For some of you, Gascony is the tale of D’Artagnan and the three Musketeers, but for those of us privileged to have lived in or visited this beautiful and as yet, truly unspoiled part of the South West of France, it is the paradise!
Gascony is a vast area, long fought over by the French, Romans, British and Spanish. It is a land rich in culture and as diverse in its history. There lies evidence in almost every village of its earlier invaders and inhabitants, going back to 2000 years.
The Gers (county which is the center and most famous part of Gascony) lies south of Bordeaux, North of the Pyrenees Mountains, east of a 200 miles stretch of white sand Atlantic beaches from Biarritz to Arcachon, and west of Toulouse.
The Cotes de Gascogne region doesn’t have the international recognition it truly deserves. It should, for it produces wines of outstanding character. When you couple the wines, Armagnac and aperitif Floc de Gascogne, with the Gascon cuisine such as foie gras, magret de canard (duck breast) and confit de canard, you will know you have discovered the great gastronomy of Gascony. The Gers’ highly acclaimed stamp of approval on their meat and produce attests for having been raised or grown “in plein air!”
Then add the rolling vineyards and carpeted hills of sunflowers and field of yellow flax and you know you are in paradise. With food and beverage aside, this is an area of great beauty and charm and yet it is still relatively untouched and waiting to be discovered.
There are few fancy cars and few signs of overt and extravagant displays of wealth. What you will find are happy, smiling, healthy land-loving people. Many attest that it’s due to the daily consumption of fat from the goose, which is used in all kinds of Gascon cooking. With the average life expectancy rate in this part of France at 94 years, who would argue?
Living in Gascony is indeed another way of life. It’s tranquil, slow, yet refreshing and enlightening. It is also a region where people possess a strong and individual identity.
The Gers has a unique and enviable South West climate. It is protected from the harsh Atlantic winds in winter by its neighbor to the West, the Landes department and is sheltered from snow in winter by the tall Pyrenees and it enjoys mild and early springs, often calling in February. The long languorous summers continue well into October and finally close with a late autumn before the onset of winter in late November. Bathed in magnificent light and sunshine for almost 9 months of the year and with a relatively dry climate, the Gers makes for excellent outdoor recreational activities and almost year round al-fresco dining. In summer, day temperatures climb up into the high 80’s and low 90’s, with spring and fall hovering in the mid 70’s. Refreshingly, the nights stay cool, with no need for air conditioning. It is close to the climate of Napa and Sonoma Valleys. No wonder some of the wines here could easily stand alongside some of the premium wines of California, but with out the same price tag.
Whatever your dreams, if you have an interest in France, come and visit Gascony. Once you do, it will be hard to tempt you away.