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The Gers

In the first part of the 18C, Auch, now capital of the department became the administrative centre of the Duchy of Gascony. This embraced a huge triangle west of Toulouse, from the Garonne River to the north as far as the crest of the Pyrenees. Although Gascony ceased to exist in 1789, following the French Revolution, locals still regard themselves as Gascons. The Gascon hero Charles de Batz-Castlemore was the inspiration for the character of D'Artagnan, from Dumas' novel 'The Three Musketeers', and served under Louis XIV. He came from the pretty village of Lupiac, south of Au Chicot.

The Gers is a nature-lover's delight with wildlife including buzzards, owls, eagles, woodpeckers, boar, deer, and red squirrels. The purity of Gers air renders it ideal for painters and photographers too: colours are brighter, objects sharper. In many parts, little lanes travel across the ridges of hills, and on either side, as far as the eye can see, is a landscape of dream-like quality. Walking is a real pleasure in countryside which gently undulates and where road traffic is remarkably light.

The local tourist offices, where English is spoken, offer precise information on many activities in the area including night markets (operating in the summer), classical music concerts and other Gers events, plus opening hours for the attractions listed in the following pages. History lovers will find close to Au Chicot architectural gems of world class, some dating back to Gallo-Roman times. Usually small, (but often of significant historical interest) they are easily explored. Many are free.

There are any number of restaurants, at lunchtime filled with locals and offering varied and hearty Gascon food (duck in various forms, and foie gras the main specialties) at low cost. There is also a surprising number of restaurants with more varied and sophisticated menus. As well as Armagnac, Gascony produces some fine, characterful red wines, the best-known being Madiran. A list of recommended restaurants, still growing, can be found at the house.

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