Nouvelle Aquitaine

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In 2016, France redefined its regions (from 22 to 13 regions with new names). Consequently, three South-West regions:
1. Aquitaine, 2. Poitou Charentes, 3. Limousin
have merged to become a single administrative region:
Nouvelle Aquitaine - (capital: Bordeaux)
Nouvelle Aquitaine (as big as Portugal) is a land full of history from before the Romans to the Plantagenet Kings dynasty who dominated these provinces starting in 1154 following the marriage of Eleonor of Aquitaine with the Norman English King Henry II Plantagenêt. However, history gives their son,
Richard the Lionheart, greater prominence.

Nouvelle Aquitaine, is one of the sunniest parts of France with a mild climate (up to 2,200 hours of sunshine each year), and is considered second only to the Cote d'Azur. Aquitaine is today one of the most visited French regions. The region is famous as a breeding ground and producer of fine castles. Aquitaine is a huge and diverse region with a wealth of places, cultures and cuisine to explore. Rolling hills, medieval châteaux, prehistoric caves to the pine-covered sandy terrain of the Landes and the long stretches of sandy beaches along the whole Atlantic coast from La Rochelle all the way to the Spanish Border. You will find the region dotted with bastides or fortified hilltop towns and villages, the ancient strongholds of Richard the Lionheart, the Black Prince and Charlemagne. aquitaine_tourdefrance (a popular destination for non-French Europeans expatriates and second homeowners). There is a rich architectural heritage with many castles and fine museums that celebrate the history of this part of France. Leisure activities be it sightseeing the many charming villages, museums, historical pursuits, long country walks, cycling, camping, caravanning, golf, river and canal cruise, boating trips, canoeing; all of these are available at low cost and all across the region. The spectacular river Charente with its abundant fish population - roach, bream, pike, perch, tench, carp...) is a haven for the amateur fisherman.

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Old cultural traditions are preserved and still give the cities and villages their rhythm. Interesting and picturesque markets of all kinds take place everywhere. Sporting events, theatre, folkloric presentations and art exhibits add to the life of the region. Romanesque art, festivals and exhibitions of all kinds are features of the cultural activity of Aquitaine - a place of fulfillment and an incredible journey through time.
aquitaine_ile_aix Off the coast of the Atlantic, the islands of Aquitaine are particularly famous, like the Ile d'Oléron (the 2nd largest French island after Corsica) and Ile de Ré. Both are connected to the continent by a toll-free bridge with a great view of Fort Boyard (right image - Fort Boyard is the location for the French game show first broadcast in 1990 as Les Clès de Fort Boyard and is still popular to this day. It has been successfully adapted and re-made in many countries). aquitaine_fort_boyard Then, there is the rustic Ile d'Aix which is accessible only by boat (cars are forbidden) as is the case on the Ile Madame. Napoléon Bonaparte, after his defeat at Waterloo, took refuge on the Ile d'Aix before surrendering to the British. A visit to where he lived his last days on French territory, on Ile d'Aix, is a must! Everything appertaining to Napoléon's stay on the island is preserved.

Bordeaux - the region's new capital, boasts about 116,160 hectares (287,000 acres) of vineyards, 10,000 wine-producing châteaux and 13,000 grape growers - with an annual production of approximately 960 million bottles (it actually produces more wine than all of Australia). Bordeaux is history through Museums and Art Galleries with fabulous international and local collections. Every region, Saint-Emillion and aquitaine_bordeaux_center2 Bordeaux is clased as an UNESCO World Heritage site. You will not want to miss out on Bordeaux's rich cultural heritage. The city has some of the biggest companies including Dassault, EADS Sogerma and others. The Dassault Falcon private jets are built there as well as the military aircraft Rafale and Mirage 2000, the Airbus A380 cockpit, the boosters of the ESA Ariane 5 (European Space Agency). There are several themes walking tours in the city center of Bordeaux, all led by a specialist guides fluent in French, English, Spanish, German, Mandarin, Greek, and Arabic.

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How about a visit to Cognac, birth place of 16th century King François 1, accredited to be the initiator of the French Renaissance. The King's sprawling Chateau Valois which retained its ancient flavour is open to visitors. aquitaine_cognac_barrels But Cognac is more famous as the world's brandy producers. France has some 200 cognac producers and 90% of the global market is shared between four houses: Courvoisier, Hennessy, Martell and Rémy Martin. Go on site and learn all about the distillation process. You will not want to miss the Cognathéque to see the world's largest collection of cognac.

aquitaine_poitiers_2 Poitiers has a very old university tradition, established in 1431 and welcomed many famous thinkers (François Rabelais; René Descartes; Francis Bacon). It is the second oldest university in France. Poitiers is nowadays one of the biggest student cities in France; it has more students per inhabitant than any other city in France. Historic churches, in particular Romanesque, are the main attraction of Poitiers itself. The centre is picturesque and its streets are interesting for predominant remains of historical architecture.

aquitaine_angouleme_intro Angouleme - Located on a plateau overlooking a meander of the Charente River, the city is nicknamed the "balcony of the southwest". Angoulême was a fortified town for a long time and was highly coveted due to its position at the centre of many roads important to communication so therefore suffered many sieges. aquitaine_angouleme_classic_cars From its tumultuous past the city, perched on a rocky spur, inherited a large historical, religious and urban heritage. It is also a commercial city with its own university of technology and a vibrant cultural life. This life is dominated by the famous Angoulême International Comics Festival that contributes substantially to the international renown of the city. Of equal importance, Angouleme also hosts a vintage car race known as Circuit des Ramparts. You can expect to see vintage cars working their way round the famous hairpins, cars like 1929 Bugatti`s, Frazer Nash's 1930 jags and even old Bentleys but you may also see Touring and GT cars power sliding round this tight Angoulême street circuit.

Limoges aquitaine_limoges is known for its medieval and Renaissance enamels (Limoges enamels) on copper, for its 19th-century porcelain (Limoges porcelain) and for its oak barrels which are used for Cognac production. More than 50% of all porcelain made in France comes from Limoges. In order to get an overview of the evolution of trends through the centuries, visit the Musée National de la Porcelaine Adrien Dubouché ( Museum of Porcelain Adrien Dubouché) In the City’s historic area, you have le Musée de l’Evéché, (The Bishop’s Museum) which houses enamel collections and painting by Renoir, who was born in Limoges. Not far from Limoges is Oradour sur Glane, a village whose inhabitants where massacred by the nazis on the 10th June 1944. The village has been left as a reminder to future generations. There is the regional airport Bellgarde International Airport which carries more than 5 millions passengers. Served by low-cost RYANAIR.

La Rochelle aquitaine_hermione A delightful historic port of La Rochelle with its harbour towers, art galleries, museums and its superb aquarium (which boasts 12,000 marine animals, with 70 different aquaria within the complex, including a shark tank over three levels). Or, simply relax and absorb the atmosphere in one of the many quayside cafés or restaurants or stretch out on the sandy beach, a mere stone's throw from town centre. aquitaine_rochelle

36 kilometres south of La Rochelle is the royal naval port of Rochefort. Witness the meticulous reconstruction of the 16th century frigate, the Hermione. The rebuilding of this 18th century frigate provides France with a testimony of its naval past as well as with a symbol of Franco-American fraternity through a ship whose name is related to that of a man, La Fayette, a symbol of the support brought by the French to the insurgents in America.
aquitaine_port_rochelle During the Second World War, Germany established a submarine naval base at La Pallice (the main port of La Rochelle). page_top_blue_arrow The submarine base became the setting for parts of the movie Das Boot.
The U-boat scenes in Raiders of the Lost Ark were also shot in La Rochelle.
The base is also featured in the computer game Commandos 2: Men of Courage.



Aquitaine & England

aquitaine_eleonor_stamp The region of Aquitaine passed to France in 1137 when the duchess Eleanor of Aquitaine married Louis VII of France. Their marriage was annulled in 1152 and eight weeks later Eleanor married Henry, Duke of Normandy, who became King Henry II of England in 1154. Aquitaine and Normandy were under English rule and became the cornerstone of the Angevin Empire. Aquitaine remained English until the end of the Hundred Years’ War in 1453, when it was annexed by France. During the three hundred years the region was ruled by the Kings of England, large quantities of wine produced in southwestern France were being exported to England. In fact, so much wine and other produce were being exported to London and sold that by the start of the Hundred Years' War the profits from Aquitaine was the principal source of the English King's income per annum.

The Frigate Hermione

The Hermione was a 12-pounder Concorde class frigate of the French Navy. She became famous when she ferried the French General Marquis de Lafayette to the United States in 1780 for support to the Americans in their independence war. After the end of the American Revolutionary War, Hermione returned to France in February 1782. She then formed part of a squadron sent to India to help the French Admiral comte de Suffren against the British. However, after the French inconclusive Indian campaign, peace was declared and the the frigate returned to Rochefort in April 1784.
aquitaine_hermione_welcome In 1997, construction of a replica of the frigate Hermione began in Rochefort and completed in 2004 (by volunteers and sail-enthusiasts). On April 2015, the exquisite replica of Hermione left La Rochelle with much pomp and admiration for its inaugural trip to the USA as did the original frigate. It took the frigate 27 days before reaching Yorktown, Virginia. Then she sailed on to Boston where she was welcomed with jubilation as hundreds packed into a sunny Boston Harbor, wearing colonial garb and straw hats, listening to the sound of bagpipes, and waving French and American flags.



International Comic Festival

Astérix... Tintin.... Angoulême has long been associated with cartoon, illustration and the graphic art. January of each year sees the the largest comic festival in Europe (occurring yearly since 1974). aquitaine_angouleme_cartoon_festival There is also a new museum dedicated to the motion picture at the restored "chais" on the riverside at Saint Cybard. The famous Angoulême International Comics Festival receives nearly a quarter of a million visitors from around the world. In 2010, there was 1,500 cartoonists authors and 22 buildings were beautifully painted with comic strips extracts. There is also Centre Nationale de la Bande Dessinée France's cartoon museum where you will discover all manner of this art form.
Website (English): International Comic Festival

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