Auch is the capital of the Gers department, and as capital of the historical province of Gascony, it has a long history dating back to Roman times. Sights include the Renaissance Cathédrale Sainte-Marie with a magnificent organ, carved stalls and rose-stained glass windows, and the 14th century prison La Tour d'Armagnac.
One of the most visited sites in the Gers is the Cistercian abbey at Valence-sur-Baïse, a pretty 13th century bastide by the river. Another must-see in terms of architecture is La Collégiale in La Romieu, a magnificent church and cloister complex.
Many bastides and châteaux dot the landscape, and the Gers harbours quite a few official ‘beautiful villages’ for its size – see the section entitled ‘Most beautiful villages’.
‘Most beautiful villages’
On France’s official list of beautiful villages, Larressingle is a wonderfully preserved medieval village which, although tiny, has its own church and château, protected by a moat and fortifications. Combine with a visit to the Camp de Siège, where children can dress up in medieval costumes and try out catapults and archery!
The others ‘plus beaux villages’ are Lavardens, Fourcès, Sarrant, and Montréal, whose Gallo-Roman villa will delight those interested in antiquity.
There are plenty of opportunities to explore the region on foot, by bicycle or on horseback.
Other leisure activities include river cruises, canoeing or kayaking on the Baïse (start from Condom), the Vélorail at Nogaro, and treetop adventure courses (Aignan, Pavie).
At the D'Artagnan Museum in Lupiac you can find out more about the famous musketeers, and younger party members may also enjoy the animal park at Saint-Clar and mini-golf at Plaisance.
The local tipple
The Gers countryside is often carpeted with vineyards, and there will be the chance to stop for wine-tasting – the Côtes de Gascogne appellation is perhaps the most well known. But perhaps the most regarded tipple is the Armagnac produced here; you can learn how it is distilled in the museum in Condom.