Gers, a magical land in the Acquataine

France has finally rolled out a good vaccine program, we are both fully vaccinated and ready to travel. One of the areas close to our home in Bordeaux is the Gers region. The area is best known for its Armagnac, and historically as an area quite active during the 100 Years War with England and after that the Religious Wars. The story of The Three Musketeers ( Les Trois Mousquetaires) by A. Dumas originates in this region with D’Artagnan leaving home to join the musketeers. Thus appropriately, in the plaza in front of the Cathedral is the locally famous statue of the group.

D’Artagnan, Athos, Aramis, and Porthos bigger than life.

The center part of the city is a mixture of some half timbered houses mixed with old ( just not as old as the half timbered buildings. Many are in need of some maintenance like painting the shutters, but again we have been experiencing a two year lockdown and many business were closed. I am certain this will all be cleaned up in the near future.

Shops on ground floor, living quarters above. Typical of most French villages.

The strongest impression one gets is how powerful the Catholic church was during these times of War. The Cathedral, Cloister and the Bishop’s Castles are all basically connected and take up a very large segment of the town center of Condom. The Cathedral located in the center of the town, with the above mentioned buildings wrapping around to the left of the main building. Far from the largest cathedral we have visited, it is still very beautiful and interesting.

Main Alter, side view and the pulpit. All carved in Stone. Many we have seen are carved from wood.

The Cloister is very large with access from several sides. Today it is used for concerts and other events. In our case, it was being set up so our access was limited. Still impressive for its size, compared to the Cathedral.

The top photo is the side entrance to the Cloisters, the lower is the courtyard of the Bishop’s castle. This building houses the Armagnac Museum. The museum is worth the while to visit, plus it is free. One very impressive piece of equipment was a huge wine press. So large in fact that it was difficult to photograph in the space. Two of the long arms used to work the press were actually complete trunks of very large trees. Maybe 30 feet long if not larger than that.

For us this was meant to be a relaxing trip, with several short trips from our B&B. I have to be honest, we loved the place so much we hung around too many hours, but so worth the time.

Les Bruhasses is a wonderfully restored mansion, on several acres of manicured and beautifully planted grounds. The owners, Helene and Jean are wonderful people. One of the best experiences we have enjoyed in many years.
Our suite was the tower on the left. Fronted with a great rose garden.
Front garden with lounge chairs, tables, etc.
One of the out buildings on the property. I suspect a pigeonaire at one time.
Janet Really Enjoyed the Gardens. Plus the family has been the the wine, Armagnac business for over 6 generations. The Rose’ wa s special.

Helene and Jean are the owners and really work hard to make your stay enjoyable. With so many places to visit in the area, she has prepared a series of hand drawn maps marking the locations, and directions on how to find the easiest most direct route, including distances between road changes. Wonderful lady.

First on our list was the Abbaye de Flaran. The main buildings were constructed between the 12th and 13th Century with later additions in the 14th and some rooms on the second level added in the 17th Century. Today it is used primarily as a showcase for various art exhibits which change every few months. This month had three primary showing, one by an American artist all portraits, another was the exotic collection of art from a wealthy business man (Rubins, Rodans, Picasso, etc etc.) The final art was in the main chapel and was very modern, with a biblical theme. Just a bit extreme for us. The first two were housed on the second floor in the main hall and then in the monks private chambers. ( very small rooms by todays standards) The Order at the time, demanded they be self sufficient, so all work was done by hand, building, gardening, wine making, etc. The rear of the site holds a replica of the gardens during this time. Vegetables, herbs, and sunflowers for extracting cooking oil.

Building at front of Abbee used as a defensive unit.
Main buildings of the Abbee with the church on the right
Cloister and main interior well
Kitchen with two huge fireplaces
Rear of Abbee leading to the gardins
Portion of the gardens Sunflowers were over 10 feet tall

Les Bruhasses, our B&B was located almost in the middle of all the sites we wanted to visit, so it was easy to stop before a short break prior to heading of to Larressingle and the Bastide Fources.

Larressingle is often called “a miniature Carcassonne”. First built in the 13th Century, the outer walls remain intact except for one small detail. Today one crosses a small bridge to enter the inner village, while originally the interior was accessed by drawbridge. Once inside it is like stepping back in history to see the interior buildings and shops. It is actually the smallest existing walled city in France housing approximately 300 people at the height of its power.

Looking at the village from the road, the church (tall building on the left center) has been fully restored and is regularly used, the main Keep on the left is still being restored and not accessible for safety reasons. The entire village is surrounded by a moat, with the only access over the bridge.
Looking at the interior of the main wall, there are several slots for shooting arrows as a way of defending the main entrance.
All attractions in France have a gift shop of sorts. This region is known for it’s geese, thus whimsical stuffed geese at the entrance. We managed to not buy one of these.

The Bastide of Fources is a few miles away and a nice place to visit, plus several places for lunch or dinner, or for that matter a glass of wine. Bastide came about at the end of the 100 Year War and the Religious Wars between the Protestants and Catholics. Thousands of small villages, and homes were destroyed during this period. Richard of Toulouse was granted the permission to start building small villages in order to bring some sort of civilization back to the South and Southwest of France. These villages could not be fortified and could not have any exterior protecting walls. Their primary purpose was to house the people of the area, allow shops to begin to flourish and farmers to live in the city and farm outside. So this was not free, the local lords were granted the right to tax these businesses, but at an honest rate. The basic plan was to have a large square in the middle of the village, surrounded by covered walkways in front of the shops. Local merchants used their shops and on market days the area in front of the shop. The large open square was used for traveling merchants, farmers, etc. that arrived to sell their products. They too were taxed, thus the village could prosper and everyone was happy. In the case of Fources, it is not built on a square but a circular center area. All the streets around the plaza are also circular. Interesting point, churches were not allowed to be exactly on the plaza, but a several yards down a side street. In the case of Fources, the church was actually built across the river from the main entrance to the village. Today, Fources is listed as one of the “Most Beautiful Villages” in France.

Bridge with flowers leading into Fources
Lord’s chateau in Fources, today a B&B
One of the walk ways in Fources. Stairs lead to a private residence.
A section of the circular covered walkway in Fources. Easily several hundred yards around the plaza
Small 12C church outside the village of Fources. Rebuilt a few times, just the tower and the wall next to the river are original, although last work other than stained glass windows was completed in the 17thC.

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