Now officially the Gers department, the historic region of Gascony is known for:
In Gascony the living is easy. The population is small, and the produce, especially the cheese and foie gras, is excellent.
Here are some good reasons to visit, and some of the best places to stay in Gascony to enjoy them.
Gascony has so many pretty villages some people cruise between them, spending an hour or two in each. Many of them are small enough to explore in less than an hour, but once you arrive it would be rude not to stop and sample some of the local foie gras or cheeses.
Montreal-du-Gers, Fources and Larressingle have all made the official list of 'the most beautiful villages in France'.
Montreal was founded on an old Roman settlement, and is a very fine example of the 13th Century bastide towns. These are built around a central square with arcades and stone arches running off, and streets radiating outwards in an orderly fashion so that each house has equal space.
Fources is a medieval town, some of it stone, some of it half-timbered. This makes it unusual amongst its bastide peers, as does the rounded layout and the green central square. Fources is one of the best places to stay in Gascony if you're looking for a pretty, historic base.
Larressingle's medieval fortifications are in excellent condition, inclosing a small Roman church, the ruins of a château, and a small museum.
Medieval bastide Sarrant has also made the official 'most beautiful' list. On the eastern edge of Gascony, Sarrant is one of the best places to stay in Gascony if you're just passing through. From here it's only 50kms to Toulouse.
One of the most popular towns to visit in Gascony is Condom. The joke is on the visitors though, there wasn't a historic connection until the town folks built a contraception museum.
For music lovers one of the best places to stay in Gascony is Marciac, a 13th Century bastide town famed for its annual summer jazz festival.
Tillac has to be one of the smallest communities in Gascony, its only got one street, but it's a very pretty street, so well worth a visit.
Confit de Canard, rich sausages and blood sausage, foie gras, Armagnac, prunes, cheese - the diet of Gascony is rich and hearty. The land is fertile and markets regular and enticing. Close to the river Garonne grow the fruits, and on the southern side there are crops and vegetables, which are used for their seeds and as animal feed too.
If you're interested in Armagnac production Fources is one of the best places to say in Gascony, while Eauze is often referred to as the 'capital of Armagnac'.
With all this rich eating to do it might be worth considering adding some walking of cycling to your itinerary. There are plenty of well marked trails for walkers, and cyclists will be pleased to hear that the roads are relatively quiet and also relatively flat.
For excellent value
A typical Gascon country house in rural France with a peaceful flower and bird-filled garden. Bedrooms are traditional, simple and clean. Dinner is table d'hote style, featuring local specialities. A quiet country hideaway, perfect for a low key escape from it all.
A charming, recently renovated 17th century manor house in rural France. Offers guests a large outdoor pool, steam room, hot tub and gym. Bedrooms have high ceilings, some with original stone walls and exposed beams. Full of character.
A luxurious hotel set in a beautiful stone house. Large rooms with creamy furnishings, stone flag floors and enormous bathrooms. An outdoor pool, lovely gardens, terrace and spa. Excellent restaurant serving French classics. A stunning hotel for a romantic weekend break.
An enchanting castle hotel just outside Auch. Unique rooms feature guilded mirrors, soft colours and terraces. Quiet gardens, an outdoor pool, hot tub, tennis court and lovely bar area. Much to explore in this rich area between the Pyrenees and Atlantic. A magical choice for a romantic weekend.
A picturesque French manor house in an enchanting castle town. Interiors blend traditional craftmanship with contemporary design. Rooms filled with original paintings, mosaics and stone work by local artists. A stylish country retreat.
Relaxing and characterful Retreat in a beautifully renovated 18th century barn with feminine and quirky touches. Exceptionally nurturing hosts. A unique stay. Adults only.