May
19
2010

What is Aquitaine famous for?

Eleanor of Aquitaine (possibly with her son John) (PD-EXP)

Aquitaine is the most south-westerly region of France, with the Atlantic Ocean to its west, and Spain to its south.

Aquitaine is famous for its history, with evidence of prehistoric human settlement such as the painted cave of Lascaux within Aquitaine’s Périgueux area (which is sometimes known as the cradle of mankind). The Romans ruled it as the province of Gallia Aquitania, which they expanded as far as the River Loire. When the Roman empire collapsed, there was a period of unrest and the Franks established a Duchy over the area.

Charlemagne installed Louis, his son, as King of Aquitaine in 781, but after Charlemagne’s death there was a period of rivalry between the French-appointed Kings, and the local Aquitaine lords. This looked like it was resolved when duchess Eleanor of Aquitaine married Louis VII, but after the marriage was annulled she married England’s Henry II. When Henry became King, Aquitaine became an English possession until France annexed it in 1453 at the end of the Hundred Years’ War. (Eleanor of Aquitaine was a sassy and assertive woman, and spent much of her life hatching plots, but that’s a story for another day.)

Aquitaine is also famous for its prestige wines, most of which are grown near Bordeaux. Most of the production is red wine, often blended using the region’s specialties: Cabernet Sauvignon (“Cab Sav”) and Merlot, but dry whites and sweet dessert wines also feature. We can thank the Romans for getting winemaking started in this region.

Another of its claims to fame is its coastline. There are long sandy beaches without the bustle found on France’s mediterranean coast. The water may be a little cooler, but the climate is moderate and the sea air fresh. In Aquitaine’s south is Biarritz, a beach and fishing town that is described simultaneously as understated and cosmopolitan (and with high property prices). There’s great surfing, and nearby are lakes and rivers with sporting and recreational interest.

You have almost certainly heard of ancient cave paintings, and of Bordeaux wine, and maybe of the coastline. But you may not know that Aquitaine is also rather famous for golf.

The second-oldest golf course in Europe—le Phare—was designed and built in Biarritz in 1888 (and the oldest is also in Aquitaine at Pau). International golfing competitions are regularly held on Aquitaine’s courses. For the recreational golfer there are golf courses in stunning settings on the sea cliffs.

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