About 41 mi/67 km southwest of Bordeaux is Arcachon, France, a stylish but rather expensive coastal town. It has fine beaches, lovely promenades, a casino and a phenomenon known as maree: When the tide goes out, it reveals hundreds of tiny shells.

September-April, stop for oysters and white wine at one of the many street bars or bistros. There is an oyster harvesting area on the southern side of the Arcachon Bay. The bay’s oysters are served raw in town, accompanied by small sausages called crepinettes.

From Arcachon you can take a boat to Cap Ferret, which has great beaches. (It's also accessible by car.) There is also a natural seabird reserve site, accessible only by boat, called the Banc D'Arguin. The landscape of this site changes every year because of the powerful currents in the bay.

Just inland is the Parc des Landes—seemingly endless miles/kilometers of pine-forested flatlands with shaded picnic sites and woodland trails.

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