luxury villa in the south west region of France

luxury french villa near NeracOur villa is located in the beautiful green region of south west France. This area (about 12% of France’s land area), spans what is known as the Bassin Aquitaine (Aquitaine Basin). It is embraced to the north by valley-crossed limestone plateaus, to the north-east by the foothills of the Massif Central and to the south by the Pyrenees. An extraordinary diversity of landscapes is to be found here.

Some 230km of fine sandy Atlantic coastline (known as La Cote d’Argent or The Silver Coast) stretches from Pointe de Grave (100 km north of Bordeaux) almost to the Spanish border. Here is Europe’s longest, highest sand dune belt surmounted by the 114m high Dune du Pilat and broken only by the Bassin d’Arcachon a 250 inland sea.

luxury five bedroom villa near BordeauxSouthwards and inland lies the 14000 plain of the Landes, a mix of dunes, marshland and nearly a million hectares of pine and oak plantation. It was established in the 19th century to hold back the encroaching sand, and is Europe’s largest cultivated forest.

Behind the Landes’dunes lies a mosaic of of lakes and lagoons, whose often-turbulent outlets to the sea provide locations for some of the southwest’s finest watersports. The lakes themselves offer calmer activities and havens for wildlife.

Inland, one of France’s five major rivers – the 575km long Garonne – rises in the Pyrenees and shapes 56000 of the southwest before emptying into the Atlantic at Europe’s largest estuary – the Estuaire de la Gironde. Garonne’s tributaries include some of the country’s loveliest waterways: the Dordogne, Lot and Tarn. Little wonder the Romans called this region Aquitania (land of waters. An artificial waterway that has become part of the landscape is the body comprising the Canal du Midi and Canal Lateral a la Garonne.

Like most of France, the southwest has a temperate, Atlantic-influenced climate. Rainfall is below the countrywide average, owing to the influence of the Massif Central, and summers are warmer and often punctuated by dramatic thunderstorms. The hottest months are July and August with average daytime temperatures of about 25 degrees centigrade.

Winter temperatures drop to around 10 degrees centigrade in Decemer and January. In the Haut Bern there’s enough snow for skiers from December to March or April, though weather in the foothills is quite mild – indeed, Pau is famed for its year-round mild climate.

The southwest is loved by French and foreigners alike for its rural traditions and tranquillity. Many farms have been lovingly restored by foreigners; ferme auberge (farm restaurants) and tables d’hotes (meals in private houses)provide income for small family farms. Large scale industry is mostly limited to Bordeaux and Toulouse.

Wild boar are on the increase due to deliverate restocking to keep hunters happy. The Parc National des Pyrenees hosts vultures and wild bears as well as thousands of lizards. The lakes are havens for birdlife and waterfowl (as well as deer, genets, terrapins and the rarely seen otter).

Southwest France isn’t just famous for its food and wine. Its turbulent medieval history spurred the development of dozens of planned, fortified towns known as bastides. Even today, these are remarkable for the aesthetic appeal and fine design. Southwest France also has many impressive fortified chateaux.

There are more prehistoric decorated caves in Southwest France than anywhere else in the world, over a hundred of them, mostly concentrated in the Vezere and Lot Valleys. The extraordinary paintings of horses and reindeer, buffalo, bison and mammoth found in these caves date from between 35,000 and 10.000 BC.

There are lots more, but it is probably more fun for you to discover for yourself the caves, wine tasting, canoeing, etc.

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