The Bay of Biscay

The Bay of Biscay is found on the west coast of France, facing the Atlantic Ocean. It extends from the Spanish border in the south of the country all of the way up to Point Penmarc’h in the north. The sea conditions in the bay are totally different from those on the French Riviera.

The continental shelf, lying off the coast line, means that the waves generating a huge swell travelling across the Atlantic, are then built upwards resulting in very rough seas. In the winter conditions many boats have been lost in the area, but in the summer the large waves give local surfers the best conditions in which to perform.

Along this vast area a number of major cities have been established and the tourist industry in the region making more of a local impact to communities. Many of the cities are found on the mouths of the rivers before they flow into the Atlantic.

One of Bordeaux Chateau’s

One such city is Bordeaux which is located in on the Garrone River in South West France. It has a population of almost 250,000 people and the River bisects the city with the more developed parts of the city on the west side. This as a result of it being on the outer part of the bend where the faster flowing water made a deeper channel, allowing larger boats to dock.

The whole region is famous for producing the best wine in the world and the making of the wine was brought across by the Romans. Today there are 13,000 separate grape-growers and 10,000 wine producing chateaux’s, which include some of the most famous in the world. Many tourists are attracted into the region to experience the industry.

Biarritz is another popular tourist destination that is located in the Bay of Biscay. The city is only 35km from the Spanish border and is overlooked by the Pyrenees Mountain Range. It is on the edge of Basque country and much of its culture reflects this. The town originally grew as a fishing village and in the 12th century it became a whaling town. The local supply of the whales eventually disappeared and the whale was replaced by the cod and other species of available fish.

Biarritz and its surf

The 19th century saw Biarritz turn into a tourist resort. Its wide long beaches and spectacular waves proved popular and this has continued today. It is especially popular with the surfing community who view the region’s beaches as the best in Europe. Today the town is popular among French seaside resorts with its own museums, festivals and aquarium.

Nantes is virtually at the opposite end of the country from Biarritz but is just as important to its local community. Situated on the banks of the Loire River the city has a population of more than 300,000 which makes it the 6th largest city in France.

The city original grew as a port. It is 50km from the sea, but the Loire is so wide at this point that boats had no problems travelling up and down the river. Nantes is at the center of the biggest food producers in the country and the agriculture was originally responsible for such frequent usage of the port. It soon became the largest port in France.

This resulted in many food processing industries growing in the city. The city has moved with the times and there has never been an over reliance on one type of industry. In the area there are 42,000 different firms which reflects the economic success in the region.

Tourists visit Nantes as it is one of the cleanest cities in the country and it attracts over 2 million visitors each year. There is a number of galleries and museums and the city has a vibrant nightlife. The modern retail areas, the pleasant countryside and clean nearby beaches also makes it an attractive place to visit.