The George Pompidou Centre in Paris is possibly one the wackiest buildings in the French capital and has one of the largest collections of modern art in the world.
You will either love it or hate the brazen design of the Pompidou, and you may well feel the same about the contemporary art it contains. The venue has sparked controversy since it opened in 1977, gracing the historic heart of Paris with a modern building that resembles a giant air-conditioning system. But while its design may not be to everyone’s taste, the arts complex attracts around six million visitors each year, roughly the same as the Louvre!
France attracts millions of holiday visitors every year; many making their way to the capital from all around Europe, the US and South East Asia. It may surprise you that camping is very popular here, with many campsites near Paris, catering for families who opt to go camping in the sorrounding countryside and travel in to the city.
So you are a passionate oenologist, or maybe you just love wine, especially French wine; we know where you can take your love of the red, white and rosé drink to the next level… Bordeaux.
The most famous wine-making region in the world is at your service. Here, the Chateaux open their doors to visitors, for a small entry fee, from 7€ per person, and you will get a tour around the Chateau, its grounds, its wine-making and storing facilities, sample the produced wine and understand the intricacies of the whole process.
Here are our top 5 Chateaux in the Bordeaux region worth a visit:
1. Chateau La Louviere
The Estate is located 14km south of Bordeaux in the Pessac-Leognan area. André Lurton bought the estate in 1965 and in 1991 was classified as a historical monument. They produce red and white wine, their white wine is made from Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon. It is a dry and fruity wine, which in their words, is quite complex. The red is made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Merlot. For more information please visit www.andrelurton.com
2. Chateau Lavergne-Dulong
Visit Chateau Lavergne-Dulong around 15 mins away from the centre of Bordeaux heading towards the Dordodge. Here your tour will begin at their vineyard and onto the cellars, whilst tasting their different wines and being given an explanation on the characteristics of the grape varieties used. Please visit www.chateau-lavergne-dulong.com
3. Chateau Beychevelle
A prestigious Cru Classe forged by 3 centuries of history. Located in the Medoc, between Pauillac and Margaux, Chateau Beychevelle is known as the ‘Versailles of the Medoc’. Its doors are open all year-round and you don’t necessarily need an appointment. Visit www.beychevelle.com for more info.
4. Chateau Bouscaut
20 mins from Bordeaux in the Pessac-Leognan appellation this super estate makes Chateau Bouscaut red and white wines. Owners Sophie and Laurent and their helpers will share their story and expertise with you in themed visits, fun tastings and workshops that will help you understand how this chateau creates its unique wines. More information can be found on www.chateau-bouscaut.com
5. Chateau Fayard
Visitors are immediately taken in by the Chateau’s elegant architecture. Located at the foot of the slopes in Le Pian sur Garonne, this estate is in fact a small hamlet with charm. The vineyard contains vines that are on average 30 years old and produce a great dry sémillon-based white wine according to time-honoured traditions. Please call for an appointment, tel: 00 33 (0)5 56 63 33 81
Use this link if you are looking for campsites near Bordeaux
Last few hours before I catch my plane home.
Bordeaux is in the south west of France, within the Gironde department and neighbour to the Dordogne and Landes. The city is famous around the world for it great wines and has been my home for the last 2 days. I have been fortunate over the last few years to spend time (for work and holidays) in this beautiful French city. This, the 6th largest city in France by population sits on the shores of the Garonne River, one of the longest rivers in France that begins its journey inland from the Gironde estuary and ends in north-east Spain, some 350 miles later. The name Bordeaux comes from Bord des Eaux – The Water’s Edge.
All along the city’s riverside, you will find Les Quais, an area renovated some 10 years ago with a thoroughfare, a tramway and a promenade with gardens, restaurants and bars. The area is popular with people taking a stroll, cyclists, rollerskaters and in the summer, public dance events are on, such as Salsa classes.
It is at Les Quais, where you will find La Place de la Bourse and the choice for my photo.
The Place de la Bourse, built by the king’s architect, Ange-Jacques Gabriel between 1730 and 1775 at the request of the then Governor of Bordeaux, Claude Boucher, as a backdrop to the new statue of Louis XV . The creation of the large square was also part of his plans to make Bordeaux more welcoming to visitors from the sea and as a sign of the city’s prosperity, thanks to its Port and Wine Industry. Over the years, the square has changed its name a number of times. From its original, Place Royale, to Place de la Liberte after the Revolution and then Place Imperiale at the time of Napoleon. You can still find traces of these names etched in stone in the square. In 1848, it became Place de la Bourse (Bordeaux’s Chamber of Commerce occupies one of the buildings).
The statue disappeared during the Revolution and replaced by a tree of liberty, later to be replaced again by the current ‘La fontaine des 3 Grâces, featuring the 3 daughters of Zeus.
You can find in the areas around Bordeaux and a little further south in the Landes department a large range of campsites, from unclassified rural campsites, and from 1-star through to 5-star sites, catering for a wide range of accommodation and pitches. For more information on camping in the area, please see our Campsites in Landes / Gascony section.
1 in 40 comes from my 2013 to-do list
Whether it is because it is the Midi-Pyrenees region is located in the deep south of France and has no beach to speak of or whether it is largely unknown, this area is not attracting its fair share of UK families. I think it is time to put this region on the holiday map.
The Midi-Pyrenees has some great places to visit, including Toulouse, Albi (birthplace of Toulouse-Lautrec) Lourdes, the pilgrim town; Moissac, Pic du Midi, Gavarnie, the Lot Valley, the Tarn Gorges, Rocamadour; Cordes sur Ciel, Montségur, Figeac and Montauban… and the list goes on. This region is also rich in quantity and quality of campsites.
Taken from our guide to Midi-Pyrenees, here is an excerpt…
Toulouse is the capital of the Midi-Pyrénées, with both a historic university and a state-of-the-art space museum. This great city lies on the river Garonne and the Canal du Midi and is often referred to as the ‘pink city’ because of the local brick and marble. It’s also a place with a passion for dancing (especially the tango) and for Rugby.
The old quarter has narrow, mainly traffic-free lanes, crammed with small boutiques. The Place du Capitole is a fine square, lined by bars and restaurants, is the city’s heart. Its east side is dominated by the imposing façade of the Capitole (town hall). Inside, the Capitole has fine staircases and 19th and 20th century paintings.
Toulouse was a key city of learning and culture in the Middle Ages, but its focus is now high-tech industry. It has become France’s hub for aeronautics. Airbus Industrie is the largest aeronautical site in Europe.
Use this link to view campsites in Midi-Pyrenees
(Photo=View of Camping Rieumontagne in the Midi-Pyrenees, one of I Spy Camping’s 2012 hidden gems)
In the latest of our city guides around Europe, we put the spotlight on an ancient yet dynamic city in the Mediterranean. Marseille has an intriguing atmosphere and exhilarating joie de vivre.
On the west coast of Provence, Marseille is France’s premier Mediterranean sea gateway and has a distinctive mix of ethnic and cultural influences. Taken from our guide to the Cote d’Azur & Provence, here is a snapshot of our city guide to Marseille
Founded as the trading port of Massalia by the Greeks 2,600 years ago, Marseille has been the western Mediterranean’s main port ever since. After the Roman conquest of Provence, the port was sacked and stripped of its fleet, although excavations reveal that Marseille remained a busy town. By the 11th century, the city had revived and continued to develop until the plague arrived in 1720, killing 50,000 residents. By the 1760s, the city was the major port trading with the Caribbean and Latin America.
Marseille’s oppressed workers proved a backbone of the Revolution, the city giving its name to the new national anthem, La Marseillaise, even though it was composed in Alsace. The city sustained extensive damage during World War II. In the second half of the 20th century, large numbers of people from Africa, particularly North Africa, moved to the city. Today, Marseille has a total population of over one million.
The city has plenty to offer, including many museums and art galleries, and boat trips to offshore islands.
The Vieux Port (pictured above); where visitors and residents alike tend to gravitate to the large, rectangular, westward-facing Old Port. It is fortified, enclosed by Italianate 17th-century quays and surrounded by pale stone façades and red roofs. Thousands of boats jostle one another. Steep hillsides slope down to the waterside, overlooked on the south side by the Fort St-Nicolas defences (no entry to visitors) and the powerfully fortified Basilique St-Victor, which has a 5th-century crypt.
It’s a 15-minute ferry journey to the island of If, with its nightmarish prison fortress, made famous by Alexandre Dumas in The Count of Monte Cristo. The journey gives great views of the city and guided tours take you to the cells once occupied by the ‘Man in the Iron Mask’ and other aristocratic prisoners.