Classic Gascony in the Gers
A Culinary Adventure
JUNE 18-27, 2023
JULY 9-18, 2023
These are small group tours for no more than 6 people.
Gascony is a well-kept secret. Bordered on the west by the Atlantic Ocean, the east by Toulouse, the north by Bordeaux and the south by the Pyrenees Mountains, this unspoiled paradise is far enough off the beaten path to retain its unique identity, yet established enough to accommodate travelers. Here you’ll discover an intimate portrait of French rural life without the distraction of crowds. The only pause in the region’s tranquility are the many summer festivals and convivial farmers’ markets. Nowhere in the south will a traveler find a warmer welcome.
The heart of Gascony lies in the Gers-an intensely agricultural corner of France sprinkled with traditional family-owned farms rich with nature’s bounty. During the summer months, white clouds languish in clear blue skies above rows of brilliant yellow sunflowers, golden wheat, and emerald green vineyards that stretch to the horizon.
Eating and drinking are two of the most compelling reasons to visit the Gers. Its most famous products are duck, foie gras, wild mushrooms, garlic, and Armagnac, France’s oldest brandy. The Gers also produces fine wines, worthy rivals to Bordeaux vintages.
Since the love of good food and community is at the heart of French village life, there is no better way to step into the rhythm of a country day than through the marketplace, where locals gather to shop and share stories.
We’ll visit farmers’ markets offering dazzling displays of seasonal produce and tantalizing delicacies; take an all-day, hands-on, farm-to-table cooking workshop in an idyllic medieval village; visit family-run wineries, and Armagnac distilleries that preserve their connection to the land, and are central to this region’s way of life.
We’ll tour beautiful châteaux, wander through fortified villages steeped in history, visit local farms, ancient abbeys, and dine at charming restaurants offering outstanding rural, yet innovative cuisine. Most importantly, we’ll enjoy the art of slow travel, the perfect way to experience the French joie de vivre.
There’s no better way to step into the rhythm of the countryside than through a class at the local cooking school, Atelier Cuisine, in the medieval storybook village of Fourcès. We will spend the day with cookbook author, and teacher, Laura Washburn Hutton. Laura trained at the prestigious Paris school, Ecole de Cuisine la Varenne, worked as an assistant to the renowned American food writer, Patricia Wells, and the influential French chef, Joel Robüchon. Aperitifs and lunch will be served afterwards in her garden.
We will visit the utterly charming village of Labastide
d’Armagnac, little changed since 1291, then tour the 12th
century Domaine d’Ognoas in Arthez d’Armagnac. Ognoas
has one of the oldest working stills in Gascony. Every year its wood-fired still heats 800 hectoliters of wine which, once
distilled provides 150 hectoliters of Armagnac that will be aged for no less than 10 years and no more than 40. We’ll have lunch under the shade of Les Tilleuls’ ancient Linden trees followed by a winetasting at Domaine de Pellehaut.
For an unusual morning and afternoon, we’ll visit the village of Aignan’s Les Ferme aux Buffles, Buffalo Farm. Riding in a 4×4 truck we’ll view the herd in the park, a stone’s throw from the spring where they bathe. Perched on a raised terrace at the edge of the forest with a view of the Pyrenees Mountains, we’ll enjoy a Gascon picnic of duck pâté with Armagnac, black pork sausage, crusty bread, and local cheese accompanied by wines of the region: Côte de Gascogne, St. Mont, Madiran, and Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh.
Éauze is the capital of the Bas Armagnac region and offers one of the liveliest, and largest agricultural markets in the Gers. The market takes place along the ring of the old town and under the plane-tree canopied, Place d’Armagnac. We will wander through the market which sells everything from fresh produce, roasting chickens, and local cheeses, to
clothes, cookware and kitchen towels.
Our lunch will be served on the intimate terrace of the Henri IV Restaurant. After dining we will drive a short distance to the Domaine de Lagajan, an 11 generation, family run Armagnac distillery. We’ll be welcomed to sit under the shade of their 600 year old oak tree to taste what is arguably some of the best Armagnac in the region. Lagajan also makes a delicious aperitif named Floc, flower of Gascony, a blend of grape juice and Armagnac.
The village of Lectoure, once inhabited by the Counts of
Armagnac, the great territorial lords, has a patrician air about it visible in the grandeur of its lovely stone buildings.
Lectoure is known for growing the sweetest melons in the region, and one-third of all the garlic in France. We will
meander down Lectoure’s one long main street during
We will have lunch at the intimate restaurant, Le Bonheur est dans le Pré. Afterwards we can indulge ourselves at the Village des Brocanteurs, which houses thousands of antiques for sale in the former château of the Counts of Armagnac. On our way back to Les Bruhasses we’ll stop in the village of Saint Puy and visit Château Monluc, built on the remains of a 13th century castle. Monluc Is famous for its orange infused aperitif, Pousse Rapière,
Today we will visit Auch, the capital of the Gers. which has a pretty setting overlooking the Gers River. Of Basque and Celtic origins, Auch grew in importance during the middle ages. Just across its main square set with elegant monuments, is the 15th-century Cathedral Sainte.Marie, its interior surrounded by 18 magnificent stained glass windows created by the master glassmaker, Arnaud de Moles.
After breakfast we will gather to tour the 12th-century
Cistercian, Abbaye de Flaran just outside the village of
Valence-sur-Baïse. The abbey showcases local art
exhibitions, as well as works by Cézanne, Renoir, Matisse,
Monet, and Braque. There is also a small museum dedicated to the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route through the Gers. in the village of Castera Verduzan, lunch at the gourmet restaurant, Le Florida.
For those that want to rest for the remainder of the afternoon, we will return to Les Bruhasses. For those who would like a bit more adventure we can visit the 2nd century Roman ruins at Seviac, below the village of Montréal du Gers.
Barbotan-les-Thermes dates back to ancient Roman times
when it was known for its healing mineral and mud baths,
which exist today in more modern surroundings. Visitors
walk the long promenade during the colorful Wednesday
market. Here one can taste delicious samples of Basque
cheeses, Armagnac soaked prunes, and succulent melons.
We will have lunch on the secluded patio of the 5 star, Relais et Château, La Bastide Hotel & Spa.
We will depart for Blagnac airport in Toulouse.
10 days, 9 nights.
$4,195.00 per person