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Now officially the Gers department, the historic region of Gascony is known for:
- rolling green vistas only stopped by merry fields of sunflowers,
- quiet country roads leading eventually to old market towns,
- via châteaux and villages.
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.
- If you've come for the food, you'll be spoilt for choice, but one of our favourites is La Bastide, a luxurious country hotel with stunning interiors, beautiful gardens with outdoor pool and a restaurant serving the region's finest.
For a grand country house
- The Hotel Louis Grits is one of the best places to stay in Gascony if you dream of staying in a grand French manor house. The five rooms have been wonderfully decorated, and have original art and mosaics and tasteful, neutral tones. This is also one of the best places to stay in Gascony if you dream of wonderful views over the valley of Gers.
- Chateau Les Charmettes is located just outside Auch, so here you get the best of both worlds - a gorgeous country retreat, but within striking distance of town.
For excellent value
- Maison Ardure is a seriously chic guest house offering accommodation at knock-down prices. Tastefully renovated with a great eye for detail, rooms are light and airy and rates start from just €119 per night.
- Maison de la Port Fortifiee is another of the best places to stay in Gascony for those on a tight budget. Elegant rooms are traditional in style and prices start from as little as €92 per night B&B.
Best Hotels in Gascony
L'Echappee Belle 27 rooms from $101L'Isle-Jourdain, Gascony
A modern stylish hotel in the centre of L'Isle-Jourdain. The rooms are simply furnished with decor inspired by local photography. Downstairs guests can enjoy delicious contemporary cuisine in the relaxed brasserie, headed up by a two-michelin star chef. Perfect for business meetings.Local exploring - A charming design hotel in central L'Isle-Jourdain, ideal for exploring the town or the Midi-Pyrenees region.Business meetings - With great conference facilities, and a central location, it's perfect for a business meeting.Local markets - Explore the bustling market of L'Isle-Jourdain and pick up some of the regions finest produce.
Maison de la Porte Fortifiee 5 rooms from $105Montesquiou, Gascony
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.Great walks - Enjoy the beautiful natural landscape.Local markets - Visit the local daily marketSights nearby - Town of TarbesHideaway - Tranquil and intimate.
Maison Ardure 5 rooms from $136Terraube, Gascony
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.Value chic - With doubles for around £70 this property provides excellent value.Kayaking - Canoe and small motor boat rental on the Baïse riverFull of characterHideaway - Tranquil and intimate.
La Bastide 21 rooms from $181Gascony
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.Country Escape - Opposite Barbotan-les-Thermes thermal baths, lovely grounds to enjoy the views from, and excellent restaurantFishing - Trout, pike and carp fishing. The tourist office can advise on local rulesGreat walks - Within the Armagnac region, for beginners and more experiencedSights nearby - Mont-de-Marsan and The PyreneesRecommended by - Relais & Chateaux
Chateau les Charmettes 6 rooms from $202Gers
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.Romantic Break - The castle is set within pretty grounds, where geese roam. Hot air ballooning, spa treatments and French cuisineSights nearby - Toulouse is within an hour awayRomantic - Good for couples.Fishing - Excellent fishing nearby.
Hotel Louis Grits 5 rooms from $257Gers, Gascony
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.Views - Views over the valleys of Gers.Country EscapeSwimming Pool - Lovely Outdoor PoolSpaRecommended by - Mr & Mrs Smith, I Escape, Sawdays, Tablet
L'Enchantement 4 rooms from $326Cassagnabère-Tournas,, Gascony
Relaxing and characterful Retreat in a beautifully renovated 18th century barn with feminine and quirky touches. Exceptionally nurturing hosts. A unique stay. Adults only.Local markets - Pop into Gascony's farmer's market for some tasty local produce.Great walks - There some idyllic walks leading directly from the property.Hideaway - The perfect country bolthole. A true hidden gem.Full of character