guide to Gascony and its tourist attractions
! Like Provence and the Dordogne, Gascony is a name that is
laden with bucolic symbolism, one of those regions of southern France
whose name evokes images of warmth and sunshine, and a
traditional rural way of life far removed from the hassle and stress of
modern city living.
The name sounds similar to Tuscany, and indeed the two
regions, one in France, the other in Italy, lie at much the same
latitude. But Tuscany is more Mediterranean and drier, Gascony is
gentler and more rural.
The big problem with Gascony is that it no longer
exists on the map of modern France. It is not a
clearly defined entity, but an area whose borders and territories
have changed over time. In today's France, Gascony is neither a region
nor a department, and actually spreads over two regions.
It's fairly clear where the heart of Gascony is
located; it's more or less the modern-day French departments of the
Gers, the Landes and the Hautes Pyrénées. To the west, it is bordered
by the Atlantic ocean, and to the south by the Spanish border. But not
all of the western Pyrenees are considered to be part of
Gascony. The Basque Country is not considered to be part of
Gascony, even if the words Basque and Gascon both derive from the same
It is the northern extent of Gascony that has varied most
over time. Even in the middle ages, when there was a Duchy of Gascony,
its northern borders fluctuated. At times the great city of Bordeaux
was included, at other times not. In the 12th century, Gascony almost
reached to the gates of the city of Toulouse; but in spite of being the
capital of the modern-day region that encompasses the larger part of
what is nowadays considered to be Gascony, Toulouse is not, and never
has been, included in the area.
Fourcï¿½s, in the Gers
So while on the modern map there is no such area as Gascony,
the name is increasingly used in the language of tourism and culture,
designate the southwest corner of France between the Atlantic, the
Spanish border, and the
valley of the Garonne - excluding the Basque country in the
extreme southwest. This more or less corresponds to the
corner of France in which, less than two hundred years ago, most of the
people still spoke the distinctive Gascon dialect of Languedocian
In administrative terms, the land that was once Gascony is
divided between two historic regions, Aquitaine and Midi-Pyrenees , now renamed Nouvelle Aquitaine and following the reorganisation of French
regions that took place in 2016.
Gascony is famed for its gourmet specialities.
In addition to its most famous product Armagnac, the local brandy, and
its distinctive wines such as Cï¿½tes-de-Gascogne, Madiran, or
Pacherenc-du-Vic-Bilh , Gascony is noted for its poultry, including
of the best free-range chicken in France.
If Gascony is taken to include all the area up to
the Gironde estuary, then it also takes in some of the finest vineyards
in France, those of the Mï¿½doc
which include the most prestigious of Grand Cru clarets.
from Paris Gare de Montparnasse, viia Bordeaux and/or Toulouse
from the UK: via Orleans, then either the A10 motorway to bordeaux, or
the A71 > A20 motorways to Toulouse.
By plane: Toulouse and Bordeaux airports, and in
particular Toulouse, are served by direct flights from the UK and many
other parts of Europe. There are also flights to Pau
► Selected Gascony hotels
booking at guaranteed rates from Hotels.com, Accor
and other reputable hotels sites. About-France.com
lists hotels with good visitor reviews.
le domaine de Beaulieu
** Three star manor house hotel five
minutes from Auch. Grounds, pool and restaurant. Free parking, Airport
Condom (32 Gers)
. Located within view of the
mediaeval fortified village, this
small auberge is in a former farmhouse. Restaurant,
terrace. Both auberge and restaurant offer good value for money.
tourist attractions and
sites in Gascony
Gers and east
- Auch :
the departmental capital of the Gers sees itself as the capital of
Gascony. The top sites include the 16th century Sainte-Marie
cathedral , which has a fine organ and early 16th
stained-glass windows. Next to it stands the Tour d'Armagnac – a
14th-century prison, and a statue of "d'Artagnan ", the famous but
fictitious leader of the Three Musketeers. A monumental stairway leads
up to the Cathedral from the banks of the Gers and the lower town.
The tourist office is housed in a particularly fine 15th
century half-timbered building.
des Jacobins contains a fine collection
of South-American pre-Columban art
- Larresingle A
small fortified village near Condom. Just outside the village, from
March to November, there is a outdoor hands-on mediaeval siege-machines
Nearby the mediaeval Pont d'Artigue has for centuries carried pilgrims
on their way to Santiago de Compostella over the river Osse.
delightful small bastide
town, founded in 1255. Surrounded by
Nearby are the remains of the Gallo-Roman villa of Seviac,
with some impressive and extensive mosaics.
Armagnac area. Famous for its wines and spirits,
the Armagnac area lies mostly in the southwest of the Gers..
: Historic small town with a 16th century late
gothic cathedral, and an Armagnac museum.
- Prehistoric caves of Gargas,
near St. Gaudens (31) Stone age carvings and paintings, that can
actually be visited. Underground tour and interpretive centre. Advance
reservation is normally essential. See website.
Landes and Gironde
forests of Les Landes: The largest expanse of
coniferous forest in France. Plenty of opportunities for hiking and cycling, specially along the coast.
d'Argent: The Atlantic coast - long expanses of sandy
coastline, dotted with small tourist resorts.
- Dune du
Pyla the largest sand dunes in Europe, in the Landes de
Gascogne regional park, just south of the popular seaside resort of
- Zoo du
Bassin d'Arcachon. Close to the Dune du Pyla, this zoo is
one of the larger in France, covering a site or around 20 hectares.
Many large animals in spacious enclosures
de Roquetaillade 14th century fortified castle, restored
in the 19th century by Viollet-le-Duc; located at Mazï¿½res, on the
borders of Gironde and Landes
Capital of the western Pyrenees; an attractive town, with a fine
castle. The Pau city art gallery, the Musï¿½e des Beaux Arts, has a small
but interesting collection, including works by Rubens, Zurbaran,
El Greco, Ribera, Corot, Degas, Boudin, Vuillard, Marquet and many
others. Pau is a good centre for exploring the Pyrenees.
the most important Catholic pilgrimage centre in France, south of Pau,
in the Pyrenees.
Pyrenees national park, Alpine mountain area on the
Spanish border, including the Cirque de Gavarnie
- Pic du
Midi. At 2877m altitude, the Pic du Midi is one of the
highest points in the Pyrenees. Accessible by cablecar from the ski
resort of La Mongie at the Col du Tourmalet, one of the great Pyrenean passes frequently on the route of the Tour de France
Sunflowers are a feature of the landscape in the Gers
Sand dunes at Arcachon, Gironde
Chateau-fort de Roquetaillade, Gironde
The Cirque de Gavarnie, in the High Pyrenees