Friday, August 30, 2013

Getaway day in the Gers

Overcast skies didn't put a damper on our recent day trip to the Gers. Instead, we agree that gray is preferable to the triple-digit (F) temperatures we slogged through on last month's outing to Les Eyzies and the soaking we got on our spring mini-vacation to Rocamadour.

Our guest, Laurent, a Frenchman who is staying with us for two weeks to improve his English, insists on driving, so we enjoy the two-hour drive south in BMW style.

The Gers, at the northern edge of Gascony, is known for its farms and bastides, garlic and foie gras, geese and oies plus. At least one guide book claims the region has more geese than people, along with a few million free-range chickens and ducks. The same book (Cadogan Guides) says Gers "looks much as it did in the time of its most famous son, the semi-fictional fourth musketeer d'Artagnan."

Our first stop, for coffee and toilettes, is Fourcès, one of just a few medieval bastides laid out in a circle. Careful attention to detail by residents and propriétaires, along with its 15th-century Tour de l'Horloge on the River Auzoue help Fourcès earn its Les Plus Beaux Villages de France designation.

Caffeine-fortified, we head a few kilometers south for a quick look at the medieval church in Mouchan, constructed as a stop for pilgrims en route to Compostela. The church doesn't open until 1500h, so we take  a quick walk around its perimeter and continue on to Larressingle.

I first read about Laressingle a few months ago and immediately knew I had to see this tiny fortress, called the Carcassonne of the Gers. My photos would have benefited from blue skies, but we still enjoy our hour there, inspecting the stone walls and listening to Laurent, in ever-better English, share his vast knowledge of French history. Ken, meanwhile, checks out the medieval war paraphernalia and gets in a bit of a bind.

As lunchtime approaches, we arrive in Condom. In addition to a museum chronicling the production of Armagnac, Condom is home (I swear!) to the Musée des Preservatifs, dedicated to rubbers. As intriguing as that sounds, instead of museum hopping, we eat pizza and pose for pictures with the Four Musketeers beside the Cathedrale St-Pierre. We also stroll along the Baïse River, but find it a little murky, much like the city itself.

Our last stop is the sweet little village of La Romieu, the day's highlight for me. My previous blog post tells the story of Angeline and her cats, who, legend says, saved the village from famine around seven hundred years ago. In addition to l'adorables statues de chats, La Romieu's most popular site is its Collegiate church, cloisters and tower. Since I'd rather not pay admission to visit a church, we just peek in the gate and soak in the village ambience until we are satiated with quaintness and head home.

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