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 park. A former monastery and listed historical monument, the Prieuré d’Orsan invites you on a journey back in time. Far from the hustle and bustle of the modern world, there are no phones or televisions here. Nestled in a wooded valley in Berry, this charming hotel has spacious and inviting rooms. They all boast breathtaking views of the magnificent Orsan Gardens. Extending over three hectares, these gardens inspired by medieval illuminations feature stunning architecture and orchards, herb and vegetable gardens that produce ingredients for the culinary delights served in the restaurant. The art of hospitality is well cultivated here. ... 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 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 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 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
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
Restaurant and hotel in a village. This 19th century mansion combines all that is great about the southwest of France and the Landes, the country of dunes and wide open spaces. The scent of the sea pines drifts over those relaxing by the swimming pool or on the white sandy beaches, only a few kilometres from the Relais de la Poste, or those surfing the famous waves of the Landes coast. Chef Jean Coussau concocts with great talent flavorful gourmet recipes originating from the region between the Basque Country and Bordeaux, with its wealth of exceptional products, like Adour lamprey, hot duck foie gras with grapes, sand asparagus from the Landes or Gillardeau oysters on a bed of chanterelles. ... Learn moreless
Hotel and restaurant in a village. In Brantôme, the Venice of the Périgord, this ivy-clad mill is one of the most delightful places in the Dordogne. The vista takes in the impressive bridge, a 16th century masterpiece, the monastery garden, the medieval tower, the Renaissance pavillion and the famous abbey founded by Charlemagne. The rooms and lounges are elegant and cosy, and the light-filled dining room opens out onto a terrace on the river banks. The Chef creates innovative, delectable cuisine showcasing local produce. At the mill itself, the miller’s house and the house where the famous Abbot of Brantôme, Pierre de Bourdeilles, once lived, the stage is set to enjoy this romantic, magical setting. ... Learn moreless
Restaurant and hotel in a village. Contemporary interior designer Jacques Garcia has worked wonders with the décor of this 13th century bastide, that was once home to the Counts of Toulouse. The mood is theatrical and luxurious. Sofas with feet that look like lion paws sit beside ancient floor tiles and velvety wall hangings. There is a touch of the artist Jean Cocteau here too, with an avant-garde chandelier that appears out of a wall. Your itinerary should include visiting the region which is one of the most beautiful parts of France, and sampling the recipes dreamt up by Chef Michel Trama, this extraordinary self-taught multi-starred Chef, who strolls through the Lot-et-Garonne farmer markets looking for the best and the unexpected. His cuisine reveals his love of wholesome food and of life in general. You'll sample notably his potato papillote and his lobster lasagna, a few reasons the restaurant is not to be missed. ... Learn moreless