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Gascony Cities: A Visitor's Guide

There are several beautiful and interesting Gascony cities on the periphery... most of the ancient duchy of Gascony is contained within the modern ‘département’ of ‘le Gers’, one of the least populated and most rural parts of France. The capital of le Gers and its only ‘city’ – because it has a cathedral - is Auch, which has a population of only about 25,000.


Auch is an ancient place and was the capital of historic Gascony. Auch takes its name from the Aquitanian tribe (the ‘Ausci’) that inhabited the area at the time of the Roman conquest in the 50s BC. Auch is known today for its fine Renaissance Cathédrale Sainte-Marie which stands prominently on a hill in the middle of the medieval town of narrow winding streets, small shops and appealing restaurants.

There is also a statue of d'Artagnan, made famous in the book The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas, whose character was based on the real life person, Charles de Batz, Comte d'Artagnan, born nearby in the Château de Castelmore.

Although the only (very small) city within Gascony is Auch, there are several beautiful and interesting cities on the periphery: Toulouse, Montauban and Bordeaux.

Toulouse, the fourth largest city in France, is situated on the banks of the River Garonne and was once capital of the province of ‘Languedoc’. It is known as the ‘La Ville Rose’ (the ‘Pink City’) because of its lovely old soft terracotta brickwork which glows pink in the southern sunlight.

Toulouse is a city of fascinating architectural diversity – the site of one of the oldest universities in Europe and also the centre of Europe’s booming aerospace industry.

Bordeaux is the capital of the modern Aquitaine region, taking its name from the old Duchy of Aquitaine which belonged to England for 300 years up to the 1450s.

The historic part of the city, including the sea port, is on the UNESCO World Heritage List as "an outstanding urban and architectural ensemble" of the 18th century, giving Bordeaux its nickname of "La perle d'Aquitaine". Wine has been produced in the Bordeaux area since the C8th and today Bordeaux is the world's major wine industry capital.

Montauban, like Toulouse, is built mainly of a reddish brick, and stands on the right bank of the River Tarn. Montauban is the second oldest of the ‘bastides’ of SW France (see: ‘Towns & Villages’ for more information about bastides).

One of the main sights is the remarkable early C14th brick bridge across the River Tarn. It is a pink structure over 205 metres (224 yards) in length, in a good state of preservation. The Musée Ingres (C17th) stands at the east end of the bridge. It is the largest collection of Ingres paintings in the world and houses most of the work of the celebrated painter, whose birth in Montauban is commemorated by an elaborate monument.

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