In Praise of Gascony

If you are seeking the authentic French experience, we can thoroughly recommend Gascony – our very own corner of South West France…… home to the Three Musketeers, fois gras, fine wines and Condom. Also home to some of the friendliest, most welcoming people in France, who take great pride in the area’s gastronomy.

The Gers, which makes up a big part of the Gascony region, is all about the simple stress-free pleasures of life – like ‘people watching’ from a street café on market day… croissant crumbs on the pile of postcards you had great intentions to write, before the distractions of French life took over. People are friendly here; time is an elusive concept, defined not by minutes but by conversations. The Gers landscape is stunning – soft, rolling hills reminiscent of Tuscany host endless vines and fields of sunflowers all bathed in sunshine. The roads are largely empty – especially so at lunchtime, but then why would you be on the road at lunchtime? With so many great restaurants to experience you really are spoilt for choice. Bear in mind that these are generally independent businesses – there are very few ‘chain’ restaurants in this part of France – and the chefs take a great pride in their reputation. For the most authentic Gascon experience, look for the white vans parked outside – locals always know the best places to eat.

If white vans are the quality sign for the Gascon bistros, then whicker baskets at the market is another sign of local endorsement. Food markets are thriving here, with seasonal and local produce direct from producers taking centre stage. Our favourite French food markets are found at Eauze, Florence and Nerac – each about 20 minutes away from Le Petit Cochon and Valence sur Baïse.

French food markets offer one side of the equation but no visit would be complete without exploring the many wine, floc (a local speciality) and Armagnac producers. There is a fine Armagnac museum in Condom, which is the perfect introduction before setting out for the local chateaus. As well as being local to our Bed & Breakfast at Valence sur Baïse, we recommend the chateau de Caissaigne or chateau de MonLuc at St Puy – for reasons of great wine, friendliness and the lovely setting each is in.

If taking a temporary rest from all things food related, a visit to the Abbaye de Flaran comes highly recommended. The Abbaye houses an internationally renowned collection of modern art that really is a joy to explore.

This is simply a snapshot of the joys of Gascony. Using the bastide town of Valence sur Baïse as a base, there is so much to explore and really a four or five day break is easily filled. With the bigger towns of Agen and Auch within easy drives, a visit to the Gers offers a little bit of everything – except possibly seaside !

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