French seminar: discover the charms of the Gironde area – フランス理解講座「魅力溢れるジロンド県」

GirondeOn November 17th and 24th I did a presentation about the Gironde area in the south west of France, where Bordeaux, my hometown, is located.
I divided the presentation in 2 parts, and made it sound like we were really traveling from Japan to it, going onto a bus trip around the area and enjoying its highlights. I spoke as if I was a guide of a tour trip and people really seemed to enjoy it, smiling and laughing a lot.


The Gironde department is the biggest in France, and the estuary formed by the Gironde River flowing in the ocean is the biggest of Europe. 45% of the territory is covered by forests and 12% by vineyards, its surface making it the biggest in France. Thriving industries include traditional industries but also the wood industry and high-tech industries such as aeronautics.


Arcachon's oysters アルカションの牡蠣

Arcachon’s oysters

On the first day, our trip started from the Arcachon bay, located 30min by car from Bordeaux city. Arcachon is famous for its oysters, mussels and its Winter Town. The winter town was built mostly in 1860, when tuberculosis was plaguing Europe and the only form of treatment was to retreat to a place with a “good environment”, which is to say a mild climate and good food. Rich patients came to rest in the winter town of Arcachon with their whole family and servants, which explains that houses there are particularly big, colorful, refined and of very different architecture styles.


Pyla sand dune ピラの砂丘

Pyla sand dune

Next to Arcachon can also be found the Pilat sand dune, the tallest in Europe. It’s really tiring to climb it, but once you reach the top, you are rewarded with a breathtaking view of the whole bay.


Moving from the sea, I then introduced the most famous fortified towns of the Gironde department, such as Saint Emilion, listed as a World Heritage site and famous for its unique almond macaroons. We also visited a few fortified castles and churches before ending the tour in the Gascogne forest, the biggest forest in all European Union.


On the second day, we discovered the many festivals, cultural events and food the area has to offer. First, we enjoyed many wine related activities: find your oenological sign to know which wine fits you best at la Winery, enjoy wine and grape-based beauty treatments in “les Sources de Caudalie” spa center, or try medieval style harvesting before sipping on middle-ages wine.


GirondeOther than wine related activities, outdoor fun is plentiful: stay at a farm and discover fresh regional products, observe migratory birds in their natural environment, go down the Eyre river in canoe, ride the more than 600km of bicycle paths running within the department, hike along one of the three roads of the Way of Saint James or much more.


Medoc Marathon メドックマラソン

Medoc Marathon

After that, we ate Bazas beef, a nationwide recognized brand such as Kobe beef, and participated in the Medoc Marathon, worldwide famous for its casual atmosphere with 90% of the participants wearing costumes and with wine being distributed at break points. You can also taste oysters, mussels and rib steaks at the breaks. More than 9,000 people participated in this year’s marathon, with 3,300 people being foreigners from more than 50 countries, Japan included.

Medoc Marathon メドックマラソン

Medoc Marathon


Another event I really like is Soulac 1900. Soulac is a beach town located at the northernmost tip of the department. Every year in June, the whole town goes back to the 20th century, with people wearing costumes, and many events of the time being held such as Mr. Muscle contest, a race of beach changing cabins, a costume contest and many concerts just like the old times. Just before coming to Japan I went there costumed and won a prize for it. It was really happy!

If you have the opportunity to go to Bordeaux, really take the time to visit its area as it’s full of treasures waiting to be discovered!

Soulac 1900 スラック1900年

Soulac 1900




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