Actually, the best gift you could have given her was a lifetime of adventures… – Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
I spent the last days of September discovering this corner of France’s Southwest. Between Bordeaux and the coastline, small villages and châteaux sit between pine trees and vineyards.
Bordeaux itself is worth a visit, with its limestone buildings and waterfront promenade. The city was declared a World Heritage Site in 1998 thanks to its historical monuments and buildings.
The bay is surrounded by 10 villages, shaped and influenced mostly by fishing and oyster farms. Everybody seems to own a boat and while driving through this landscape it felt to me as if time was slowing down. At the end of September, the climate was mild, ideal for spending the day outdoors.
On Saturday, small traditional markets seem to pop up in every village. You can find all kinds of fruit and vegetables or start out the day with a wine and cheese tasting.
The oyster farms along the water’s edge are perfect for anybody who loves seafood. Oyster tastings, good wine and a great view of the bay can be found on the terrace of oyster shacks such as Le Routioutiou in Gujan-Mestras.
The town of Arcachon is a popular bathing location and more touristy than the other villages. Again, if you are into seafood and wine, you’ll love the restaurants bordering the promenade. I recommend you try a home-made ice-cream at one of O Sorbet d’Amour‘s parlours. Founded in 1935 in Arcachon, they offer over 100 flavours including rose or lavender (my personal favourite).
For those who like to be on the water, the guided boat tours of the bay, around the “Ile des oiseaux” or to the Dune of Pilat (Europe’s highest dune) are great if you want to learn more about the bay’s past, check out 100s of boats “parked” in the bay, discover the oyster boats ( called “pinasses”) or just enjoy the view.
Another way to discover the bay is on one of the many paths that will lead you through natural reserves and pine forests. Between Audenge and Lanton, you can spend a whole afternoon on the “Tour du Domaine de Certes” or the “Tour du Bassin d’Arcachon” wandering or cycling along a protected coastline.
The end of September is a good time to visit this region if you are a wine enthusiast, too. The grape harvest just started and local supermarkets organise wine fairs where trained salesmen and local winegrowers will guide you through rows of bottles with prices ranging from 3 to 2000 EUR a bottle.
I am leaving this region after 4 days of great food, long hikes and 3 wine bottles (couldn’t fit more into my backpack), knowing that I only got a glimpse of everything that could be discovered. If you love food, wine, birds and the great outdoors, this region is definitely worth the trip.