Gascony refers to ancient territories which ceased to exist after the French Revolution, and cannot be found on modern maps. It was replaced by the modern department of the Gers centred around the medieval town of Auch. The region forms a triangle from the West of Toulouse, South of the Garonne River and down into the foothills of the Pyrenees. The local inhabitants still proudly claim to be true ‘Gascons’.
The department of the Gers borders to the south the Haute Garonne and the Hautes Pyrenees, offering beautiful scenery of rolling wooded hills, valleys filled with sunflowers, maize and garlic, vineyards, plum orchards and the shimmering views of the snow capped Pyrenees in the distance.
As the Gers is on the same latitude as Nice, so you can enjoy a sunny and hot climate without the noise, pollution and crowds of the Cotes d’Azur. The Gers is unspoilt by modern development and is delightfully free from traffic and mass tourism. It is also one of the most agricultural and sparsely populated areas of “ La France profond” with the least pollution and the air quality is said to be the best in Europe. Altogether a true haven of peace and natural beauty, combined with a comfortable yet unostentatious way of life.
The area is steeped in history, and its vast pastoral backdrop is punctuated by many magnificent churches, chateaux and abbeys, tiny fortified hill-top villages called “bastides” with galleried arcades and market squares, and dovecots or “pigeonniers”. D’Artagnan, Dumas’ most famous musketeer during the time of Eleanor of Acquitaine and the Hundred Years War, was born here. His statue dominates the vast stone staircase that climbs from the river Gers up to Auch cathedral, one of the last to be built in France.
Although the villa nestles in the heart of the beautiful Gers countryside amidst the many tiny historical villages, it is also only a few minutes drive to the local market towns of Lectoure and Condom, both with medieval cathedrals, shops, cafes and restaurants.
It is situated within equal distance of the larger historical towns of Agen and Auch and Nerac, and then further afield the buzzing cities of Bordeaux and Toulouse both with rivers and considered 'very chique'.
Close by to the villa are many beautiful villages such as La Romeo with its well known 14th century collegiate church and cloister, the famous Abbaye de Flaran (with its splendid collection of Impressionist paintings), the Roman villa of Seviac at Montreal, the circular medieval village of Fources, and Larressingle ; the tiniest fortified village in France. There are also many chateaux to visit, a lot of them producing their own armagnac and floc which you can taste on site : Cassaigne, Caumont, Cugnac-Armagnac, Lavardens, Busca-Maniban and Monluc to mention but a few.
Sleepy villages, sunflower fields and superb food — France doesn’t get more beautiful and blissful than Gers
Published at 12:01AM, March 21 2015
Another quiet day in the medieval village of Fourcès and the door to the little épicerie —
the only place near by to buy fresh bread and groceries — is firmly shut. It’s been shut
every day we’ve popped in to this little village near our holiday let in southwest France. We
are, after all, in Gascony, about as deep into la France profondeas it gets.
While it might not have the most accessible shops, Fourcès is possibly France’s quaintest
bastide (fortified village), in unusual circular format. Plane trees now grow on the grassy
circle that was once the motte, home to a wooden château. In the ring of colonnaded halftimbered
stone houses lies an antique shop, a café selling tasty ice creams, and a friendly
auberge near the appropriately named rue de la Soif (thirsty street).
A moustached Jean Ladeveze beckons us into his atmospheric alcohol shop, past the barrel bearing glasses for free tastings into an interior where shelves are weighed down by clear glass bottles, each holding liquid of a different tawny tone. It’s like an ancient apothecary’s, except that this is the place to get your armagnac mixed, not your medicine.
“It’s pretty original,” says Ladeveze. “My son makes it according to different tastes — he’s an oenologist.” It’s a bit early for armagnac, so we sip “porthos”, a still-heady mixture of the brandy with red wine and drink in the view through the open door. Who needs bread when you’ve got this?
This is typical Gascony, of which the prettiest part is the Gers, my favourite part of my favourite country in the world. It’s the part of France I would like to live in when I stop roaming the world as a travel editor. They may have stunning beaches in the Maldives, fascinating culture in Sri Lanka and an ace atmosphere in Paris, but none of them has the same hold on my heart as this bucolic corner of France, south and east of Bordeaux and near the foothills of the Pyrenees.