Landes Places To Visit On Holiday

Labastide Armagnac, Landes, Aquitaine, France

Labastide d’Armagnac

A superb little medieval ‘Bastide’ village in Bas Armagnac.

Its Place Royale, a well preserved arcaded square dating from 1291, is said to have inspired Henri IV in his design for the Place des Vosges in Paris. (Interestingly Labastide’s original building charter was ratified by England’s Edward I as ruler of Armagnac during this period).

Worth a visit for its shady arched walkways and fifteenth century church, it also offers a costume museum, display of Armagnac brandy and an exhibition of historic fortified villages or ‘Bastides’.

Look for the curiously named eleventh century church, Notre-Dame des Cyclistes, less than 2 miles away, declared as sanctuary for cyclists in 1959, it displays cycling memorabilia as part of the nearby Maison des Cyclists museum.

Mont-de-Marsan

This elegant and cosmopolitan town known as the ‘City of Three Rivers’ lies at the confluence of the Douze and Midou rivers where they merge into the larger Midouze. Administrative centre for the department of the Landes and surrounded by its lush forests, the town makes an idea touring base.

Visit its twelfth century keep, housing work by local sculptors and church of Ste Madeleine with its ornamental ceiling and marble. Stroll in the delightful woodland setting of Parc Jean Rameau overlooking the Douze.

The town is the centre for ‘courses landaises’ - a gentler form of bull fighting where participants aim to vault the backs and horns of cows and no animals are killed. Fetes Madeleines in July is a great time to be in town, with a week of Basque carnival festivity including parades, music, flamenco dancing and the ‘corrida’ (bullfight). Horse racing is also a passion with the  townspeople, and the local race course hosts at least a dozen meetings each year.

Biscarosse Beach and Lake

The beautiful exposed beach of Biscarosse backed by dunes is rarely crowded and has space set aside for land yachts and kit buggies. Alizess Speed is the local sand yachting club.

Majestic Atlantic breakers make this one of the best spots in Europe for surfing and windsurfing. Point Break Surf School is accredited by the French Surfing Federation and also has a “Jardin des Crevettes” for over 6 year olds. Xperience Gliss offers surfing and bodyboarding courses at all levels and Centre Nautique Biscarrosse Olympique is another accredited sailing and sports school.

Biscarrosse Ville, 6 miles from the resort bungalows and apartment blocks of the beach resort, is an attractive place with older-style properties set amongst birch trees and a child-friendly swimming lake on its western edge. Find sailing and fishing here and the Musee de l’Hydraviation - commemorating a flying boat service to New York based briefly on the lake between the two World Wars.

Mimizan

Mimizan, close to the shores of the Etang d’Aureilhan, is a town divided. Mimizan Plage was developed in the nineteenth century Belle Epoque as a seaside resort and is popular today with families, surfers, body boarders and sailors.

The inland town, centering around its eleventh century ruined abbey, is the ideal starting point for walking, cycling and orienteering trips into the heart of the surrounding forest. Mimizan Intercommunal Tourist Office has details of these, along with information on visits to the pine museum at Pontenx-les-Forges, guided tour around Mimizan explaining the history of the forest and wood working, heritage museum and the amazing Maison de l’Airial at Bias (open selected times June-Sept), where you can find everything you ever needed to know about wood and more. Sample over 100 wood ‘fragrances’ while the children ‘have a go’ on a giant wooden xylophone.

Dax and the Borda Museum

Dax has been a premier spa resort since Roman times with famous mud baths. Water from the hot spring which feeds the town’s central fountain is at a constant 64 degrees centigrade. Admire Dax’s Gallo-Roman architecture, stroll beside the River Adour and discover the town’s long and interesting history relating to the formation of a united France.

The Borda Museum has interesting displays on the history of the area since pre-historic times. Ticket price includes a visit to the archaeological crypt. Dax is a major bull-fighting and course landaise centre, with August being the main month for events.

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