Show Notes for Episode 475: Hidden Gems of the Gers

Categories: Day -Trips from Toulouse, Toulouse Area

Discussed in this Episode

  • Flaran Abbey
  • Montréal
  • Fourcès
  • Séviac
  • Larressingle
  • Gimont
  • Auch
  • Condom
  • Gers Department

THE GERS: a rural peaceful corner of France


The Abbey of Flaran

The villages of Montreal and Fources

The Roman site of Séviac

The tiny, medieval, walled village of Larressingle

The department of the Gers is one of the most rural in France. Almost exclusively devoted to agriculture, (corn, wheat, tobacco, and grapevines; and ducks and geese for meat and foie gras) it has a total population of just about 200,000 for an area that is quite large. A major part of what was once the kingdom of Gascony, the department was created at the time of the Revolution. The name comes from the small river, the Gers that runs north/south through the department.

There are no major train lines, autoroutes or airports in the Gers. The closest are in Toulouse, Agen, Montauban or eventually Bordeaux, and its biggest city, Auch, has only 23,000 people.

But the Gers is beautiful without being a spectacular, dramatic landscape. Endless rolling hills, valleys, and small rivers, make it a bucolic heaven. There is little noise, hardly any major industry and many, many tiny villages and historical sites to see. Famous for its food, relying heavily on duck and goose, and local vegetables, not to mention the famous “crousade” made with apples and a dash of armagnac, people come to the Gers to have a less hurried experience.

How many of you have visited sites in the Gers Department? This large rural region, west of Toulouse, southeast of Bordeaux and south of the Dordogne/Lot area, has many wonderful historical sites, tiny villages, abbeys, and chateaux to visit.

Home to the Mousquetaires, the Gers area is a major part of what was the kingdom of Gascony, which is where the famous “good” king, Henry IV, came from. For centuries the language spoken there was Gascon, a variation of Occitan and the local people still have a nice accent when speaking French. In the town of Condom, which has many armagnac “caves” there is a wonderful statue of the three Mousquetaires, since they always came from Gascony, otherwise, the Gers

There are many bastides in the Gers. These are the “new” villages created starting in the 1200’s by the Count of Toulouse and then his son in law, to repopulate an ancient area filled with forests and hills that had been emptied by war and disease. These “new” villages, like the two we visited, Montreal and Fources, have the market in the center and the streets are either straight lines or concentric circles around the center. Bastides are specific to the southwest of France, and the Gers has many.

Montreal du Gers is a beautiful bastide with many old houses, several restaurants, a large covered market center and beautiful stone structures. It is also on the road to Compostelle and is an “official” stop over for any pilgrim on the road.

Fources, just a few kilometers away, is a surprising, pretty, and tiny village also built as a bastide, but in a circle. Filled with old medieval houses and surrounded by a river and a park, it is a place to stop and have a photo op and maybe a coffee or a bnb.

The area was famous in the 1400’s and 1500’s for producing the famous plant, Pastel, (woad in british english) that makes a blue dye. Even now, in the town of Lectoure, there is a small business that continues to produce textiles and cosmetics made from this plant, sold in boutiques all over the southwest.

There are many abbeys and old historical churches. We visited one, the Abbey de Flaran, next to the village of Fleurance. An incredible, ancient Cistercian monastery from the 1100’s it now is home to a cultural center and beautiful gardens. It is visitable all year long.

There are also famous Roman sites in the Gers. One of the most spectacular is the Villa of Séviac in western Gers. This incredible site has some of the best preserved mosaics of any Roman villa in France. A villa was a plantation surrounded by cultivated land, usually a “second” home to a rich, important Roman family. Very well organized and documented, visiting Séviac gives you an idea of how the upper class Romans lived almost two thousand years ago.

Among the other surprising sites in the Gers, is the tiny walled village of Larressingle in the western part of the Gers. This mini Carcassonne, once home to a local lord, has kept its medieval walls, its Romanesque chapel and a major part of the feudal château. Inside the fortified village are a couple of shops, a couple of restaurants, and even a cultural center that has exhibits in the summer.

Surrounded by farmland and enclosed in a moat, it is a tiny jewel of medieval architecture.

Besides these places that we visited there are many many more sites to see. It is possible to rent a room in a Bed and Breakfast, or in a small hotel in one of the larger villages, and spend a day or two exploring the area.

There are many other places we did not visit as you can only do so much in one day

Lavardens, a huge, fortified castle and village that sits on a hill and is also an art center now.

 La Romieu, an abbey that is part of the pilgrimage route and has a lovely cloister.

Eauze, the town near Séviac, that has a museum of Roman artifacts and a lovely old center.

Gimont, a small town that is home to the most important market for ducks, geese and foie gras

Auch, the main city of the Gers, famous for its catherdral with enormous stained glass windows and sculpted wooden stalls.

Marciac, a large bastide in the southwest of the Gers that is home to a very famous and important jazz festival where the “GREATS” have played

There is so much to see and it is nice to be in an area that is not overrun by tourists all the time

Surpise yourself, and spend a holiday in the Gers!

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Categories: Day -Trips from Toulouse, Toulouse Area