Where is Gascony? A beginner’s guide to France’s best kept secret
Where is Gascony? What is Gascony famous for? How to pronounce Gascony? We answer the basic questions surrounding France’s best kept secret.
Gascony. It’s an area of France rich in wildlife, beautiful scenery, history, delicious food and some of France’s very finest beverages. Yet, it’s something of a secret, many people simply don’t know that Gascony exists. Likened to the extremely popular region of Tuscany in Italy, Gascony shares many similar attributes and pace of life – although we believe it’s much better, but, of course, at Simply Gascony we might be slightly biased. Regardless, we know that Gascony really is France’s best kept secret – and that’s why we want to share it with you. So, to begin your Gascony adventure, let’s start at the beginning and answer some of the most common questions surrounding this beautiful place.
This is many people’s first question when they hear about Gascony, because Gascony no longer exists on the map of modern France. Gascony today is neither a region nor a department. Rather it is the vast area covering parts of the administrative regions of Nouvelle-Aquitaine and Occitanie that used to form the mediaeval Dukedom of Gascony, once upon a time controlled by the Kings of England!
Gascony is in the deep South West of France, stretching from the Spanish/Pyrenees border North to the River Garonne; and from the Atlantic coast East to Toulouse. Major towns and cities that lie within this area include Bordeaux, Bayonne, Pau, Tarbes, Biarritz, Auch (the historical capital), while Toulouse sits just outside the unofficial boundary line.
The main international airports for Gascony are Toulouse and Bordeaux. There are also good fast rail links from London and Paris.
The Atlantic Ocean to west, accessed through many beautiful seaside towns in the department of Landes, is commonly referred to as a surfers’ paradise, while the Pyrenees offers fantastic skiing and walking as well as an easy to access border with Spain, not to mention the distinctive Basque country. Gascony is a diverse and bountiful area, truly offering something for everyone.
What is Gascony famous for?
This less well known corner of France has plenty of famous connections. Historically inhabited by a Basque-related people, Gascony’s history is interwoven with that of the Basque country, although Gascony has its own regional language, Gascon, spoken since mediaeval times and still by some today, a dialect of Occitan that is considered by some linguists to be a separate language.
Perhaps most commonly known, Gascony was made famous as the land of the real d’Artagnan (Charles de Batz d’Artagnan 1611-1673), popularised by Alexandre Dumas’s character d’Artagnan in The Three Musketeers, as well as the home of Henry III of Navarre, who later became King of France as Henry IV.
Another fascinating historical connection is that for 300 years Gascony was owned by the Angevin Kings of England (including Richard Lionheart and the famous Edward, Black Prince). This period included the extraordinary “100 Years War” between England and France, much of which was fought in Gascony.
In terms of food and drink, Gascony is famous for its rich local produce, including pillar stones of cooking such as duck and foie gras, as well as fresh fruit and vegetables, excellent garlic introduced by the Romans. The regional Gascony brandy known as Armagnac is world-famous and there are vineyards galore, mainly a wide range of distinctly fruity white wines, but also excellent, deep red wines such as Madiran.
How to pronounce Gascony?
Last but not least, perhaps one of the simplest questions answered with an equally simple answer – Gascony is pronounced as it looks when you break it down. Gas-con-y, much the same as how you would pronounce Tuscany, but replace ‘tus’ with ‘gas’.
Feeling inspired? Take the first step of your Gascony journey today and browse our available holiday rentals.