Tired of the sightseeing treadmill of Paris? Then come on down to Southwest France, a surprisingly unvisited place in the most visited country on the planet. I have to say I love this itinerary, as it includes some of the best stuff France has to offer, all in one region.
Bordeaux will be your base. To get you started with the logistics, here are some helpful links:
There is plenty to see and do in Bordeaux, but let’s face it: it’s all about the wine. To get a sense of just how important this magical beverage is to the area, check out these articles about French wine:
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Your lengthiest trip in this itinerary is down to the southwestern-most tip of France, Saint-Jean-de-Luz. It’s about 2.5 hours from Bordeaux, and a train ticket costs about €31 each way. It’s small enough for a day trip, so you’ll be back in the city in time for dinner! To learn more about what to do there, check out Visiting Saint-Jean-de-Luz: A Beachside Basque Gem.
A good alternative to this charming town, especially if you’re into surfing, is Biarritz, just north of Saint-Jean-de-Luz. You can sign up for a surfing class, or rent a board and hit the waves in the surf capital of Europe.
Your other side trip is to Arcachon, which is just under an hour by train (tickets cost about €10.30). It’s a small beach town on the other side of the enormous Landes pine forest from Bordeaux, and the best point from which to visit the Great Dune of Pyla, an enormous sand dune that makes the area look, well, nothing at all like France. You can rent a dune buggy, take a tour, or just head to the top and check out the spectacular view.
While I wouldn’t recommend this itinerary to first-time visitors to France, it’s perfect for subsequent trips, especially if you want to impress the folks back home with your interesting discoveries!
Photo: Ronnie Garcia