The city of Bordeaux is the capital of the Aquitaine region, which has had long historical ties with England...
Even today, the locals still enjoy playing cricket. But this is also a region that has many coastal and rural secret treasures.
The Gironde estuary lies just to the north of Bordeaux's city centre. This is a navigable channel that is the confluence of the Garonne and Dordogne rivers and forms the main artery of the Bordeaux wine region.
You can arrange car hire in Bordeaux with a pick-up at Bordeaux Merignac Airport (BOD) in the Merignac suburb of Bordeaux and just six miles west of the city centre.
Don't miss the St Andre Cathedral that dates from the 11th century. This is one of the best examples of Angevin Gothic architecture in France. The cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Aquitaine Museum, which has a large display of artefacts reflecting the history of Bordeaux and the Aquitaine region, is just alongside the cathedral.
The Contemporary Art Museum has regular exhibitions as well as a permanent collection to please all modern art enthusiasts.
The Esplanade des Quinconces, one of the largest squares in Europe, is also in Bordeaux's centre. A huge column on the west side of the square is a commemoration to the Girondins, a group of moderate republican businessmen and industrialists from the Bordeaux region during the French Revolution. Many of them were executed during the Revolution's reign of terror.
If you are looking for somewhere to relax away from the city, try the Botanic Gardens. These cover an area of about 20 hectares to the north of the city. There are flower displays, a mountain stream and a lake.
After seeing the city, why not hop in your car and take a drive to explore the region? Here are some great recommendations...
Drive south west to Arcachon on the Atlantic coast. This is a beautiful seaside resort and the centre of the Cote d'Argent, the Silver Coast, which stretches from Biarritz in the south to the Gironde estuary in the north. Arachon has a chic promenade and shops, an exciting nightlife and endless beaches.
The Silver Coast extends over 125 miles and is Europe's longest stretch of sand. Outside of the main holiday months of July and August, most of its beaches are practically deserted. The most spectacular attraction here is Dune de Pilat, a 300-foot high and two-mile wide sand dune which is Europe's largest.
A visit to the Bordeaux region is all about wine tasting. Start your wine tour at St Emilion, a picturesque village on the northern bank of the Gironde where the Romans planted the first vineyards. As well as the vineyards and wineries around the village, there is another underground world of caves and galleries. Only a few of these are used as wine cellars.
Pomerol, one of the smallest of the Bordeaux wine appellations, is located alongside St. Emilion on the Gironde's right bank. Pomerol wines such as Petrus have become popular only in recent decades and have been overshadowed both by neighbouring St Emilion and the better-known left-bank vineyards.
Cross over the estuary to the left bank and drive to the North West to visit the Margaux vineyards, famous for their velvety Chateau la Tour Margaux wine. Vines grown on the thin, well-drained soil of the Margaux region are notoriously sensitive to weather conditions.
Pauillac is just to the north west of Margaux and is famous for the Chateau Mouton Rothschild, Chateau Lafitte Rothschild and Chateau Latour estates. These are some of the highest vineyards in the Bordeaux region.
Pauillac and Margaux are geographically part of the Medoc peninsula, one of the largest fine-wine-producing regions of the world. Haut Medoc is a general wine classification for other wines cultivated to the south of the Paulliac and Margaux areas. Bordeaux car hire will allow you to enjoy the Gironde estuary's famous oysters at lunch or dinner when you sample Bordeaux's wines.
If you prefer your wine applied externally, pay a visit to the Vinotherpie Spa at Caudalie, just south of Bordeaux. The idea of vinotherapy was born at the Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte region. Here you can enjoy facials, scrubs and relaxing massages with fresh grapes and honey and wine wraps to keep your skin supple and young.