Aquitaine: travel essentials
Saturday 27 March 2010
* Connections between the UK and Aquitaine have never been better. The main air hub is Bordeaux’s Mérignac airport (00 33 5 56 34 50 50;
), 10km west of the city centre; the JetBus departs every 45 minutes for the city centre. Bordeaux is served by easyJet (0905 821 0905;
) from Gatwick, Luton, Liverpool and Bristol; British Airways (0844 493 0787;
) from Gatwick; Bmibaby (09111 545454;
bmibaby.com) from Manchester; Flybe (0871 700 2000;
) from Southampton and Birmingham; and Ryanair (0871 246 0000;
) from Edinburgh.
* Ryanair serves the southern Aquitaine airports of Pau and Biarritz from Stansted, as well as Bergerac’s brand-new terminal – also accessible from Southampton on Flybe.
* By train, Eurostar (08705 186 186; eurostar.com ) has good links from London St Pancras, Ebbsfleet and Ashford to a wide range of stations in Aquitaine. Trains to Bordeaux’s St-Jean station take around seven hours with a change in Lille Europe (a simple transfer) or Paris (which requires a Metro connection across the capital). Fares start at £109 return, with low-cost add-ons from other British stations.
* The best approach by road is via one of the Western Channel ports, such as Brittany Ferries (08705 360 360; brittanyferries.co.uk ) from Portsmouth to Caen and St-Malo. P&O Ferries (08716 645 645; poferries.com) sails from Portsmouth to Bilbao in Spain, providing access to the Pyrenees of Aquitaine.
* The rail network to and within Aquitaine is excellent. The main line runs from Paris Gare Montparnasse to Bordeaux, continuing to Bayonne, Biarritz and Hendaye. Regional trains extend deep inland, with services from Bordeaux to Arcachon, Perigueux and Agen, and from Bayonne to Pau. Trains to key railheads connect with buses that provide access to hundreds of towns and villages.
* Aquitaine's roads are good and, except in the summer peak, pleasingly empty by British standards. Most autoroutes (motorways) levy tolls (marked “péage”), at a rate of about €7 per 100km. Around the cities, there are usually toll-free stretches. Car rental is available at airports and in town centres (usually at railway stations), making a fly-drive or rail-drive holiday easily accessible options.
* Cyclists are well catered for, with excellent segregated bike paths in many parts of Aquitaine. And hikers can take advantage of the network of grande randonnée (GR) long-distance footpaths. The flagship route is the GR10 east from Hendaye following the line of the Pyrenees towards the Mediterranean, but there are many others.
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