Welcome to the French Tuscany! Land of d’Artagnan, fields of sunflowers bathed in golden sunshine, undulating vineyards on hilly land: in one word, the Gers.
Sarrant, city of illustration
Sarrant is one of the most beautiful villages in France. For several years, it has been home to an illustration festival. In 2022, it was the Swiss screen printer Christian Humbert-Droz who was the master of ceremonies. His works, as well as those of his friend Mirjana Farkas, were exhibited throughout the summer. The city’s walls are also home to street art. Another major event in August is the pottery market. And all year round, a bookshop called “Des livres et Vous” is the beating heart of the village and offers generous “tartines” to be enjoyed under its shady terrace.
Condom, stronghold of Armagnac
Condom, as its name does not indicate, is famous for his Armagnac. The town has been the cradle of Armagnac since the Middle Ages. It is indeed surrounded by vines which produce the white wine used to create the precious elixir. It is impossible not to stop in front of the famous statue of the Musketeers. Recently, a cloister has also been converted into a theatre. There is a good range of restaurants, but they are overcrowded in summer. I tried the bistro Saint Pierre and its hidden garden. It offers an attractive menu (24 euros) with local dishes: local salad, duck confit, croustade (a dessert) and musketeer ice cream (with Armagnac of course). If you like d’Artagnan, stop in the area around Condom, in Lupiac, his native village. And don’t miss Fources, the most atypical village in the Gers with its snail shape.
Otherwise, you don’t need to go to Canada to discover Montreal! Montréal-du-Gers is a charming little village surrounded by vineyards which hosts a typical Gers village festival in the central square in August. Not far away, lost a little further in the vineyards, you will find the Roman Villa of Seviac, a set of Roman thermal baths with superb mosaics very well preserved. In fact, the vine was already represented on the mosaics of the villa dating from the Lower Roman Empire!
On the roads of the Auch Region
The city of Auch is worth a visit for its monumental staircase and its museum of the Americas. In the surrounding area, visit the small villages of Aubiet or Gimont, surrounded by fields of sunflowers, and real duck lands. Every Sunday morning, Gimont offers a fat market, mischievously called “les grasses matinées” (a French play of word with “sleeping in”). For the record, Gimont is also the birthplace of two great names of canned food, Comtesse du Barry and the Ducs de Gascogne. You can taste them with wine from local vineyards, such as Esquiro, between Auch and Lectoure, which you can visit.
The castle of Lavardens
The Pays d’Auch is covered with castles. In Lavardens, still one of the most beautiful villages in France, the castle regularly hosts exhibitions. The castle is thus a splendid setting for the triennial of art glassmakers. We also discovered the English artist Perry Taylor, who sketches Gers life with his british humour. Not surprisingly, he was present at the English evening of the famous Jazz in Marciac festival…
Jazz in Marciac
In the Val d’Adour, there is the small village of Marciac. Every year, the village is transformed by its famous jazz festival, which has been going on for 40 years. During 2 weeks, the biggest names of the jazz scene invade the small village with music. So I went there for the English evening, with Jamie Cullum, as a guest star. But also the modern jazz of the British band Gogo Penguin, which I let you discover if it is not already done…
I could have told you about the Fleurance astronomy festival (the sky is particularly clear in this region), about Larroque sur Osse, about the Peto domain and its bamboo labyrinth… but I think I would need another little bit of summer to even scratch the surface of the Gers and its beauties.
*Music: Gogo Penguin*
How to get there? By SNCF train to Toulouse then regional trains (io) with interesting offers over summer, or local buses. For the brave, even if it is very hilly, you could rent a bike?