Your suggested itinerary in Southwestern France
Visit the monuments of Bordeaux
Air Inter flies from Paris to Toulouse, Bordeaux, Limoges, Pau and Tarbes. TAT Airlines serves Brive-la-Gaillard from Paris; Air Littoral serves Paris to Agen, Périgueux and Bergerac. Paris-Bordeaux by TGV takes 3 hours, Paris-Toulouse by TGV takes 5 hours (2 per day); 5 regular trains stop in Limoges, Brive-la-Gaillard, Cahors, Agen, Montauban, Tarbes.
Locals sport tans all year long, thanks to the long, hot summer and mild winter. The Pyrénées are cooler, with winter snow.
Every imaginable outdoor activity is available: rafting, kayaking, swimming, surfing, windsurfing, sailing, golf, rock climbing, horseback riding and, in the Pyrénées, skiing. House boats and pleasure craft can be rented on many rivers and canals.
The Southwest's culinary traditions are closely tied to the land. Limousin produces some of the world's best beef, the Quercy boasts red-label lamb, and the Basque country sweet and hot peppers. You'll find goose and duck--smoked, confit, roasted or grilled--scattered all over the region, as well as foie gras, the bean-and-meat stew called cassoulet, and garbure, a thick meat and vegetable soup. Seafood is uncommon, except in the Basque country (stuffed baby squid, for example) and along the Atlantic seaboard. But delicious crawfish and freshwater fish including pike, perch and trout are plentiful.
Few regions offer such a cornucopia of wild mushrooms, black truffles, prunes, chestnuts and walnuts, game and cheeses--from the goat cabecou to the sheep brebis des Pyrénées. Succulent table grapes like chasselas flank scores of varietals used to make the great wines of Bordeaux and the regional vins du terroir: Cahors, Madiran, Irouleguy, Buzet, Bergerac, to name just a few. A meal is often heralded by a glass of Sauternes and followed by a vintage Armagnac.
The pace of life is sweet and slow; most banks, post offices, tourist offices and museums, and some shops, close between noon and 2:00 p.m. Lunch is usually served from noon to 2:00 p.m., dinner from 7:30 to 9:00 p.m.
Many prehistoric caves, caverns and archeological sites can be visited only on guided tours. Be prepared to reserve ahead, or wait, at the best known sites in the Dordogne, like Lascaux II. Churches, monasteries and abbeys are generally open to the public in daylight hours, but visits should be curtailed during religious services. Private castles usually allow guided tours only, and sometimes limit opening hours to weekends or afternoons.
It is advisable to request an appointment far ahead to visit the châteaux of the Haut-Medoc, particularly Margaux, Lafite-Rothschild, Mouton-Rothschild and Siran. Others open to visitors include the Châteaux of Pichon-Longueville, Arsac, Lanessan and Ducru-Beaucaillou.