The Atlantic coast of France

There’s a wild beauty to western France that’s a world away from the sophistication of the Mediterranean. The coast near Bordeaux has rolling dunes and pine trees, while further south at Biarritz the stretches of sand are often backed by craggy cliffs. But this coast has had fans in high places, as Empress Eugénie, wife of Napolean lll spent her summers at Biarritz, helping establish it as a popular resort.

Beaches

Try the main beach at Biarritz, Côte des Basques – popular with families and surfers – or head south to St Jean-de-Luz, a few kilometres from the Spanish border. The coast near Bordeaux has miles of sandy beaches, dunes and lakes to explore. Arcachon is a pretty seaside town within easy reach of Bordeaux – the beach here is popular, but there are plenty more nearby if you want more space for your beach towel.

See

In Biarritz, take a stroll to the lighthouse on the headland near the Grand Plage, or enjoy a visit to the Aquarium de Biarritz based in an impressive Art Deco building – see rays, coral reefs, sharks and more. In Bordeaux, find your bearings with a relaxed walk around the city centre and take in the classical and neoclassical architecture, then find out more about the history of the area at the Musée d’Aquitaine.

Eat

Local specialities from Bordeaux include a hearty pigeon stew with red wine, herbs and garlic, and mussels cooked under pine needles or hay. In Biarritz, try pintxos, the local version of tapas.

Drink

One of Bordeaux’s excellent reds of course! Visit a vineyard – there are more than 3,000 in Bordeaux – and try before you buy. In Biarritz a glass of sparkling Basque wine called txakoli is the perfect accompaniment to the pintxos, or try a local cider.

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Biarritz beach, France

The Porte Cailhau or Porte du Palais in Bordeaux, France.