The fabled medieval villages and fertile fields that comprise the region known as Gascony have much to offer travelers, without the distraction of crowds.Lying as it does south of the main autoroute linking Bordeaux and Toulouse,
Gascony is far enough off the beaten path to retain its identity, yet established enough to cater wonderfully to tourists who find themselves within its fabled boundaries.
If you are already living or vacationing in France try a sampling of one of my most popular daily detours or long weekend adventures, a perfect combination of travel, enjoyment, and learning.
For over 159 years, millions of the faithful have flocked to the small French village of Lourdes nestled at the foothills of the Pyrenees Mountains in southwestern France, where it is said the sick can be miraculously healed. In 1858, the Virgin Mary was thought to have appeared eighteen times to a local girl, Bernadette Soubirous. We will visit the famous Grotto of Massabielle where Bernadette experienced her visions and where a healing spring still flows. We will explore the Rosary, St. Pius X and Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Basilicas. After lunch in a local restaurant we may visit the Chateau Fort of Lourdes perched on a hill overlooking the village, or ride the Funicular of the Pic du Jer for a spectacular view of the surrounding valley. Whether you’re a believer or a skeptic you won’t leave Lourdes without feeling affected
Located in the village of Temple-sur-Lot, this special nursery was founded in 1875 by Joseph Bory Latour-Marliac for the propagation, cultivation and commercialization of hardy water lilies. In 1889 Latour-Marliac exhibited his remarkable collection at the World’s Fair in Paris and won first prize in the flower category, exhibiting a whole palette of colors ranging from delicate yellows to deep reds. More importantly, however, the lilies caught the eye of the painter, Claude Monet. Monet ordered water lilies from Latour-Marliac, and it was these that inspired his famous paintings, Les Nymphéas. We will tour these unique gardens and have lunch at the terrace café overlooking the pond.
Bleu de Pastel Dye Workshop
We will join Annette Hardouin, Maître Artisan Métier d’Art et Académicienne des Arts et des Sciences du Pastel – at her studio in Toulouse for a hands-on dyeing class using blue pigment from the woad plant. Woad is a plant in the mustard family, the leaves of which have been used since antiquity to produce a “pastel” blue dye. The Egyptians, Greeks and Romans used woad as a sacred medicinal plant. During the middle ages and Renaissance, the three basic colors were white, red and black. After its introduction, pastel was also the only source of blue dye available until the late 16th century. Blue-dyed fabrics became a luxury and many fortunes were made in its cultivation and production. We will learn the history of woad, dye fabrics, and have lunch afterwards in one of Toulouse’s fine restaurants.
The Iriseraie de Papon
The breathtaking iris farm just outside of the village of Laplume offers a collection of 2,500 different varieties of irises for viewing and purchase. There are 5 fields – one for walking through and 4 for selecting from.
Should you decide to buy some irises for your own garden, a very cheerful man with a long-handled spiked tool in one hand and bags in another, will follow you around while you choose. He will tell you how to plant and care for the ones you’ve selected. What makes irises a perfect addition to your garden is that they are resistant to frost and drought if planted correctly and only decay when too much fertilizer, herbicide or water are used.
Contrary to popular folklore, the iris does not change color, but the color variations are endless.We will lunch together at a charming restaurant in Agen.
Flea markets, vide-greniers, gather crowds of devotees and onlookers in search of a bargain, a rare item, a decorating idea or a souvenir.
The Barcelone-du-Gers vide-grenier is the top of the list of must-see flea markets which takes place the first Thursday in August. Join me on this 4 day antiquing extravaganza.
Friday we’ll visit the 13th century Château of the Counts of Armagnac, an antique treasure chest in the bastide of Lectoure. Lunch will be at the fabulous L’Atelier Gourmand restaurant.
Saturday we’ll wander the vide-grenier in the old Roman village of Eauze. Lunch will be at Henri IV, and on Sunday we’ll choose the best offering to punctuate this long weekend with lunch at the Auberge in Larressingle.