The Gironde is difficult to describe without using superlatives. It’s the largest department of France with a coastline forming part of Europe’s longest beach - the Cote d’Argent - stretching from the Gironde Estuary south to Biarritz in Pyrenees Atlantic. Climb Dune du Pilat, at over 100m Europe’s highest sand dune.
Most famously, the department of Gironde is home to the largest quality wine district in the world. The eight ‘appellations’ (highest classifications) include Medoc and Graves west of the mighty Gironde Estuary and River Garonne; St Emilion around the River Dordogne; and Entre Deux Mers- a vast area between the 2 rivers.
It’s worth noting, ‘chateau’ here has come to mean ‘vineyard’ and not necessarily a palace as pretty as Chateau Margaux. Maison du Vin in Bordeaux is useful as you can check which estates are open to the public.
Bordeaux is not only one of the most elegant, refined cities in France, its port has also been the hub of wine shipping since Roman times and the English love of claret can be traced back to England’s rule in Aquitaine during the Middle Ages. The city’s elegant eighteenth century façade reflects Bordeaux’s golden age.
If you needed any more reason to choose Bordeaux as your holiday destination, it has recently been chosen as Europe’s best destination – over other major tourist cities such as Milan or Athens. The perfect example of French elegance and culture, Bordeaux has plenty to offer in terms of historic monuments to visit, festivals to enjoy, markets to stroll through or boutiques to visit along Europe’s longest pedestrian shopping street, rue Sainte-Catherine.
Away from the city, Atlantic surfing beaches like Lacanau, which holds world professional events and festivals, are a magnet for watersports enthusiasts. Behind pine fringed dunes shimmer freshwater lakes with child-friendly beaches and calmer waters ideal for sailing and windsurfing. The shores of Lakes Lacanau and Hourtin-Carcans - France’s longest freshwater lake - offer great stretches of wilderness and quieter holiday and fishing villages.
Cycle, walk and horse ride over flat terrain in the pine-scented sea air. Take a boat to Cordouan Lighthouse, it’s listed and still has a lighthouse keeper. Sight migratory birds on Gironde estuary islands and Arguin Sandbank Nature Reserve, and discover wildlife trails in the nearby forests of Landes and the Regional Natural Park of ‘Landes de Gascogne’. Arcachon Bay is the place for boat trips and fine seafood. Around its little towns and stylish Arcachon, the oyster is queen although restaurants do serve other shellfish.
Still looking for something to do in this climate so perfect for vines and visitors? What about a round of golf at one of Gironde’s picturesque 18-hole courses.