Holidays in the departement Gers
© Emmanuelle BOYÉ
The Gers, land of D'Artagnan, charms the visitor with its gently rolling countryside, its picturesque villages with traditional Gascon houses, its colourful and lively markets and the good humour of the country folk. All these attractive features will encourage the visitor to rest a while and enjoy themselves.
The Gers is synonymous with a lush and verdant rolling countryside, with a bright light and soft evening hews, emphasizing and complementing the beauty of a “pigeonnierî, cypress, and Gascon women. These factors have all contributed to the region being known as the French Tuscany.
Rural Gers is well known throughout France for its marvellous food. Locally bred ducks are used to make renowned foie gras, confit (preserved duck), magret (duck breast), gésiers (gizzards preserved in duck fat), cou farci (neck stuffed with foie gras), rillettes and pâtés. Attend any local meals or banquets and you are sure to find on the table a selection of these delicacies. As desserts, the apple croustade or pastis gascon, served warm and flavoured with Armagnac are the finishing touch to a most satisfactory culinary experience. Do not forget the corn fed chicken, truly free range, roasted with whole unpeeled cloves of garlic, a meal fit for a king.
In the North East of the Gers, the main crop is garlic. In the Summer, start or finish your meal with the refreshing taste of the Lectoure melon, grown in and around the town of the same name.
But what to drink with such succulent dishes? The Gascon aperitif par excellence is floc, red or white, light and pleasant, it is the subtle blending of grape juice and Armagnac.
In the Gallo-roman Villa of Séviac, one can find remains of the old tradition of wine growing in the Gers. So you could be offered any selection of Saint-Mont, Côtes de Gascogne or Madiran wine. And after coffee, to crown the meal, it would be Armagnac that you would drink, perhaps appreciating the subtle differences between the three appellations: Haut-Armagnac, Ténarèze and Bas Armagnac.
© Emmanuelle BOYÉ
Don't be fooled by the laid-back way of life and the gently rolling countryside, the Gascons love to party. Apart from the local “fêtesî that colour the lives of the villages throughout the year, there are festivals which have acquired a regional, national and even international reputation.
The Festival of Bandas in Condom gathers each year more than 1000 musicians and 20.000 visitors. The good-humoured party lasts for 3 days, starting each day at midday and finishing in the early hours of the morning.
The Festival of Country Music in Mirande transforms this quiet gersois village into a busy American frontier town, with cowboys, entertainment, a motorbike rally and hot air balloon flights.
In July, the Tempo-Latino Festival in Vic-Fezensac attracts large crowds keen on Cuban and Latin music, as well as salsa dancing.
Last but not least, , the world renowned Jazz in Marciac Festival is a magnet for jazz lovers from around the world, where they can listen to the great international jazz musicians and singers during the first two weeks in August.
Other “feriasî are also very popular with the locals, notably the Whit sun Corrida in Vic-Fezensac, where the bulls are supplied by some of the best ganaderias in Spain and where renowned toreros perform.
In the summer, “les courses landaisesî, a bloodless form of bull fighting, takes place in many towns, including Nogaro, Estang, Cazaubon, Montréal du Gers, Vic-Fezensac, etc.
BASTIDES AND CASTELNAUX
© UDOTSI Gers
The Middle Ages have left their legacy in this region by way of, notably, the foundation of many “bastidesî or new towns, essentially built during the second half of the 13th century. The Gers is dotted with these picturesque villages with their streets crossing at right angles and their square occupied by a covered market, centre of the trading life of the village : Montréal, Fourcès, Valence, Fleurance, Marciac, Mirande, Gimont, Cologne, Mauvezin and many others.
The “castelnauxî, less in number but no less interesting, are villages often built on a hill under the protection of the local lord and his château : Lavardens, Larressingle, Castelnau-Barbarens.
On the same principle, but under the protection of the Church, one finds the “sauvetésî: Nogaro, Simorre or Saint Mont.
All these villages, full of charm, have kept for the most part their character to this day.
There are plentiful examples of both civil and religious architecture from the Middle Ages. Often, around a bend in the road, the outline of a gascon château will take your breath away. Lagardère, Maignaut, la Tour de Thermes or the fortified tower in Bassoues are magnificent examples of medieval defensive architecture.
Also to wonder at are the religious buildings decorated with ornate sculptures on their portals, tympanums, columns and modillions : Nogaro, Tasque and Mouchan.
RIVER CRUISING THE PILGRIMS WAY TO SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA
© Clévacances Gers
Two routes to Santiago pass through the Gers : the northern one coming from Le Puy and the southern one from Provence. The former goes through Lectoure, La Romieu, Condom and Nogaro; the latter through l'Isle Jourdain, Gimont, Auch and l'Isle de Noé.
Many buildings and monuments on the routes : chapels, churches, old hospitals, crosses and fountains attest to their enduring importance for many thousands pilgrims even to this day.
The popularity of the pilgrims way can be seen in the number of hostels, guest houses and B&Bs on the routes. Three monuments are world heritage sites : la Collégiale de La Romieu, the bridge at Artigues and the Cathedral in Auch.
THE TOWNS OF ART AND MUSEUMS
The Gers has four museums, particularly interesting for the originality and value of the exhibits. Among them the Archaeological Museum in Lectoure, undoubtedly the oldest in Gascony having been identified since 15th century, has a unique collection of church altars, called “tauroboliquesî (2nd & 3rd centuries).
A time to dream, relax and while away one's time : yes that is possible on the River Baise. It is navigable in the Gers from Valence to Moncrabeau and in the Lot et Garonne as far as Saint Léger. There are two options, either in a group on the D'artagnan from Condom to Valence-sur-Baise, or by hiring your own boat from Buzet, Castlemoron, Condom, Agen or Damazan. For families you can also discover the river Baise by canoe from Beaucaire.
THE OPEN SKIES
To continue dreaming among the stars in the evenings go to the “Ferme Des Etoilesî in Mauroux. The astronomic festival in Fleurance is now well known. It takes place for one week in August each year and offers a complete programme, open to all, including star gazing evenings, conferences, workshops, children's entertainment and exhibitions. The festival is organised and run by astrophysicists of international reputation.