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The choice is endless, so here are just some ideas -

Walking - minor walking circuits of from 1 - 5 hours, marked and suiting all ages. Or sample a section of one of 4 Santiago de Compostela pilgrim routes passing through the Gers, including the closest to Au Chicot, Grande Route 65. A “voie verte” (the former railway line from Condom to Mouchan) offers good walking on the flat.

Lakes - for a range of water sports, including waterskiing, windsurfer hire, pedaloes. Many have sandy beaches and water chutes - the nearest are at Castera-Verduzan, Gondrin, Montreal, Lupiac, Lectoure, (the 'Lac des Trois Vallees', which also offers mini-golf) and St Clar, south-east of Lectoure.  For fishing, lists of sites, plus daily/weekly permits available from tourist offices;

Rivers - the River Baise, eg, for fishing, boat trips/hire (license not necessary) from Condom, and from Nerac, a lovely town just over the border in Lot-et-Garonne; canoe hire from Beaucaire, near Valence-sur-Baise;

Water park - for a full day's entertainment, consider visiting Walibi Aquitaine, with activities for tinies and upwards, plus white knuckle rides, a variety of eateries and shops. About 35 mins away, one excursion you'll need a few more euros for, but tickets give good value. Special events and shows in summer. A62, exit 7, 5 kms from Agen, Lot-et-Garonne;

Thermal spas - big in France, why not treat yourself to the pampering options of one of three centres in the Gers? The nearest to Au Chicot is at Castera-Verduzan, 20 mins, a wonderful hot springs spa founded during the reign of Louis XV. Through its quality care, sports, therapeutic and aquatic pleasures, the spa helps to heal and re-energise.

Cycling - with hardly any traffic, this is perfect cycling territory, and cycle and cross-country bike tracks are also well-distributed. Hire details available from tourist offices. Head for Labastide d'Armagnac, 26 miles distant in the department of the Landes, and visit the small country chapel, Notre-Dame-des-Cyclistes - France's own official sanctuary for bicycle racers. Electrically assisted bikes can be hired in Condom to  cope with the undulating countryside.

Golf - 4 courses within 15 - 35 mins, nearest being the beautiful wooded 18-hole Golf de Guinlet, near Eauze; if combining golf with gastronomy sounds tempting, tee up at the delightful 18-hole Golf d'Auch-Embats with its renowned restaurant; for 9 challenging holes, try Golf de Fleurance, and, into Lot-et-Garonne, at Barbaste, is the 18-hole Golf d'Albret. Just under an hour away, near Marciac, is the Golf de Pallanne, now 18 holes, winding around an 18C chateau with the Pyrenees as a backdrop.

Horse riding - at several local centres, including Les Ecuries d'Armagnac, at Valence-sur-Baise, which also offers hacks in the woods and hills. English spoken;

Tennis - nearest courts at Valence-sur-Baise, Condom, Gondrin, Eauze, Castera-Verduzan;

Quad-biking - about 25 mins from the house, near Roquelaure, to the north of Auch;

Horse-racing and trotting - closest at Castera-Verduzan, also at Auch and Fleurance in March, August and September. Yet to try, we're told racecourse lunches are cheap, and lots of fun;

Car and bike racing - Circuit Paul Armagnac at Nogaro, 30 miles west, is regarded as technically testing. Monthly events from Feb '05 onwards; highlights are Formula 3 events at Easter and in Sept;

Getting airborne - gliding available at the Gliding Centre at Auch, and at Nogaro, microlighting at Gondrin, paragliding and hang-gliding at St Clar;

Antiques and brocante - fairs and markets throughout season, including fleamarkets in Fleurance; a good selection of shops in main towns, specialising in quality antiques through to bric-a-brac. Deatils are on “vide-greniers.org”

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