Aquitaine is the third largest region in mainland France (41,308 km², the same size as Switzerland). It is a vast and varied territory that can be divided in three parts: the Gironde (Bordeaux region), the Dordogne, and Gascony (Landes, Basque Country and Pyrenees). Gironde is the wine country, whose localities will be instantly recognisable for wine lovers: Médoc, Graves, Saint-Émilion, Pomerol, Entre-deux-mers, Sauternes...
The gastronomy of Aquitaine is dominated by such praised specialities as foie-gras, confit de canard (duck confit), truffles and cep mushrooms. The Basque country and Pyrennees have a completely different cuisine of their own though, much more fish oriented.
Famous people from Aquitaine include (chronologically): the politician and philosopher Michel de Montaigne, King Henri IV of France, the political thinker Montesquieu, Charles XIV John of Sweden (né Jean Bernadotte), the composer Maurice Ravel, the Nobel Prize author François Mauriac, the politician Alain Juppé, and the singer Francis Cabrel.
Named after the Roman province of Aquitania, Aquitaine originally expanded to all the area south and west of the Loire. This huge region became a Visigothic Kingdom in the 5th century, then was conquered by the Franks between 507 and 531. The southwest corner, near the Basque Country, became known as Gascony (a name itself related to Vascon, another term for Basque), and corresponds more closely to the boundaries of the modern region of Aquitaine.
The confusion between the terms Gascony and Aquitaine is further stressed by the existence of the ancient Aquitanian language, which was spoken in medieval Gascony, not in medieval Aquitaine. Ancient Aquitanian is thought to have been related to Proto-Basque, and therefore not part of the Indo-European linguistic family. Population genetics confirmed a similarity between Gascons and Basques that fades progressively towards Bordeaux.
Aquitaine became a powerful duchy in the Middle Ages. In 1154, it came under English rule through the marriage of Eleanor of Aquitaine to Henry II of England, and remained English until the early 15th century. It is during this period that Bordeaux wine was first imported in great quantity to England, where it became known as 'claret' (a corruption of the French clairet).
Département de la Gironde
Acclaimed for its wines the world over, Bordeaux has been nicknamed the "pearl of Aquitaine" owing to the beauty of its neoclassical monuments. The port and historic centre of the city were...Read more
Cazeneuve Castle is the ancestral residence of the House of Albret, whose most illustrious member was Henry IV, King of Navarre and France. Henry IV resided at some point at Cazeneuve with...Read more
Château de la Brède
The Great Dune of Pyla
Département des Landes
Département des Pyrénées-Atlantiques
Biarritz is a luxurious seaside town made popular by Napoleon III and his Spanish-born wife Eugénie. Biarritz remained the favourite resort of wealthy French families until the 1950's...Read more
Bayonne is the cultural and economic capital of the French Basque Country. Landes of Gascony. The colourful shutters on the windows and the sound of Euskara and Gascon spoken in the streets...Read more
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