Make for the Bordeaux wine festival in June 2011. The 12 hectare site in the centre of the world’s largest quality wine district offers thousands of French and foreign wine lovers the opportunity to taste a wide selection of wines from the Aquitaine region. Prefer to tour the vineyards? - visit the Bordeaux ‘Maison de Vins’ for information on estates that are open to the public (some even offer meals) to sample such classics as St Emilion, Graves, Medoc and Margaux.
Further afield, don’t forget the Bergerac and Monbazillac wines of the Dordogne, red and rose Vins d’Irouleguy from the Basque country and golden Armagnac brandy of the Landes.
When English King Richard the Lionheart, who inherited his lands in Aquitaine from his mother Eleanor, set off on a crusade with the French king, some local lords fortified against his return.
His sign-posted ‘route’ through unspoilt countryside in parts of Poitou Charentes, Limousin and the Dordogne marks his various travels and battles between these fortified castles and towns.
Some castles are open to the public such as the fairytale turreted Chateau de Jumilhac le Grand. Richard was fatally wounded besieging the Chateau de Chalus-Chabrol and died in 1199 from his infected wound.
Discover a range of walking, horse riding and cycling trails through this unspoilt rural area. There are lakes for fishing and swimming and the Park also organises activities for young families such as bird-watching, and workshops on chestnuts and apples.
Ask at local tourist offices for programmes. Within the area, traditional arts and crafts have been revitalised. Watch ‘feuillardiers’ (chestnut woodworkers) now making modern garden furniture.
A paradise of Atlantic rollers continually break on the sandy Cote d’Argent stretching over 200km south from the Gironde estuary to Biarritz and the beaches beyond. This longest continuous stretch of beach in Europe is also its surfing capital. Choose from a host of resorts from Hourtin to Hendaye.
World-Pro surfing events are held at Lacanau, Hossegor and Biarritz which also have great surf schools and shops, as do Biscarosse, Capbreton, Anglet and many others. Wonderful surfing at any time of year, autumn seeing the best swells.