The Pleasures of Southwestern France
Southwestern France: the ancient region of ‘la France profonde’ of old. Home to two of the country’s most idyllic regions—Bordeaux and the Dordogne— each hauntingly beautiful and quintessentially French.
Bordeaux captivates with its neoclassical charm, stunning châteaux and grand grapes—a place where viticulture is considered a fine art and its practitioners are revered as master alchemists. Following the river upstream you’ll find Dordogne, a region that has managed to remain very much a part of old France with its prehistoric caves and gastronomic pleasures—not to mention the immediate warmth and authenticity of the locals. Wind your way through these stunners, getting to know the region’s cultural landscape and unique flavours.
Cité Du Vin
It’s a town, a wine, and a province: thrice-named Bordeaux welcomed its new Cité du Vin (City of Wine) in 2016, a museum and educational centre that celebrates the unmistakable heritage of the region. With 44,000 square feet and eight floors, this decanter-shaped building celebrates the unmistakable heritage and centuries of viticulture in the region and around the world. With eight floors, a panoramic tasting room that affords you a 360-degree view of Bordeaux and the Garonne River, there’s lots to enjoy (even if you aren’t a total wine snob). The museum is more interactive and fun rather than overly academic or stuffy.
Fête Du Fleuve (River Festival)
The biggest festival in Bordeaux, this spectacle happens only every other year, and it celebrates the mighty Garonne River, the lifeblood of the region. Splashy concerts featuring international performers, an opening-day parade with fireworks, lights and music framing the town and the Pont de Pierre bridge, initially constructed in 1821 by Napoleon for the purpose of expediting armies to fight in Spain. All the fun culminates in the traditional mass swim across the Garonne, where hundreds of brave souls hop in for a quick swim (but not before grabbing a swig of Merlot). The next edition is set for 2019.
Years of Culture
We begin our Bordeaux to Dordogne Biking trip in Bordeaux, where the riding is as smooth as a Château Mouton Rothschild (you’ll understand soon enough). Then, it’s eastward to the Dordogne Valley, land of medieval castles, Cro-Magnon cave paintings and exquisite cuisine.DETAILED ITINERARY
Held every September, this marathon is touted as the world’s longest (and booziest) race. Open to only 8,300 runners who often dress in colourful costumes, it takes you on a two-footed adventure through the finest vineyards of the region, with plenty of sanctioned ‘rest stops’ along the way for you to indulge in wine, cheese, snacks, and all manner of gastronomic and oenological delights.
To wit: oysters at the 38th kilometre (23rd mile) and steak at the 39th kilometre (24th mile), not to mention no less than two dozen orchestras playing music to set the mood. While there is, of course, water available, your hydration station may very well ask you, “Red or white?”. There’s a six-and-a-half hour time limit to complete the course, but the only ‘personal best’ you may achieve is the amount of food and wine you’ll be consuming. ‘Pacing yourself’ takes on a whole new level.
Go Gourmet in the Dordogne
It goes without saying that in this fertile land of truffles, foie gras, walnuts and overall good eats, you’re not wrong to expect some equally over-the-top gourmet festivals, featuring two of the most iconic French foods and flavours out there.
Foie Gras Festival
Geese and ducks and foie gras, oh my! Incredibly, the cultivation of geese and ducks for consumption has been taking place for twenty thousand years. Interestingly, it was the Egyptians who first cultivated the first form of gavage (force-feeding) over 4,000 years ago, which spread throughout the Mediterranean, as Romans, Greeks, and other cultures adopted the practice of fattening geese. Fast forward to Fest’Oie, held every March, it’s a celebration of all things goose and gander.
Follow Your Nose to the Truffle Festival
Similarly, the black truffle, or more specifically, the Périgord truffle, is one of the most expensive (and sumptuous-tasting) items to be found in the Dordogne. Gastronomy has never been the same; the Fête de la Truffe (truffle festival) happens in mid-January, with workshops, a truffle market, and truffle-hunting demonstrations. Bon appétit!