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The people of the Aquitaine region of France refer to the area as "the other south of France," in reference to the famous Cote d'Azur which spans the Mediterranean. Indeed, Aquitaine has powerful charms of its own, including miles and miles of beautiful Atlantic beaches and a scenic mountainous region that it shares with Spain. It is also home to the largest forest in continental Europe, and its gastronomical delights are the stuff of legend.
If you're visiting Aquitaine, here are some suggestions for your itinerary:
-Bordeaux: The region's capital, Bordeaux, is best-known around the world for its wines, but this is only a small part of the story. Often referred to as "little Paris," Bordeaux is home to many of the country's best galleries, museums, and restaurants, with most of the top attractions being in the easily navigable city center.
-Castles and chateaux: The region is home to dozens of ancient castles and leisure grounds of France's old aristocracy. Roquetaillade Castle is one of the area's most unique historical curiosities; it is a natural fortress that has been continually inhabited since the Stone Age.
-Beaches: Picturesque ports and beach towns line Aquitaine's Atlantic coast.
-Outdoor adventure: Whether you're visiting in winter or summer, there are plenty of opportunities for outdoor adventure in Aquitaine. Hike the Pyrenees, explore the forests, go skiing, or take a bicycle tour of the region. There are also plenty of campsites in Aquitaine, if you want to spend a night or two roughing it.
-Winery tours: The region is famous for the quality of its wine, which ranks among the finest in the world. In the Bordeaux area, there are many opportunities to take winery tours for an up-close look at the production cycle and a taste of the fruits of the vintners' labor.
July is a particularly exciting time to visit France, as it is the month when the nation celebrates Bastille Day, its national holiday. Raucous celebrations, topped off by fireworks, are held throughout the country.
For your accommodations, a vacation rental is a great alternative to staying in a cramped hotel room. These options are more spacious and comfortable than traditional accommodations, and you can choose from villas on the beach to cabins in the mountains, depending on where in Aquitaine you wish to stay.
Further exploration of both France and Spain is easily facilitated from Aquitaine. You can be in Paris or the Cote d'Azur within a matter of hours, and the intrigues of Spain are a short and scenic train ride across the Pyrenees.