The Gers (department number 32) is located in the region of Midi-Pyrénées and has an estimated population of 172,335 (approximate in 1999). The department is situated in the South West of France. The capital of the department is Auch with the towns of Mirande and Condom within the immediate area.
The department is named after the Gers River. The area is predominately agricultural and the gastronomy of the department is: Armagnac brandy, Côtes de Gascogne, Floc de Gascogne, Foie gras and wild mushrooms.
Why you should visit Gers for your next holiday in France
The department of Gers lies in the heart of Gascony, an area with a wealth of history and an abundance of castles and bastides. Another familiar characteristic of the area are the Armagnac vineyards, which produce the famous Armagnac brandy. Gers boasts beautiful rolling countryside as far as the eye can see with little ancient stone farms dotting the landscape.
A perfect holiday destination if you prefer to stay off the beaten track. With the exception of Auch, the department’s capital, there is not much to see in the way of monuments and important places of interest. But for gentle cycling, walking and simply relaxing, Gers is perfect.
Gers is the biggest producer of foie gras in the country and the gastronomy delights do not stop there. Other traditional dishes are magret de canard, confit of duck and goose, thick garbure soup and daube de por. A delicious tart of apple and Armagnac called croustade is another popular dish. Wines linked to the department are the red wines of Madiran, Buzet and St-Mont, and the whites of Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh.
The climate is a cross between Atlantic Maritime and Mediterranean. Early springs, long hot summers and short mild winters when it can be drizzly.
What to see in the Gers
Auch, the formal capital of Gascony, lies in the heart of the Armagnac region. The old town is built high above the River Gers and approached by narrow roads and long flights of stone steps. In every direction from Auch, the main roads and country lanes take you through the villages of this deeply rural part of the region, many of which are worth exploring.
The thirteenth century bastide town of Mirande was originally a fortified town, founded by monks. Today, parts of the old ramparts are still visible, although the majority are in ruins. The town has a fabulous arched gateway through which the pilgrims on the trail to Santiago de Compostela have to pass through.
Some fine examples of architecture of the era can be appreciated in the town and pleasant half-timbered houses make up the rest of the ancient streets. In addition to its historic side, Mirande also offers modern conveniences, traditional markets, a golf club and other sporting activities. Each July, Mirande hosts the annual Country Music Festival, a huge event which attracts over 30,000 people.
Condom is simply idyllic and picture postcard rural France. With attractive buildings and a friendly atmosphere, the town is lively but without seeming frantic and overcrowded by too many tourists. The town is built on the River Baïse and pleasant boat trips can be enjoyed. Fields of sunflowers and vineyards surround Condom and only add to this already perfect town.
A popular market offers the best of local produce and regional delicacies. Tennis, horse-riding, fishing and golf are all available locally and there are also some wonderful walks along the Pilgrim Route to Compostela.
The market town of Fleurance again offers a chance to experience true French living with restaurants serving up the best of French gastronomy, originating from Gers. Fleurance has an impressive arched and canopied market square with a fountain-statue in each corner representing each season. Stroll around several markets or visit the historic monument of the Church of St-Laurent.
The welcoming town of Lectoure has a warm and laid back atmosphere with pretty buildings in Gascon architecture. In 2003 a thermal spa was opened in the town and with all the shops to look round in the town, a spa treatment might be a good way to end the day. Lectoure has a lot to offer in the way of museums and consequently was officially designated a town of art and history by the French minister for culture and communication.
The smaller town of Lombez is worth visiting, not only for its picturesque qualities but also for its Cathedrale. Cathédrale Sainte-Marie de Lombez is a Roman Catholic cathedral, and a national monument of France.
How to get there
The international airport at Toulouse has a wide range of connections to all parts of the UK, including cheap airlines such as Easyjet, Bmi, Bmibaby, Flybe and EUJet as well as BA and Air France. Ryanair also fly to Rodez.
The easiest route is from Calais. Take the A26 & A1 to Paris then the A10, A71 and A20 which runs straight through the middle of the Midi Pyrenees.
The journey is approx 850km to the northern end of the Midi Pyrenees and will take around 8-9 hours depending on length of stops.
The Motorail service runs from Calais to Toulouse throughout the holiday season and from Paris (Austerlitz) to Toulouse during the rest of the year.
There is a regular service between Paris (Austerleitz) and Toulouse by TGV throughout the year including the night train with either Couchettes or wagon lits.