"South Western France" Top 5 Page for this destination Aquitaine by kokoryko

Aquitaine Travel Guide: 2,083 reviews and 7,003 photos

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I finally decided to take the plunge to write some pages on the area where I live at the moment. . . . . .Pau, Bearn, Aquitaine.
Aquitaine has a long history (I do not tell about geology, in that respect its continental crust outcropping on the rims of the Aquitaine Basin and in the Pyrenees is quite young (1100 million years) and in the Basin itself, in the Aquitaine region, no older rocks than Triassic crop out. In the western Pyrenees, older rocks down to Precambrian can be found).

Long history.

Aquitaine, and specially Dordogne Departement are well known for the man of Cro-Magnon and the painted caves of the Palaeolithic: Lascaux, Fond de Gaume, Les Eyzies (location of Cro-Magnon cave), La Madeleine, Le Moustier, etc, etc, etc. . . . . 200.000 years of (pre)history! But other places of Aquitaine have lots of Palaeolithic remains.
During the last ice age, Aquitaine was one of the refuges of people escaping the greater colds of Northern and Central Europe.
During the Neolithic, many dolmen and menhirs have been erected in Aquitaine, but the following Bronze Age left few remains.
Celtic people lived here in the last centuries BC and Julius Caesar conquered Aquitaine in 56 BC; unlike south-Eastern France very few roman remains are present in this region, only some locality names, and of course the language (Occitanian).
The Wisigoths conquered Aquitaine during the beginning of the 5th century AD and some places still keep Wisigothic names.
The Francs, with Clovis expelled the Wisigoths and then Charlemagne fighted the Arabs who came from Spain across the Pyrenees (Epic of Roland, nephew of Charlemagne, relating the Battle of Ronceveaux (Roncesvalles, in Spain)).
During the Middle Age, the most influential person was Alienor d’Aquitaine, which many kings, dukes and other marquis wanted to marry (she was beautiful, educated and. . . . . . heiress of a very huge and rich territory). Her marriage with the future Henry II of England was one of the causes of the « Hundred Years War » between France and England. Aquitaine is part of France since 1452.
The Renaissance left less prestigious castles than in the Loire valley (Chateaux de la Loire), but cities developed at that time and Aquitaine is the homeland of people like Montaigne, Montesquieu, Henri IV of Navarre, King of France, who all marked the history of France and Europe.
The 17th and 18th centuries were marked by the development of Bordeaux (trade with colonies), but the hinterland did not develop as well and due to lack of natural resources, the industrial revolution of the 19th century had little impact in the region.
During the 20th century Aquitaine was far from the European war areas and did not suffer destruction but it paid it’s share during WWI in terms of human losses (as attested by the memorials in the villages). Many refugees from the Spanish civil war settled in South western France and still influence the life in Aquitaine.
Today Aquitaine is a dynamic developing region, with various fields of activities as different as modern technologies in Bordeaux or Pau and traditional agriculture in the mountain areas or Lot-et-Garonne department, forestry in the Landes and Fisheries on the Basque Coast. And of course, since 50 years, tourism represents a major economic activity in this region.

Rigorous administration and mess

I will try to present some more on specific pages all grouped under Aquitaine or separately for big subjects (towns, regions. . .)
But the VT database is not easy to use for this and all will be grouped under an Aquitaine section; Aquitaine is a quite wide region in France, covering 41300 sq km comprising 5 departements (administrative units, managed by a prefect, appointed by the central French government).
The biggest difficulty is that Aquitaine contains natural regions which straddle over several departments or regions, (for example, the Pyrenees Mountains, the Landes forest, etc. . . . .) as do ethnical or economical entities: Gascony (part of Occitania) extends over several departments but Bearn is located only in Pyrenees Atlantiques department, as does French Basque land. If somebody knows a way to directly point on Bearn with VT, I would be glad to learn how to do!
Well, administrative divisions are very practical for. . . administrators, but I look at landscapes, tell about people, hike on mountains, travel across boundaries, and my anarchic way of thinking and presenting things does not accommodate of administration.

I will do my best to make my pages clear and not use the VT database for each single village, mention them only in the text (or tips) about a broader area or a big town in the vicinity. I want for instance to make a page about Bearn, but there is no Bearn in VT database, but everybody in France knows where Bearn is and what sort of people live there; I will have to make a page either on Pau (Bearn’s capital city and prefecture of Pyrenees Atlantiques), or on Aquitaine, but my Pau page may have only mountain and countryside descriptions and tips, and in the Aquitaine page, it will be lost among the other tips and descriptions about Atlantic coast, Landes forest, Bordeaux vineyards, ferias season, etc, etc. . .Sorry for the confusion, I will see when there is some progress in these pages how I will organise all that.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Hot and sunny in summer
  • Cons:Misty in winter
  • In a nutshell:La vie est belle
  • Intro Updated Feb 2, 2008
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Reviews (24)

Comments (10)

  • balhannah's Profile Photo
    May 5, 2010 at 9:25 PM

    Interesting reading about the 'Landaise'

  • Francenko's Profile Photo
    Nov 11, 2009 at 4:37 AM

    Excellent work, according also to an "a priori pro":)

  • Apr 8, 2008 at 4:39 PM

    I am against bull fighting and not sure I like cow swerving either, but I think your page is very informative and mainly unbiased. As you say, you are commenting on a local custom that I had no Idea is practised in France. cheers for the well written page

  • Bwana_Brown's Profile Photo
    Jan 19, 2008 at 11:50 AM

    A very educational and interesting page on the finer points of 'course Landaise'!! I had never heard of this form of man vs. beast before, so I learned something new! Great views of the Atlantic coastline too.

  • TheWanderingCamel's Profile Photo
    Oct 19, 2007 at 7:36 PM

    What a terrific page - an ancient land with a unique culture, wonderful wine and landscapes that you have written about very eloquently. Great reading - thank you. leyle

  • unravelau's Profile Photo
    Jul 27, 2007 at 5:20 PM

    A tip for vters viewing....turn volume up and enjoy the bull fights..... Thank you so much for this Hermann, this is another wonderful page. No, I am not going to take up bull fighting but I did so enjoy your magnificent photos and great tips. Thank you.

  • white_smallstar's Profile Photo
    Jul 20, 2007 at 4:07 AM

    This is a fantastic page with stunning photos!!! ** ; ) **

  • Nemorino's Profile Photo
    Jul 16, 2007 at 9:02 AM

    Beautiful area! We used to go camping on the beaches of Landes when our children were growing up. I wish I could come next week for the open-air opera: July 21 in Verteuil d'Angenais, 24 in Pujols, 26 in Puy l'Evêque, 28 in Monbazillac and 30 in Duras.

  • tiabunna's Profile Photo
    Jan 21, 2007 at 4:28 AM

    Great reading and equally good photos, Hermann. It makes me wish we'd had more time when we passed through that area (as do the vineyards...).

  • iris2002's Profile Photo
    Dec 4, 2006 at 12:59 PM

    Ahhh les Pyrennees - my friends moved to Pau - I have yet to visit! And explore the mountains there :) la vie est belle ... hmmm ... dans nature oui! :)


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