Monday, 7 December 2015

Monday, 7 December 2015

Guest blog: Gorgeous Gascony

Passing en-route to southern Europe, my partner and I discovered this area purely by chance. Utterly seduced by the peacefulness, the rolling countryside, and the gentle pace of life, we bought a ruin to renovate. Our intention was to live partly here and partly in the UK – but after starting work on our house, we just didn’t want to go back ‘home’. So we didn’t ….

Lovers of France flock to the Côte d’Azur, or Provence, or the Dordogne, and each region has good reasons for its popularity. But Gascony is in an entirely different league. These are ‘the roads less travelled’ that lead to places the crowds have yet to reach. Places that are all the finer for their uninterrupted seclusion. South of the Dordogne, west of Languedoc, north of the Pyrenees and steeped in history, Gascony remains ‘far from the madding crowd’ …. and that is precisely what makes it so attractive.

Gascon villages and towns boast some of the finest examples of medieval French and Renaissance architecture in Europe. At the heart of the region is the Gers département, and at the heart of the Gers is the capital, Auch. Home to the Comte d’Artagnan, who inspired the swashbuckling hero of Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers, and UNESCO World Heritage Site the Cathédrale de Sainte-Marie, Auch is a handsome city brimming with Gascon flair. Weekly markets are an important part of life and the squares bustle with activity … until midday, that is, when everything stops and Gascons get down to the serious business of lunch.

In France, this region is renowned for its first-class cuisine – and a nutritional/medical phenomenon known as the ‘Gascon Paradox’. Traditionally rich specialities like cassoulet and duck confit are perfectly balanced by robust local wines. With the emphasis on the quality of the ingredients, this hearty food, simply served, could explain why life expectancy here is the highest in France.
For anyone who appreciates the gentler, personable traditions of rural life and yearns for a tranquillity seldom found in modern times, the Gers is the Promised Land. There are still property bargains to be found, and the current exchange rate means your pound will go further. Humble cottages, fabulous farmhouses, maisons de maître and châteaux are typically built from local stone and timber-frame ‘colombage’. Further east in the Tarn & Garonne département, the cream-coloured stone gives way to reddish-pink terracotta brick, which earned Toulouse the nickname ‘la ville rose’. The vibrant capital of the Midi-Pyrénées, Toulouse is one of the fastest growing cities in Europe. Despite its rich culture and history, it is today a symbol of modernism and home to the French aerospace industry. Not to mention stunning Romanesque squares, museums, amazing markets, shops for every age group and, of course, gourmet restaurants for every taste.

With low-cost airlines flying into Toulouse Blagnac airport, Gascony is very easy to reach. And there is so much to see and enjoy here ….. with the feeling that there is all the time in the world to enjoy it.

Guest blogger: Lisa Maitland
Managing the Gascony area for Allez-Francais, particularly the Gers and Tarn & Garonne departments.

Contact details : Lisa Maitland 05 63 65 93 37 / 07 86 80 45 46 /
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