Gascony and the South West, Part 1: Taking the Scenic Route
Cultural, gastronomical, and intellectual delights await you in the delightful southwest corner of France. Seemingly designed for lazy touring on back roads, this cozy pocket of France boasts multitude of attractions, not the least of which is its exquisite scenery.
Since private car is really one of the only ways to see the southwest, we recommend hiring a small, fuel-efficient vehicle and taking advantage of the region’s excellently-maintained roads to visit the following sites:
- A cliff-top village with a grand view across the coast from pligrimage chapel of Ste-Madeleine, Bidart is the perfect retreat. In addition to stunning views, the village boasts a variety of ocean-related sports, fine dining, historical sites, and nightlife.
- As the unofficial capital of Basque country, the magnificent Bayonne is well worth a visit. In the 18th century town, you are not only likely to hear the Basque language of Euskara spoken, but you will also be able to avail yourself of some fine museums and chocolate boutiques.
- Called “the town of a thousand palms”; “the green city”; or “the garden city,” Pau offers stunning views of the snow-capped Pyrenees. In addition to the Boulevard des Pyrenees, which provides a beautiful scenic drive along the town’s southern edge, visitors can take advantage of the views by availing themselves of the free funicular railway.
- Known for its history, art, and shopping, a visit to Toulouse should also include a trip to nearby Basilique St-Sernin, the largest Romanesque church in France. On the northern edge of the city, the educational adventure park Cité de L’espace (City of Space) appeals to space exploration enthusiasts.
- Perfect for families seeking a seaside holidays, the Bay of Arcachon offers much more than sandy beaches: hiking, boating, kayaking, parasailing, and cycling are all available. In addition, you will find the added attraction of Observatoire Cante-Cecile, built by a young Gustave Eiffel.
From snow-capped mountain peaks to sandy beaches to fragrant, densely-packed forests, the southwest of France boasts many sights. Although this list only begins to scratch the surface of the region’s scenic delights, perhaps it has piqued your interest in seeing some of them for yourself.