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15 Highlights of the South West of France

The south west of is one of the most popular regions in France and it’s big! You’ll be unlikely to be able to fit in all this beautiful region has to offer in just one trip. So in this article, I’m going to focus on the Nouvelle Aquitaine region which is the heart of the south west of France.

From La Rochelle to Bordeaux to Cognac this region contains a huge variety of delights. It is home to fantastic cities, beautiful beaches, and fantastic wine and spirits. Plus 750 kilometres of sandy coastline. And did I mention how amazing the food is?

Here are 15 highlights of the South West of France that you’ll be dying to experience.

harbour la rochelle
La Rochelle Harbour

15 Highlights of the South West of France

1. The town of Cognac

This beautiful small town is so charming with its whitewashed houses and walls. I loved strolling its streets. Walk the main and back streets of Cognac and enjoy the charming pale shaded homes and those with colourful tiles. Many of the old houses date back to the 16th and 17th centuries.

cognac streets 15

Head down to the Charentes river and stroll along its banks and cross the old stone bridge. Enjoy the colours of the sunset in the gardens of the Hotel de Ville.

cognac streets 11

This is a town that was made for strolling with a fully charged camera.

cognac streets 3
cognac main square

2. Visiting Cognac Houses

I had never drunk Cognac before visiting the town and knew virtually nothing about it. I have visited many vineyards, breweries and even a sake house so I thought I had seen it all when it comes to the creation of alcohol. I was very wrong.

The creation of cognac is much more like making perfume rather than wine or beer. The entire process of making cognac as well as the source of the grapes themselves are all under an appellation. This is absolutely a craft rather than a manufacturing process.

cognac vines
Cognac Vines

Let’s start with a few key facts about cognac the drink. Cognac is mostly made from ugni blanc grapes from the cognac region. These grapes are picked and then double distilled using the traditional Charentais method (which involves copper kettles) to create what is known as the eau de vie (water of life). The Eau de Vie of the Chartren river was legendary in the 1700s and known to produce the best brandy.

The eau de vie is then aged in oak barrels in the region for at least two years before it is then potentially blended with eau de vies from previous vintages. Once the eau de vie is two years old it is classified as VS. At four years of age, it becomes VSOP and at ten years of ageing XO.

frapin barrels
Barrels at Maison Frapin

Each cognac cellar has an area called Paradise. This is where the houses keep their oldest and most impressive eau de vies. Traditionally, an eau de vie must have been aged for at least 50 years to earn a position in Paradise (I tried one from 1883!).

The appellation for cognac covers 78,000 hectares and the areas within are called Les Crus du Cognac and there are four crus.

More than 216 million bottles of cognac are produced each year. I was surprised to learn that 98% of these bottles leave France and are shipped to more than 150 countries. Cognac is most popular in North America and the Far East, particularly China.

frapin grapes
Grapes fresh from the harvest at Maison Frapin

I visited three different cognac houses whilst I was in the region and I would highly recommend doing the same as they were very different experiences. I visited one of the biggest and most well-known cognac houses, Hennessy, one of the few houses that produce its own grapes and own the entire supply chain process and one that is much closer to La Rochelle and whose key point of difference is their blending.

1. Maison Hennessy

The name Hennessy is the first to come to mind for most people when they think of cognac. And my is their house impressive! The tour begins by taking a little boat across the Charente river to the Hennessy Cognac cellars. These amazing cellars are home to barrels of eau de vie from the last 150+ years.

hennessy

One of the most enjoyable parts of the tour is learning about the many traditions at Hennessy and the processes and procedures that make their cognac so unique. Barrels are rolled by hand in what can be a rather intense process. So each time a worker has produced a row of barrels for the first time flowers are placed on the top barrel – and all of the details of the eau de vie are recorded in chalk on the barrels.

hennessy 6

The creation of Hennessy cognac is a fascinating process and very much an art rather than a science. I quickly learned about the master blender and the tasting committee – very much like the nose etc for those who make fragrances.

The master blender of Hennessy is from the Filloux family. Amazingly, the master blender at Hennessy has been from the Filloux family for 8 generations.

hennessy 1

Hennessy actually owns only one vineyard and it produces just 1% of their grapes. However, this is where they learn and trial different techniques. The rest of the grapes that they use are from their partners.

hennessy 2

After learning all about how cognac is created and stored, I returned to the banks of the Charente river and we headed back to the new Hennessy XO Bar for a tasting. The tasting really brought the process that I had just learned about to life. I was able to taste eau de vie at its pure 70% alcohol stage and then at all the different years and stages of ageing.

Maison Hennessy offers four different tours. The initiation tour lasts 90 minutes and contains a couple of tastings. The XO evolution lasts a bit longer, includes a visit to Paradise and the tasting, of course, includes XO cognac.

hennessy 7 (3)

The Exception tour lasts two hours, a tasting in a private room and the tasting includes Paradise cognac. And finally, see and taste it all in the half-day from grape to glass tour.

2. Maison Frapin

Established in 1270 in the town of Segonzac, 21 generations of the Frapin family have been wine growers and then distillers of these 240 hectares of vineyards in the Grande Champagne cru.

frapin bottle

In addition to its extraordinary line of ownership, the key point of difference of Frapin is that they use only their own grapes. It is unique to harvest, distil and age all on your own estate in Cognac.

Maison Frapin has a wonderful history. In 1889 Pierre Frapin went to the World’s Fair in Paris and became friends with Gustave Eiffel. Eiffel built one of the cellars at Maison Frapin in 1892 that is still used today. And you can see the beautiful cabinet that Pierre received when he won gold at the world’s fair.

frapin chest

I was able to see the process and was lucky enough to be visiting during the harvest season. I saw the grapes arriving and being poured into tanks to be pressed which was quite exciting!

frapin bottles

In addition to their spectacular Gustave Eiffel-designed cellar and atmospheric tasting room, another highlight of a visit to Maison Frapin is the beautiful Chateau Fontpinot. The chateau sits in the middle of the many vineyards of Maison Frapin’s hectares in the Grande Champagne Cru. It contains some original furniture and it is sometimes used for special guests.

frapin in the fields

Maison Frapin offers a one-hour discovery tour that includes tasting four different cognacs. They also offer a two-and-a-half-hour VIP tour which includes a visit to the lovely Chateau Fontpinot as well as the Maison Frapin Paradise.

maison frapin

3. Maison Normandin Mercier

The third Cognac house that I visited was actually near La Rochelle rather than Cognac. If you’re not able to make it to Cognac a visit to Maison Normandin Mercier is a fantastic option. They of course don’t have any vineyards at the house as that would be outside of the AOC. They buy in all of their eau de vie as their expertise is in procurement and blending.

normandin 1

Maison Normandin Mercier dates back to 1872. The current manager and cellar master is the 5th generation of master blenders in this family-owned business. The house has barrels of eau de vie dating back to 1883. The eau de vie from the oldest barrels is still reviewed for use today in the latest cognacs.

normandin 2

The highlight of my visit to Maison Normandin Mercier was their Paradise area. Like all of the houses that I visited, the Paradise area is like something out of a movie or a storybook and it feels like a very special place to visit.

normandin 3

I also loved Maison Normandin Mercier’s Pineau des Charentes and took some home with me. Pineau is 13/ cognac and 2/3 grape juice. It is also aged in oak casks and served cold.

normandin things to do in south west france

Maison Normandin Mercier offers tours and tastings at 10 or 2:30pm each day but it is essential to book ahead. The classic Secrets tour is fantastic value at just 10 euros (it lasts 90 minutes and your tour guide is the master blender’s sister Audrey). Or for just 24 euros take the Paradise tour. This tour lasts up to 2 hours and includes a tasting in the Paradise area.

normandin 5

3. Enjoy some Cognac Cocktails

When in Cognac, it seems very sensible to enjoy some cocktails that use cognac as their base. I had a wonderful cocktail tasting at the delightful La Luciole cocktail bar. This modern and atmospheric bar is located just over the Charentes river from the heart of Cognac.

la luciole

La Luciole opened four years ago with a focus on cognac from 80 different houses in the region. The building is modern and very atmospheric. The owner and bartender Guillaume Le Dorner is just delightful and a real expert.

la luciole

What makes the cocktails at La Luciole so special is the unique touches Guillaume employs. For the Dundee cocktail, the glass is smoked with homemade incense. The Avignon features cognac with homemade chamomille syrup. The glass is smoked in a box with incense and to me, who was raised Catholic, it smelt like mass.

la luciole 3

And don’t miss trying a Pinneau spritz. Pinneau de Charentes is made by quite a few cognac houses. It is a sweet white wine that has the texture of white wine but the taste of a sweeter wine. It is kept in the fridge and served cold although not generally with ice nor with a mixer – apart from when it is a spritz.

la luciole cocktail

4. Experience the cuisine in Cognac

la maison restaurant

La Maison is a lovely modern restaurant imbued with natural light and plants in the heart of the town of Cognac. The decoration is in the style of a traditional Charentaise house with stone walls and terracotta floor tiles.

la maison fish

The menu changes weekly based on the seasons. I had an excellent three-course lunch with the main meal of salmon and an excellent rice pudding dessert with passionfruit.

Poulpette is located just over the stone bridge and the river Charentes from the heart of the town of Cognac. This six-year-old restaurant changes its menu daily. The menu always features two starters, two mains, cheese and a dessert. There is no cold room on site which tells you a bit about the freshness of the ingredients.

poulpette exterior

The evening I visited the meal started with an amuse-bouche of taramasalata. The starter was a choice between foie gras and miso aubergine Japanese style. I chose the aubergine and it was outstanding.

poulpette aubergine

The main meal choices were flame-grilled duck and cod roasted in lemon. I chose the cod and was delighted. Make sure you book ahead when you visit Poulpette as the dining room isn’t that big and it was very full when I visited.

poulpette fish

Cognac also has a charming covered market in the middle of town. Much of it is fresh produce and obviously designed for the locals but it is also possible to buy local wine and cheese and consume them in the seated area of the market.

cognac market
cognac market

Where to stay in Cognac

The Hotel Francois 1er hotel has the best location in town. It is located literally on Cognac’s main square in the heart of town. The property became a hotel in 1870. In 1914 Charles de Gaulle stayed at the hotel (it was called Hotel de Londres then) for two weeks after he was wounded in battle. It was renovated in 2012 and converted into a 4-star property.

francois exterior

There are 30 rooms including four suites, the renowned Bar Louise (another great place for Cognac cocktails), a small heated pool, on-site parking, a gym, a massage room, and a hammam with scented vapours. Breakfast is served on the ground floor.

francois hotel room
francois staircase

The interior design theme is contemporary but there are some lovely luxurious details like ornate mirrors and wonderful giant doors in the rooms which lead to tiny terraces. The rooms themselves are very large and comfortable. And mine had a great view out to the main square fountain which was perfect for sunrise photos.

Read more Reviews of Hotel Francois 1er – Check Prices and Availability

If you’re looking for a more decadent hotel experience for your stay in Cognac check out the Hotel Chais Monnet and Spa. This stunning modern hotel is on the edge of Cognac and this is where you should stay if you want a serious resort-style experience.

cognac hotel

Hotel Chais Monnet is home to a Michelin star restaurant where you can eat dinner in small rooms made from barrels. Spectacular modern art is on display throughout the property.

cognac hotel

I had a lovely dinner at their brasserie restaurant, La Distillerie. The restaurant features a very high ceiling with exposed beams and an amazing selection of cognacs. The cognacs are displayed like perfume bottles with colours ranging from pale yellow to amber to almost red.

Read more reviews of Hotel Chais Monnet – Check Prices and Availability

5. Have an Atlantic Coast Spa Experience

One of the most enjoyable parts of my visit to South West France was a lunch and spa experience in Chatelaillon-Plage. This beautiful seaside resort area consists of three kilometres of sandy beaches and a picturesque seafront.

france atlantic coast

I headed to the delightful La Grand Terrasse boutique hotel. The hotel has a rather magnificent location on the seafront. This means that when you head to its impressive Le Gaya restaurant you will enjoy their outstanding food with some wonderful views and when you head to the spa you can choose to stay around the pool or wander down to the sea.

gaya restaurant
Le Gaya restaurant

Let’s start with lunch. Le Gaya reminded me of Soho House French style. The classic wicker seats are in a seaside blue and white and the restaurant makes the most of the view with floor to ceiling windows.

My meal began with foie gras terrine, Pineau des Charentes jelly, sweet onion jam and white peach wedges.

gaya foie gras
Foie Gras at Le Gaya

I moved on to red mullet with fennel and chickpeas in a fish soup. I was delighted with both my starter and main but I must say that the highlight of the meal was dessert which was an iced parfait with salted butter caramel fig marmalade. Wow.

gaya dessert
Iced Parfait

After my amazing lunch, I headed to the hotel’s Nuxe spa. I am a big fan of Nuxe. This classic French pharmacy brand is famous for its body oil and the wonderful aromas of its outstanding products. The spa features a thalassotherapy pool with some outstanding jet action.

spa 1
spa 3

Post thalassotherapy I head outside to the beach and its many lovely deck chairs and big lounge beds. If you’re so inclined there are steps down to the ocean.

spa 4

Finally, I enjoyed an incredibly relaxing massage with some fabulous aromas. It is quite difficult to imagine a more enjoyable afternoon than lunch, thalassotherapy and a massage at La Grande Terrasse.

Read more reviews of La Grand Terrasse – Check Prices and Availability

spa 3 (2

6. Experience the light of La Rochelle

Lovely La Rochelle is insanely beautiful. No wonder this seaside town has attracted artists for centuries. I am always looking for light as a keen photographer and I have seldom seen light as soft, clear and golden as in La Rochelle – particularly in the hour or so before sunset.

streets

One of the most enjoyable things to do in La Rochelle is to explore its 17th-century streets. Many towns have one or two particularly beautiful streets. It appears that virtually all the streets of La Rochelle are very beautiful.

streets

Enjoy the white buildings with white flat shutters or the pale blue shutters on whitewashed houses. Many streets have colonnades or arcades that are made for strolling. In the heart of town near the port are half-timbered houses in shades of pastel. And most of the doors are very photogenic with pretty colours and styling.

streets la rochelle

I particularly enjoyed Rue de Rambaud, Rue du Minage and Rue des Merciers.

candles
Bertaud

And speaking of light, I discovered a lovely local candle store in my strolling, Bertaud. The business is run by a local husband and wife (she makes the candles, he is in the store) and their candles are made from vegetable wax and local ingredients. They had a whole range of unusual and fresh scents.

7. Visit La Rochelle Harbour

For many years La Rochelle was one of the greatest port cities in Europe. Whilst it may not have the level of wealth and stature that it did in the 16th century, La Rochelle Harbour still has 5,000 moorings and the manufacture of boats is big business in the town. (Local children still spend one week learning how to sail at the age of nine).

harbour la rochelle

And then there is the jaw-dropping beauty of the harbour. Its three towers are extremely well preserved, like the rest of the town. The Chain Tower guarded the entrance to the harbour from foreign intruders. It was named the Chain Tower as it literally had a big chain that attached it to Saint Nicolas Tower and blocked entry to the port. Saint Nicolas Tower held pirates and political prisoners.

harbour 7

The Lantern Tower guided ships from across the Atlantic. All three were built almost 1000 years ago. Today, you can visit all three towers and climb to their tops to experience some fantastic views of the harbour and La Rochelle.

harbour 6

The harbour is also lined with restaurants and cafes but there is also plenty of room for strolling and cycling. The harbour is definitely the heart of La Rochelle.

harbour tower la rochelle

8. Eat on Rue St Jean du Perot

I have just mentioned that there are many restaurants that line La Rochelle harbour. However, if you want to eat with locals and the French head to Rue St Jean du Perot or restaurant street which is just off the harbour.

restaurant street
Rue St Jean du Perot

Rue St Jean du Perot is filled with charming restaurants and cafes that are all vying for your business. I had an outstanding and great value lunch at La Fleur de Sel.

fleur de sel oysters
fleur de sel oysters

I visited La Fleur de Sel for Sunday lunch and enjoyed a 3-course lunch for just 23 euros – great value. I started with half a dozen fresh local oysters followed by the fish of the day, monkfish. The fish was lightly grilled in a creamy sauce.

fleur de sel fish

Dessert was a highlight – La Fleur de Sel’s signature caramel mousse dessert.

fleur de sel dessert

9. Visit La Rochelle Market

I am a sucker for a local farmer’s market – I just love visiting them. Yes, I am a bit obsessed with food but I also think the local market can provide a real insight into how people genuinely live in that town that goes beyond what can be generally experienced by a tourist.

market la rochelle

I loved La Rochelle’s market. It takes place in a 19th-century hall in heart of the old town. It was established in 1834 when it was a meat market. The market is known for its high-quality seafood and there is a lot of it on offer.

market 1

There were many oysters on offer at La Rochelle market but I was guided to Huitres Roumegous (in the actual hall towards the back). This stall is now being run by the 7th generation of the family so they now their oysters. If it isn’t too busy they will shuck their oysters on the spot and you can enjoy them.

market la rochelle

The biggest oyster is known as number one and the smallest number five. But do remember that flavour and size don’t necessarily have a correlation when it comes to oysters. I even tried my first ever green oyster at Roumegous. It did taste like any other oyster but it looked pretty.

market la rochelle

There are many cafes lining the sides of the market hall building. This is said to be a spot frequented by locals and it is a great place to enjoy a coffee on a sunny morning.

market 9

10. Cycle around La Rochelle

The best way to explore La Rochelle and the surrounding area is by bike. There are cycle paths all around and through La Rochelle. And if you head to the coast you can cycle south or north along the sea as far as the eye can see. This is also how the locals get around.

harbour la rochelle

I would highly recommend taking a bicycle tour of La Rochelle. I learnt so much about the town during my tour. La Rochelle created the first pedestrian zone in France in 1975. Their very forward-thinking mayor brought in “yellow bicycles” eg bikes for easy hire – far ahead of cities like London.

main street entrance

I also discovered that La Rochelle has a beautiful park, Parc Charryer, which even has an animal garden with deers, ducks, peacocks and long-haired donkeys. Long haired donkeys were popular in La Rochelle when it was rich with salt mines.

la rochelle beach

Salt producers had to put trousers on their long-haired donkeys as the mosquitos would attack their long hair and when the donkeys scratched themselves to relieve the itch they would spill the salt. Thus the trousers! I would never have known this if I hadn’t gone on the cycling tour!

la rochelle church

Where to Stay in La Rochelle

Originally a hospital and a convent in the 17th century, Le Champlain Hotel was actually part of a fairground in the 19th century before it was turned into a townhouse in the mid 19th century. Today the hotel is family-run, third-generation, and its French formal garden dates back to when it was a convent.

champlain entrance

The hotel was named after Samuel de Champlain, an explorer from La Rochelle, and the bar is themed around him and his voyages.

champlain hallway

Staying at Le Champlain does feel like being in someone’s lovely rather large home. The interior design is a wonderful mix of being true to the hotel’s history as well as keeping things simple and modern. The rooms are beautifully decorated and extremely comfortable. Most of all, the staff at Le Champlain are extremely friendly and helpful.

champlain breakfast

Breakfast at Le Champlain features boiled eggs at different temperatures, fresh bread, local yoghurts and warm crepes and pancakes.

Read more reviews of Le Champlain – Check Prices and Availability

Bordeaux

Bordeaux is reasonably often referred to as a mini Paris. It is just as beautiful, easier to navigate and the locals are definitely friendlier. It is home to 362 historic monuments and after Paris, it has the largest number of protected buildings in France. Don’t miss visiting beautiful Bordeaux when you visit the south west of France.

11. Visit Cite du Vin

Cite du Vin opened in 2016 so it is still relatively new. It is located in the new part of Bordeaux near Pont Jacques Chaban-Delmas. The extraordinary building was created by architects Anouk Legendre and Nicolas Desmazières.

cite du vin
cite du vin

The building’s unusual shape was created by a desire to evoke the soul of wine between the river and the city. It is also meant to evoke gnarled vine stock, wine swirling in a glass and the eddies of the Garonne River.

The exhibits within Cite du Vin have been designed to please everyone from those who know little about wine to connoisseurs. I am probably somewhere in the middle and I learned a huge amount during my visit. In particular, it was able to close my knowledge gaps in several areas.

cite du vin
cite du vin

The museum is broken up into many different ways to learn about wine. Wine can be explored by geography, by colour, by soil, by food pairing and virtually every way you could possibly think about wine.

I spent over two hours exploring the exhibits at the Cite du Vin and could have easily stayed for longer. However, it was time to head up to the 8th floor for a tasting. Every entrance ticket to the Cite du Vin includes a tasting.

cite du vin tasting room
cite du vin tasting room

Cite du Vin is located in the new area of Bordeaux. Just hop on one of the city’s fab trams and Cite du Vin has its own stop so you can’t miss it.

Pre-book your Skip the Line Ticket for Cite du Vin

12. Visit Bordeaux Cathedral

Bordeaux Cathedrals’ official name is Cathedrale Saint-Andre. This gothic-style cathedral was consecrated in 1096 by the Pope. It hosted two royal marriages. The first was between local girl Eleanor of Aquitaine and the future Louis VII.

bordeaux cathedral
bordeaux cathedral

Eleanor and Louis’ marriage didn’t last and she went on to marry Henry, the future King of England. The second wedding was between Anne of Austria and Louis the VIII in 1615.

Today there is no charge to enter Cathedrale Saint-Andre. Don’t miss going inside and in particular, don’t miss its stunning stained glass windows.

bordeaux cathedral stained glass windows
bordeaux cathedral stained glass windows

13. Drink the local wine

You’re in Bordeaux – of course, you are going to drink wine. But which wines should you drink and where should you drink them in the city of Bordeaux. Here is my extremely basic understanding of the wines of Bordeaux. Please just use this to help you get a sense of what’s on offer and do check with the experts!

When it comes to white wine, Bordeaux is best known for its sauvignon blanc and Semillon. They also make sauternes if you like your whites sweet. For those of you who like oaky whites look to the Graves region where they even oak age the sauvignon blanc. For lighter whites head to Entredemers.

Chateau Les Carmes Haut Brion
Chateau Les Carmes Haut Brion vines

Cremant or sparkling wine in Bordeaux is made from sauvignon or rose. A Bordeaux rose is much darker than the classic French rose from Provence and it tends to pack more of a punch.

For red wines, cabernet sauvignon is grown on the left side of the Garonne River. The right side belongs to merlot. However, the red wines of Bordeaux are much more about the blend than any one grape.

Ecole du Vin de Bordeaux
Ecole du Vin de Bordeaux

A great way to try the wines of the region is to head to the Ecole du Vin de Bordeaux. Located opposite the tourism office, the wine school also has a bar. They only serve wines by the glass and the most expensive is 8 euros. It is also possible to order half-glasses at half the price – a great way to do some tasting.

14. Enjoy the World’s Largest Reflecting Pool

Bordeaux is home to the world’s largest reflecting pool. Miroir d’Eau covers 3,450 square metres and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city. Its one-inch deep water also provides a fantastic reflection of the beautiful Place de la Bourse that is opposite.

Miroir d’eau was installed in 2006 and has an 800 metre square underground reserve. It allows locals and visitors to walk on water and kids in particular love it and its constantly moving water level.

miroir d'eau
miroir d’eau

15. Enjoy as much local cuisine as possible

Bordeaux is not just about wine. There is an extraordinary range of delicious local foods in the city. You’ll want to try as many as possible during your stay.

Let’s start with sweet foods. The one food item you must try when you are in Bordeaux is caneles.

caneles
caneles

The canele is essentially a little caramelised cake with a soft centre flavoured with rum and vanilla. It starts with an egg yolk and is baked in a copper mould. They are available in a range of sizes and even flavours. The traditional version is flavoured with vanilla and rum.

Bordeaux is home to two chains that battle each other for the title of supreme caneles. La Toque Cuivree looks like a local bakery. Caneles Baillardran is a much more upmarket proposition with fancy packaging to match. Both chains have stores throughout Bordeaux. To really experience caneles you must sample both chains.

dunes blanches
dunes blanches

The Dune Blanches is a puff pastry that is made with two types of cream in honour of nearby Dune du Pilat. Head to Chez Pascal Dunes Blanches to get the best version of this frothy treat.

Bordeaux is also famous for its outstanding chocolate shops. Try Le Maison Darricau which was established in 1915 or La Guinette. And don’t miss Saunion which is famous for its amazing chocolate-covered cherries that have been bathed in booze.

When it comes to restaurants, there are two fantastic options for trying local dishes. Brasserie Bordelaise first opened in 2008 and now has 10 restaurants throughout the south west of France. Their speciality is traditional dishes of the region sourced from local producers. Don’t miss their ox cheeks.

brasserie bordelaise ox cheek
brasserie bordelaise ox cheek

The traditional country inn La Tupina has been serving traditional fare in the city of Bordeaux since 1968.

The menu is filled with traditional southwest France recipes all built from local produce. I enjoyed local caviar served on potato foam, sole with local cep mushrooms and an outstanding canele with caramel.

la tupina caneles
la Tupina canele

For something more modern check out the street food influenced menu at La Gigi. La Gigi opened in 2021 and serves “bistronomic street food” using local products. Don’t miss their unique middle eastern-influenced cannelloni.

la gigi cannelloni
la Gigi cannelloni

Where to Stay in Bordeaux

I had the most wonderful stay at Hotel Particulier. This renovated 19th-century townhouse is classically decorated with contemporary touches. It has an elegant cast iron lift or you can take the beautifully designed staircase up to your room.

hotel particulier entrance
hotel particulier entrance

I stayed in the magnificent St Emilion suite which was huge. It had an entrance area, dining area, large bedroom with a period marble fireplace, free-standing bath, and shower.

Whilst the design was beautiful, it was also an extremely comfortable room that I looked forward to returning to each night! The bed was large and oh so comfortable with silky soft sheets.

hotel particulier room
hotel particulier room

Breakfast is fresh pastries, yoghurt, fruit and bacon eggs. And Hotel Particulier has a fantastic location just a short distance from Bordeaux Cathedral and on one of the city’s tram lines.

Read more reviews on Trip AdvisorCheck Prices and Availability

For more information on Bordeaux read my article on 35 Things to Do in Bordeaux You’ll Love

How to get to Nouvelle Aquitaine and How to get around

One of the many benefits of visiting the Nouvelle Aquitaine region is how easy it is to get there and get around. Bordeaux is only a 2-hour high-speed train trip from Paris and La Rochelle is 2 hours and 25 minutes. Bordeaux has an international airport and La Rochelle has an airport and flights that take less than 90 minutes to get to the UK.

Once you’re in the towns of Bordeaux, Cognac and La Rochelle there is no need for a car. However, if you are going to travel around the region (which I would highly recommend) the easiest option is to hire a car. I found it a very easy area for driving (and I normally drive on the left-hand side of the road). Once I got to my hotel I just left the car in the parking lot.

I would highly recommend adding in some time to explore more of the beautiful Nouvelle Aquitaine region in France when you visit Bordeaux. The region is very diverse with everything from 750 kilometres of sandy coastline to the Dordogne Valley, Biarritz. the Pyrenees and much more.

france coast line
The coastline

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I covered the cost of my flight to Bordeaux and return flight from La Rochelle. Bordeaux Tourisme and Nouvelle Aquitaine covered all of my costs on the ground – thanks guys . However, this highlights of the south west of France post includes affiliate links. That means if you click through and end up making a purchase I will receive a small commission. I wanted to make sure you were aware of this.

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