is in the south west of France and is bordered by the Midi-Pyrenees to
the east, Limousin to the
north-east and Pouitou-Charentes to the north-west. Its western
border is the Atlantic Ocean and its southern border is Spain.
Aquitaine combines a mild, coastal climate with humidity in the interior
and winter snow in the mountains. The largest forest in Europe is found
in this region. Most of us like a romantic story and one of the
powerful women of both French and English history was Eleanor of
Aquitaine whose story appears further on in this page.
Departments and Main Towns
Dordogne, used to be know as the Perigord and most French people still refer to it as this but most foreigners, especially English people - keen to find property in the area - refer to it s the Dordogne. The Dordogne comprises Périgord - Périgord Pourpre, Périgord Blanc, Périgord Vert, and Périgord Noir. The markets are some of the finest in France, with many desginated as "marchés de France." Dordogne is an area full of history from the prehistoric times.
Gironde, a flat area and huge wine producing area
Landes, - an area of forests and lakes. Producer of asparagus and Kiwi Fruit. Landes is also the second largest producer of trout in France.
Lot-et-Garonne - the region produces fruit and vegetables
Pyrénées-Atlantique. This mountain area is a popular skiing destination
Capital city is Bordeaux. This name is synominous with very fine wines Bordeaux. Famous wines of the Bordeaux are Margaux, Medoc, Sauterne, and Saint-Emilion.
Main towns are Bayonne, Bergerac, Biarritz which is a glamorous sea-side resort, Périgueux and Pau where the first golf course was established in Europe. Pau is full of magnificent hotels and has many parks.
Other towns are Agen, Arcachon, , Bazas, Beynac, La Roque Gageac, Biarritz, Biscarrosse, Blaye, Bordeaux, Bourdeilles, Brantôme, Casteljaloux, Dax, Duras, Hendaye, Hossegor, Capbreton, Lège Cap Ferret, Les Eyzies de Tayac Sireui, Moliets et Maa, Moncrabeau, Mont de Marsan, Nérac, Oloron Sainte Marie, Penne d'Agenais, Pujols, Puymirol, Sabres, Saint Amand de Coly, Saint Emilion and Saint Jean de Côle.
Wines of Aquitaine
GIRONDE is the main wine producing region and produces some of the most wonderful wines of France, namely: Barsac, Bordeaux, Bordeaux Supérieur, Cadillac, Canon-Fronsac, Cérons, Côtes de Blaye, Côtes de Bordeaux, Côtes de Castillon, Côtes de Francs, Fronsac, Graves Supérieur, Haut-Médoc, Lalande de Pomerol, Listrac, Loupiac, Margaux, Médoc, Moulis, Pauillac, Pessac-Léognan, Premières Côtes de Bordeaux, Pomerol, Sainte-Croix-du-Mont, Saint-Emilion, Saint-Estèphe, Saint-Julien, Saint-Macaire, Sauterne. For more information about the wonderful wines of Bordeaux go to http://www.bordeaux.com/home.html -
Not to be outdone the other departments produce some equally wonderful wines
DORDOGNE produces Bergerac, Côtes de Bergerac, Monbazillac, Montravel, Pécharmant, Rosette, Saussignac.
LOT-ET-GARONNE produces Côtes de Brulhois, Côtes de Buzet, Côtes de Duras, Layrac, Vins du Marmandais.
LANDES produces Armagnac, Tursan, Vins des Côteaux de Chalosse.
PAYS BASQUE produces Zarra, Vins d'Irouléguy.
BEARN produces Béarn (Côteaux de Salies-Bellocq), Jurançon, Madiran, Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh.
Géramont - a soft cheese which is marketed with various flavourings including herbs
Patte d'Ours - a mix of cow's and ewe's milk produces this pressed cheese
Suprême Tradition - a cow's milkcheese which is round and boxed - soft and tasty
Acrachon oysters - The Arcachon Basin is a large inland sea 240 kilometers from the mouth of the Gironde to the mouth of the Adour, filled twice daily by the tide. When the water level drops between the rising tides channels and oyster beds are accessible.
Bayonne Ham. Bayonne was the port from which ham was exported throughout Europe. The ham is however especially tasty due to the natural salt from the banks of the River Ado0ur being used in its curing. It has to be matured for seven months. There has been a fair held in Bayonne since 1462 at Easter in the market place which was traditionally devoted to pork and its products sales.
Perigord Walnuts have been collected for 17,000 years. In 2002 four varieties of the nuts were granted an A.O.C.
Cèpes Wonderful wild mushrooms
Confit de Canard and Foie Gras, Ducks and Geese in the Landes are bred in complete freedom, fed on Landes grown maize.
Perigord truffles - to find out all about truffles go to France's first Truffle website http://www.sainte-alvere.com/uk_accueil.asp
Travel to Aquitaine There are excellent road and rail links to the area and airports at Bordaux, Bergerac and more recently cheap flights come into Pau.
In 1137, the fifteen year old Eleanor of Aquitaine inherited the title to the Duchy of Aquitaine and became themost rich and powerful woman in France and at this young age was also wed to meet political means. Eleanor was a very beautiful and intelligent girl, gifted with both courage and an appreciation of the arts. Her grandfather William IX of Aquitaine was the first known troubadour and his encouragement of this music based on the regional dialect - langue d'oc - and favoured by the aristocracy was extensive. A man who adored women he was very attracted to "Denagereuse" the wife of the Viscount of Châtellerault. He actually abducted her and although they could not marry - she was already wed - her daughter Aenor was married to William's eldest son, another William, to be Willim X. Aenor and William had two daughters Eleanaor and Petronilla and a son called William Aigret. Eleanor thus inherited not only her grandparents ' good luck but also their iron will and intelligence. Tragically Aenor and William Aigret were to die. William was only a child at the time, which is why Eleanor inherited the title to the duchy. Most unusually for a woman of those times she was very highly educated.
A marriage was arranged to the King of France, Louis VII (1121-1180. This was more to do with Eleanor's riches than her attractions as Louis was somewhat of a dull man whose prime interest was the church. He had never been brought up to be a king as he was the younger brother and inherited the throne on his elder brother's death. He was much older than Eleanor and found her most difficult to understand but was fascinated by her and admired her probably for the character traits he did not have. They eventually after many years had a daughter called Marie. Eleanor was keen to control her own region but was discouraged at this time. When Louis went on Crusade to Palestine Eleanor and 300 of her ladies accompanied him at her insistence which was most disapproved of. The women were there to tend the wounded but they wore armour and carried lances. Eleanor was probably brighter than Louis and they disagreed on battle campaign and Louis actually ordered Eleanor to follow him in his decision. The strong woman was furious and claimed that their marriage was illegal as they were distantly related and did her utmost to get out of the union. On the way back from what was a martial disaster the couple visited the Pope to request a divorce but this was not granted and the Pope encouraged a reconciliation. On her return to France the unhappy Eleanor discovered that she was having a baby and gave birth to her second daughter in in 1150. Two years later the King became keener to divorce and this took place.
The richest heiress of the land fell in love with Duke Henry Plantagenet of Normandy. He was eleven years younger than her but this made little difference to the couple and just two months after the divorce from Louis the two were married which made Henry a very powerful man in France due to the union of their regions and he actually now owned most of France. Eleanor was 30 years old at the time. Henry became King of England in 1154. Eleanor's marriage to Louis had been loveless on her side and in fifteen years she had had only two children but by Henry she had five sons and three daughters! Her youngest child, John Lackland, was born when she was forty-four. Henry was a most irrepressible womaniser and had a string of affairs - the most scandalous being with the fiancée of his son Richard Lionheart. Richard was actually a homosexual but needed to marry and have children. The girl chosen - who was actually the daughter of Louis VII and his second wife, was ignored by Richard and his father seduced her.
With the marriage breaking down Henry encouraged Eleanor to return to Aquitaine to restore order to what was a troubled region. In 1169 Henry sent Eleanor to Aquitaine to restore order as its duchess. Eleanor was happy and lived in the palace at Poitiers where she had grown up. It became a centre of culture and refinement and troubadours, scholars and the educated were encouraged to come there. It was there that Eleanor and her daughter Marie by Louis was by now Countess of Champagne encouraged Chrétien de Troyes - protégé of Marie to compose the romantic tale of Lancelot and Queen Guinevere. Marie had a a "Code of Love" written which was feminist in the extreme and Eleanor encouraged the "Courts of Love" where men with amorous problems could bring their questions to a group of ladies for judgement. Marie must have been very like her mother as they seemed to share the same romantic but feminist outlook. The troubadours travelled around and with them ideas of music were carried around France. This was more in difficult in the North where the langue d'oil was spoken but eventually this developed in to trouvere music which was based on the same idea but a language of its own.
Henry summoned his wife and children back to court in England. However when the boys revolted against their father and Henry imprisoned Eleanor for 16 years until he died and she was released. Richard Lionheart succeeded his father. He was Eleanor's favourite and when he went on Crusade Eleanor was regent of England. Three of the five sons had died and when Richard too died, the baby of the family John Lackland became King and Eleanor retired to Aquitaine where she lived to the age of 82.