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From the splendid imposing peaks of the Pyrénées, the Atlantic coastline on the west, well ordered fruit orchards and vineyards, higgledy-piggledy villages and medieval bastides, to lush river valleys and deep gorges, the variety of landscapes is impressive.
Our properties are in the Aquitaine 'départements'of Pyrénées-Atlantiques, Landes, Lot-et-Garonne and Dordogne, whilst in the Midi-Pyrénées houses are concentrated in the 'départements' of Tarn-et-Garonne, Lot, Aveyron and Tarn.
The spa town of Salies-de-Béarn, its picturesque houses meandering along the riverside, is popular with those seeking the therapeutic properties of its salt waters.Orthez is on the pilgrim route to Santiago de Compostela, and Navarrenx and Sauveterre are good starting points for exhilarating kayaking trips on the Gave d'Oloron.The Béarnais capital, Pau, is an atmospheric city with breathtaking views of mountain peaks.
On the coast, the choice is yours: Biarritz, long associated with the 'rich and famous', manages to be both sophisticated and friendly - its fine sand family beach is backed by the splendour of the Casino. St Jean-de-Luz is a buzzing little townwithin a horseshoe bay with its beach adjacent to the lively fishing harbour.The stretch of coastline by Capbreton and Hossegor will appeal to surfers.
Just inland is the town of Soustons, a delightful town with a number of freshwater lakes ('etangs') nearby teeming with wildlife. To the east is Dax, famous for its thermal waters and spa treatments. The town is the gateway to the gentle rolling countryside of the Chalosse area, where good food and wine is assured. To the north the pine forests of Les Landes begin, a vast expanse of trees that seemingly march on for ever.
The heart of the Dordogne is along each bank of the river itself, where the green countryside overflows with historic sites. Take time to visit the prehistoric caves at Lascaux, the Renaissance town of Sarlat-la-Canéda, Brantôme, known as the Venice of the Dordogne, and Périgueux with its Byzantine cathedral.
To the east, the river cuts through the limestone hills, creating high dramatic gorges and scenic routes. The uplands are dotted with prehistoric caves and grottos, with much of the landscape designated Natural Park. Those interested in medieval history should not miss a visit to Rocamadour and St Cirq-Lapopie; villages perched dramatically on cliffsides.
As you approach Albi, the region's capital, the rewarding sight of the immense red bricked cathedral comes into view, its stern exterior giving no hint to the stunning interior, a cornucopia of Gothic art at its most flamboyant. Winding country roads take you through picturesque countryside, passing hilltop towns such as Caylus and Bruniquel. Stop awhile in St Antonin Noble Val, a friendly, intimate market town on the banks of the river Aveyron.
Follow the river due north and you reach Villefranche-de-Rouergue, a fascinating bastide with extensive amenities, and of course, the weekly market.
Summer evening markets are popular in many towns and villages, when the main squares are filled with long communal dining tables around which food stalls provide an opportunity to taste local dishes.
Seafood is excellent in restaurants by the coast, with inland restaurants serving locally caught river trout and salmon. From the renowned red wines of Bordeaux, the soft sweet wines of Monbazillac, reds from Duras and dry whites of the Jurançon, there is a wine for every palette. Full bodied reds are found in Cahors whilst the vineyards of Gaillac produce 'perlé' (a very slightly sparkling white) as well as some interesting reds and roses. All can be sampled during a tour following a 'route du vin' and of course purchased to enjoy at home.