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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.
Village of Fourcès, in the GersIt 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 called Nouvelle Aquitaine and Occitanie following the reorganisation of French regions that took place in 2016.
Gourmet GasconyFor foodies, Gascony is well known as one of the great gourmet regions of France.
Its most famous product is undoubtedly Armagnac, the local brandy, which is known worldwide as a serious competitor to Cognac (which comes from a bit further north). Gascony also produces some fine wines such as Côtes-de-Gascogne, Madiran, or the very distinctive Pacherenc-du-Vic-Bilh.
As for its cuisine, Gascony is noted for its poultry, and produces some of the best free-range poultry in France. It is also famed for its patés, notably duck paté de foie gras. A popular Gascon speciality in restaurants is croustade, which is can either be a meat or meat and vegetable pie, or an apple pie
And to dispel the myth that Gascony is an area whose agriculture remains rooted in the past , Gascony also grows a third of all the popcorn produced in Europe.
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 Médoc which include the most prestigious of Grand Cru clarets.
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
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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