Gascony - Auch
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GASCONY heart of the southwest

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A guide to Gascony and its tourist attractions

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Gascony map      Gascony ! 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 etymological root.
Fourc�sVillage of Fourc�s, in the Gers     
  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.
  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, to 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 French.
  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.

Gourmet Gascony

Gascony is famed for its gourmet specialities. In addition to its most famous product Armagnac, the local brandy, and its distinctive wines such as  C�tes-de-Gascogne, Madiran, or Pacherenc-du-Vic-Bilh , Gascony is noted for its poultry, including some 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 M�doc which include the most prestigious of Grand Cru clarets.


Reaching Gascony :

By train from Paris Gare de Montparnasse, viia Bordeaux and/or Toulouse
By car 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

Gascony Accommodation


Hotels in Gascony
►Hotels in Landes 
►Hotels
in  Gers 

Selected Gascony hotels
Online booking at guaranteed rates from  Hotels.com,  Accor and other reputable hotels sites.   About-France.com only lists hotels with good visitor reviews.

Near Auch
Hotel le domaine de Beaulieu ** Three star manor house hotel five minutes from Auch. Grounds, pool and restaurant. Free parking, Airport shuttle available

Laressingle, near Condom  (32 Gers)
Auberge de Laressingle . 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.

Main 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 century  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.
       The Mus�e 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 museum.
    Nearby the mediaeval Pont d'Artigue has for centuries carried pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostella over the river Osse.
  • Montreal du Gers: delightful small bastide town, founded in 1255.  Surrounded by vineyards.
      Nearby are the remains of the Gallo-Roman villa of Seviac, with some impressive and extensive mosaics. 
  • The Armagnac area. Famous for its wines and spirits, the Armagnac area lies mostly in the southwest of the Gers..
  • Condom : 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

  • The forests of Les Landes:  The largest expanse of coniferous forest in France. Plenty of opportunities for hiking and cycling, specially along the coast.
  • C�te 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 Arcachon
  • 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
  • Chateau-fort de Roquetaillade 14th century fortified castle, restored in the 19th century by Viollet-le-Duc; located at Maz�res, on the borders of Gironde and Landes

Pyrenees

  • Pau. Capital of the western Pyrenees; an attractive town, with a fine castle. The Pau city art gallery, the Mus�e 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.
  • Lourdes. the most important Catholic pilgrimage centre in France, south of Pau, in the Pyrenees.
  • The 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
Sunflowers are a feature of the landscape in the Gers

Dunes at Arcachon
Sand dunes at Arcachon, Gironde

Roquetaillade
Chateau-fort de Roquetaillade, Gironde

Mediaeval stained glass Laon
The Cirque de Gavarnie, in the High Pyrenees

Photo above :  Ste. Marie Cathedral and the Armagnac tower, in old Auch
   Gascony , It's not a region, it was never even a clearly-defined territory in old France ; but the name Gascony has long been attached to a large area of the southwest of France, stretching from the river Garonne to the Pyrenees. Today, it is synonymous with "douceur de vivre", a relaxed way of life,  gentle countryside, and fine gourmet cuisine.



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Pau castle
The castle at Pau

 


Photos � About-France.com except when otherwise indicated .
Photo of Fourc�s by Jean-Noel Lafargue - Free art licence.
Cirque de Gavarnie - photo by P�re Igor
Chateau de Roquetaillade - Florence P�cassou
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Text Copyright � About-France.com  2016
Map on an open-source base from Openstreetmap.org






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