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Regions of France - Aquitaine

Aquitaine in the south-west, is the largest region in France and home to over three million people. The region is divided into Pyrénées-Atlantiques, Lot et Garonne, Gironde, Landes and Dordogne, each one a unique area with a characteristic charm all its own.

A turbulent history has left the region dotted with bastides, fortified hilltop towns and villages, ancient strongholds of Charlemagne, Richard the Lionheart and the Black Prince.

The major tourist attractions of the region include the majestic Pyrenees mountains; one of the most renowned seaside areas in Europe, the Cote d'Argent; the Pilat dunes near Arcachon, which is the largest sand dune area to be found anywhere in the continent; and the Landes forest, which is the most expansive pine forest in the west of Europe.

Aquitaine is renowned around the world for its grapes, producing the incomparable red Bordeaux wines. The region is also home to the French Bergerac, Sauternes and Lillet, as well as the Armagnac brandy. The Dordogne area is famous for its aromatic and very expensive black truffles, and regional specialties such as confit de canard (salt cured duck), cassoulet (meat and bean casserole), caneles (custard pastries) and pate basque made with pork livers and fat can be readily enjoyed in all of Aquitaine.

Along the miles of long, straight coast are two main resorts, Biarritz in the south which, once fashionable with the 1930's glamour set has recently been revived by trendy Parisians, and Arcachon to the north with its grand villas, popular with Bordelais weekenders.

The Pyrenees mountain range steadily begins to rise in the Pyrénées Atlantiques, the southernmost departement of Aquitaine. The mountain foothills are a lush green land where the houses gradually become chalet in style.

Agriculture is important to the economy and the Aquitaine grows half of France's kiwi fruit, almost half its strawberries, and most of its prunes. Potatoes, asparagus and maize are also important crops. Around Bergerac many tobacco fields are found and the forests of Landes produce a large quantity of timber planking. Landes also grows succulent small carrots and Arcachon is famous throughout France for its oysters.

The northern, inland area of Aquitaine contains one of the most popular departments with the British - the Dordogne (known to the French as Périgord), named after what many say is France's most beautiful river.

Each area of Périgord has been assigned a descriptive colour. The south-east around Sarlat is called Perigord Noir because of its dense oak forests; the limestone area around the River Isle and Périgueux, capital of the region, is called Perigord Blanc after the light colour of its rock; Périgord Poupre refers to the wine-growing area around Bergerac; and the very green wooded area and pasturelands to the north is Perigord Vert.