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 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 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 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
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
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 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 in town. The Grande Maison de Bernard Magrez is a private 19th century mansion, driven by two ambassadors of excellence, at the service of the arts. The art of hospitality is showcased by the six elegant guest rooms inspired by Napoleon III style. Culinary arts are embodied by the exceptional cuisine of Joël Robuchon. The art of Great Wines, with a wine list unique in the world, boasting 259 positions including 168 Grands Crus Classés, is perfectly aligned to the remarkable signature dishes of the Chef with new creations around local products. The journey continues with contemporary art at the Cultural Institute Bernard Magrez, across the street, with the permanent exhibition of works from the collection of the owner. ... 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
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 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