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A guide to Gers, Midi-Pyrenees

Category: Midi-Pyrenees - Departments
Department No : 32
Prefecture : Auch
Subprefecture : Condom, Mirande
Arrondissements : 3
Cantons : 31
Communes : 463
Area : 6257 km2
Economy : Farming, speciality foods, tourism
To Visit : Auch, Condom, bastide towns
Attractions : Armagnac, gastronomy
Events : Marciac jazz festival, Festival of Astronomy
Population: 174,500

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Geography and climate

The Gers was created on 4th March 1790, as one of the original departments during the French revolution, from parts of the provinces of Gascony and Guyenne.  It is one of the mostly sparsely populated departments in France, with only 28 people per square kilometre.

 

The Gers is well known for its rolling countryside, bastide towns and sleepy villages, with the Pyrenees Mountains making a fantastic backdrop.

 

The winters can be cold and the summers are generally very hot and dry with 300 sunny days per year and temperatures regularly in the high 30's and quite often topping 40 degrees.

 

Tourism

The Gers is the ideal place for a slow relaxing type of holiday.  With the multitude of small villages and bastides to explore and the beautiful countryside, you cannot help but slow down.

 

Gers is part of the Armagnac region and it is a big draw for tourism and the vineyards of the department are dominated by Armagnac production.

 

The Gers has a rich history, with many medieval bastide towns to explore and some interesting buildings.

 

Auch is the department capital and boasts a 13th century cathedral and an interesting old town.  Fources is one of the few bastides built with a round central "square" and it has half-timbered buildings and arcades.  It is also listed as one of the Plus Beaux Villages des France.

 

Condom once used to play down its name, but has now changed tack and positively advertises it.  There is a new museum to prophylactics and a festival held every year.  It also has a nice cathedral and an Armagnac museum.  Marciac and Mirande are both bastide towns with remains of fortifications and medieval buildings and Marciac is now the site of one of the biggest Jazz festivals in Europe.

 

Gers most famous son is d'Artagnan, the fourth musketeer.  He was created by Alexandre Dumas for the three musketeer stories and was based on a real life character from the Gers department.  There is a d'Artagnan museum in the village of Lupiac.

 

With the gentle rolling landscape and the views of the Pyrenees in the backdrop, the Gers is an excellent place to go walking and cycling.  There are numerous marked routes covering the department and many excellent guide books.

 

Economy

The economy is based on agriculture and the range of products is vast with many cereals and varied livestock.  In particular, ducks and geese are farmed in large numbers, both for the production of Fois Gras and also its meat which is extremely popular in the area.  Most restaurants will feature some kind of duck dish.

 

The other big driver of the economy is the production of Armagnac, with the majority of vineyards in the area used for the famous eau de vie.  In addition, the local wine Cote de Gascogne and fortified Floc de Gascogne, a mix of grape and Armagnac, figure heavily in the department economics. 

As with many departments, tourism is taking an ever larger role and Gers is no exception.  Recent data shows that the estimated expenditure by tourists in the department is around 141 million Euros.

 

Cuisine

Fois gras is probably the most famous of foods to come from the Gers, closely followed by the Armagnac.

 

Fois gras is a very smooth duck or goose liver pate and comes in a number of grades.  It can be sold whole and raw, or prepared into a mousse, parfait or pate, which is the lowest quality.  It is often served as an accompaniment to a main dish or simply with bread.

 

A number of wines are produced in the region, including Madiran and Cote de Gascogne, along with Floc de Gascogne.

 

Transport

There are no motorways in the Gers, which reinforces the slow pace of life.  Getting around the department by car is not difficult however, as the roads are generally of a high standard and very quiet.

 

Flying to the region is reasonably easy although there are no airports in the department.  Toulouse is just over an hour from Auch and gives access to international flights with Easyjet and British Airways flying there.  To the south, Tarbes-Lourdes has many charter flights and Pau in neighbouring Aquitaine has routes to the UK provided by Ryanair.
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