Fortified Gascony in the Gers

A Medieval Village, Wine and Armagnac Adventure
 

JUNE 20-29, 2022

JULY 4-13, 2022 Sold Out

JULY 18-27, 2022 Sold Out

These are small group tours for no more than 6 people.

Gascony is bordered on the west by the Atlantic Ocean, the east by Toulouse, the north by Bordeaux and the south by the Pyrenees Mountains. The heart of this land lies in the Gers department, possibly the most beautiful nowhere you’ll ever see.

During the summer months, white clouds languish in clear blue skies above rows of golden yellow sunflowers, and emerald green vineyards that stretch to the horizon. The Gers is the perfect place to experience a taste of tradition imbued with modern sensibilities.

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.

There are farmers’ markets every day of the week in different villages offering dazzling displays of seasonal produce and tantalizing delicacies for us to choose from.

We’ll visit family-run wineries that preserve their connection to the land to learn the fine points of local varietals for a better understanding of how winemaking is central to this region’s way of life.

We’ll tour Armagnac distilleries, France’s oldest brandy. made and enjoyed since the fourteenth century. We’ll wander through medieval villages steeped in history, take photographs, enjoy coffee and croissants in local cafés, and take lunch at charming restaurants offering outstanding rural, yet innovative cuisine.

Sometimes we’ll go to night markets, other times to antique or pottery markets. We’ll join in festivals and visit artists’ studios, and we may even enjoy a pastry class or learn the ancient art of bleu de pastel fabric dyeing. 

Most importantly, we will honor the serendipity of interesting experiences along the way and respect everyone’s individual pace and need for personal time.

Sample Itinerary

Day 1

Following your arrival at Blagnac Airport in Toulouse we will drive two hours due west, through some of the most bucolic landscapes you’re likely to experience in southern France. Isolated from the main highways and train lines, your accommodations will be at Chateau les Bruhasses, hidden among a three hectare park and surrounded by velvet green vineyards. Once settled, your hosts will provide a light dinner for you in the early evening.

Day 2

We will tour the 12th century Domaine d’Ognoas in Arthez d’Armagnac, which has the oldest working still in Gascony. Every year its wood-fired still heats 800 hectoliters of wine which, once distilled provides 150 hectoliters of Armagnac that will then be aged for no less than 10 years and no more than 40 in the estate’s oak barrels. After lunch we’ll visit the utterly charming village of Labastide d’Armagnac, little changed since 1291.

Day 3

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 under the plane-tree canopied, Place d’Armagnac. We will stroll through the market and sit under the shade of a plane tree canopy at Le Divan Café in the village square for coffee and croissants. Our lunch will be served on the intimate terrace of the Henri IV Restaurant. After dining we will have a tour of the Armagnac distillery, Domaine de Lagajan, family run for 11 generations.

Stature of D'Artagnan, one of the real Musketeers
Surrounded by some gorgeous countryside we’ll visit the village of Lupiac, home of Charles de Batz de Castelmore, legendary D’Artagnan, immortalized by Alexander Dumas. D’Artagnan was one of the Musketeers, a corps d’élite of 150 cadets commanded by the French King) which included Porthos, Athos and Aramis. Although Dumas romanticized his novel, D’Artagnan led an incredibly adventurous life to his last breath, dying in 1673 during the battle of Maastricht in the Netherlands .He was married to Dame de Saint Croix and had two sons. There is a a small museum dedicated to him with an audio presentation in English. His home (privately owned) is just outside the village proper.

Day 4

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 of the garlic in France. We will meander down Lectoure’s one long main street during market day, stopping on the way at Maison Baudequin Chocolaterie to savor hot chocolate delicious enough to rival the famous hot chocolate at Angelina’s in Paris. or sample Anne-Marie’s divine, homemade ganache truffles

After lunch there will be plenty of opportunity for shopping at one of Lectoure’s appealing boutiques or we can indulge ourselves at the Village des Brocanteurs, which houses thousands of antiques for sale in the former chateau of the Counts of Armagnac, On our way back to Les Bruhasses we’ll stop in the village of Saint Puy and tour Chateau Monluc, built on the remains of a 13th-century castle. It was the home of the writer and Maréchal of France under five kings, Blaise de Monluc. Chateau Monluc became famous for its aperitif, Pousse Rapière and Floc de Gascogne (grape juice and Armagnac) which are not sold outside of France. We will tour its underground vaulted cellar and sample its amazing range of products.

Day 5

Today we will venture into the southern edge of the Lot-et-Garonne department, to the lovely viilage of Nérac, which lies on both sides of the Baïse River. The Saturday market draws people from near and far. Arriving early, we will sample delicious pastries and coffee on the corner terrace of the best patisserie in town, then wander  the market and and meet to visit the remains of King Henri IV’s impressive chateau. Nérac was the summer home of King Henri IV of France and its examples of colombage, regionally distinct, half-timbered, buildings are beautiful. We will cross the river to the Parc Royal de la Garenne, once a royal hunting ground and the inspirational setting for Shakespeare’s Love’s Labours Lost before lunch.
In the afternoon we will have a private, guided tour of Château Le Fréchou, a stunning example of medieval and renaissance architecture, possibly followed by a visit to the Chèvrerie du Frisat, a very rural goat and goat cheese-making farm.

Day 6

For adventurous early risers, we will go to a vide-grenier, French country antique and flea market or alternatively there will be the opportunity to stay at your hotel. We will gather to tour the 12th-century Cistercian, Abbaye de Flaran just outside the village of Valence-sur-Baïse. For lunch we will drive to the village of Larresingle, and have lunch at the Auberge de Larressingle, just below France’s smallest 13th century fortified village. After lunch we’ll tour Larresingle, then cross over the Auzoue River by way of a 15th century stone bridge and enter Fourcès, considered one of the most beautiful villages in France. It is a perfect ensemble of medieval houses with sheltered arcades below.

In the afternoon we will tour Domaine de Pellehaut, one of the best wineries in the Gers. “Pellehaut” gets its name from the Roman word pila, bearing witness to the fact that vines were already grown at Pellehaut in Roman times.

Day 7

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. Emperor Napoléon said, “A cathedral like this should be put in a museum!”
Later in the day we will explore the Ferme de Hitton, a wonderful donkey and lavender farm. Hitton produces fabulous body creams and cosmetics that are sold throughout the region.

Day 8

Chateau de Lavardens, Gascony
We will tour the village of Lavardens, a densely built fortified village with a towering Chateau, once the stronghold of the Counts of Armagnac. Today this venue holds international art expositions. We will view the work by various glassmakers and Perry Taylor, a local, keen observer of Gascony life. With an affectionate wink and typically British sense of humor, he captures the landscapes and the inhabitants skillfully in his drawings and books. We will dine at the Chateau du Lavardens.
After lunch there will be a hands-on class on the fine art of making French Macarons, those delicious bite-sized bits of heaven, taught by the master pâtissier, Jean-Michel Fauché in the village of Vic-Fézensac

Day 9

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 drink coffee and nibble delicate amuses bouches on the secluded patio of the 5 star La Bastide Hotel & Spa, then wander down into the throng for a delicious country meal of confit de canard, Toulouse sausage or fresh Arcachon Bay oysters.
We will finish the day with a wine tasting at Domaine Chirolet. For 150 years, five generations have been working on a 45-hactare vineyard. Chirolet is one of the rare French terroirs that produce wines to accompany a before meal aperitif, as well as an after meal digestive.

Day 10

We will depart for Blagnac airport in Toulouse.

10 days, 9 nights.

$3,995.00 per person

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