Travelers will find many delights in the Aquitaine area of Southwest France; from vineyards to prehistoric sites, and medieval castles to well preserved bastides (ancient, fortified towns), all set amid breathtaking natural beauty. The following driving tours will give you a small taste of this glorious region.
Prehistory in Southwest France
Depart from Perigueux after taking in its beautiful old quarter and lovely medieval and Renaissance buildings. Drive to the Grotte du Grand Roc, and continue on to Les Eyzies, where you will find the area’s greatest concentration of prehistoric sites. Then continue to Lascaux II to view an excellent replica of the nearby original site of the renowned prehistoric cave paintings that have been closed to the public since 1963. You may want to visit the close by site of Regourdou, as you continue on to Sarlat la Caneda, one of the most beautiful towns of the Dordogne.
After enjoying Sarlat’s public market and the lovely gardens, drive on to Souillac, where you will see the 12th century Romanesque church, Abbatial Sainte Marie. Next, drive on to Gouffre de Padirac in the Midi Pyrenees where you can go underground into limestone chambers to admire the impressive Padiraca chasm and the Great Dome Gallery.
The next stop on your itinerary is the fortified pilgrimage town of Rocamadour. Don’t miss the stunning view of the town on highway D32 as you approach Rocomadour. And once in the town, be sure to enjoy the many vistas from the castle battlements. Returning to Aquitaine, visit the hilltop town of Domme where you may explore more underground caverns through an entrance in the old covered market in the central square. Drive on to Les Milandes and then Bergerac to see its restored old town with timbered houses and two interesting museums: The Musee du Tabac (Tobacco Museum) and the Musee du Vin et de la Betellerie (Wine and River Traffic Museum). Return along highway N21 to Perigueux.
Bordeaux Wine Tours
In the area surrounding the elegant city of Bordeaux, you will find many wine chateaux, with most including a vineyard and related buildings which may be elaborate or very simple. Some of these wine chateaux offer tours and wine tasting. Check with the Tourist Office of Bordeaux or the Musee du Vin (Wine Museum) for regional tour and wine tasting information.
For a wine tour and/or river cruise, drive southeast of Bordeaux to Sauternes, the center for the famous white wine of the same name.
Nearby, you will find eight vineyards where you will be warmly welcomed. Continuing southeast to Nerac will afford the opportunity to take a river cruise on the River Nerac. From Nerac, return to Bordeaux.
Cognac Wine Tour
The world’s most famous brandy ages in vast warehouses in the town of Cognac on the Charente River, just one-hundred miles north of Bordeaux. Tours and tastings are available in and around Cognac as well as in Jarnac and Rouillac. Learn all about the various appellations from the experts. Local producers sell this delectable brandy directly to the public.
Gourmet Tour of Two Quercy River Valleys
Allow two leisurely days to explore nearly one hundred miles of the lovely valleys of the Lot and Cele rivers. Amidst gorgeous scenery, including beautiful limestone cliffs, you will experience the architectural riches of medieval villages and castles. Along the way, be sure to enjoy the regional specialties of truffles, duck confit, goat cheese, and the hearty wines of the area.
From the town of Cahors on the River Lot which is home to one of France’s great country wines made from Auxerrois grapes, travel east and northeast to Espagnac Ste Eulalie. And an overnight stop at Figeac is a perfect opportunity to feast on local specialties, and enjoy a visit to Figeac’s medieval quarter. At Figeac, turn westward along the Cele River to visit the medieval village of Cajarc and nearby Renaissance Chateau de Cenevieres. Drive on to pretty St Circ Lapopie, high above the Lot River, and continue west to return to Cahors.
More than 2,000 years ago, the Romans shaped the landscape of this region’s wine country, giving way to today’s spectacular vistas. The most striking example is the Via Domitia, the Romans’ “southern highway” from Rome to Spain. Not only does this highway bear witness to Roman engineering genius, it also serves as an efficient road for the 21st-century traveler. Two essential, must see, places lie along this itinerary: Roman Nà®mes, with its well-preserved arena, temple and Magnus Tower; and of course the Pont du Gard, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Monday 23rd of March 2009
We love this wonderful part of France and hope to write about it soon.
Monday 23rd of March 2009
You've mentioned every part of south-west France except Gascony!
Gascony: Armagnac, Madiran, the Three Musketeers, unspoilt but accessible, extremely pretty, and likened by Albert Camus to Tuscany ....