History and Culture of South-West France
In its cave-paintings the South-West bears witness to human habitation and culture dating back 20-30,000 years to the prehistoric era. Slightly more recently, Aquitaine was English for three hundred years, from 1154 (when Eleanor of Aquitaine married King Henry II) until 1453 (at the end of the Hundred Years War).
During this time the wine trade between Aquitaine and England was naturally very significant. South-West France was a Protestant stronghold within Catholic France up until the seventeenth century. The region is also part of Occitania – geographically equivalent to southern France – where people once spoke a different language (Occitan, somewhat akin to a blend of French and Spanish, hence ‘langue d’Oc’) and which flourished gloriously up until the seventeenth century, known far and wide for its troubadours and for the chivalrous idea of courtly love.
If ‘courtly love’ has perhaps declined in popularity, nowadays popular regional pastimes include good food and good wine, fishing and sport, especially football (le foot) and – of course – rugby football (le rugby).
With all its attractions – gastronomic, cultural, historical and scenic – it is surprising that Saint Louis is the only luxury hotel barge cruising South-West France, travelling along the peaceful and pretty Canal de Garonne.
The whole area of south west France is little-known, even among the French. There is a wealth of magical places to visit, of ancient chateaux and abbeys, of mediaeval villages, of stunning viewpoints and of fascinating artisans and markets, yet there is very little organised tourism in the area.
This is why we call the South-West our ‘hidden corner’ of France