gardens, babbling brook and natural pool in which you can swim. While away the hours in a relaxed atmosphere until dusk approaches and it is time to do a tasting of some fabulous regional wines. ... 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