A GUIDE TO GASCONY
Gascony is a magnificent part of SW France, historically bounded to the West by the Bay of Biscay and to the South by the Pyrenees Mountains. Today these co-ordinates account for the regions varied attractions. Both the ski slopes of the Pyrenees and the bleached beaches of the Atlantic coast lie within easy reach of a days outing.
Unspoilt and unpolluted, it is dominated by rolling hills interrupted only by large areas of natural forest and verdant river valleys. Scenic Roman routes, blissfully free of traffic, run along the ridges and link the bastide villages. At their hearts, local markets pulse beneath the medieval colonnades. The area is home to the gregarious Gascon as it was to the real life D’Artagnan, musketeer of legend. Their bountiful soils account for a rich culinary heritage. Essentially a peasant cuisine based on duck and goose fat it has been of critical influence to some of the finest chefs working in Europe. Pierre Koffman of the Tante Claire in London was born in Tarbes and spent many formative hours in his grandmothers kitchen in the countryside. Michel Guerard, famed for his cuisine Minceur, is based at Eugenie les Bains and continues to set the standard for fine food in the region.
On a more accessible level there are treats to be found in the simple country restaurants where one habitually finds a robust, carefully prepared 5 course menu inclusive of wine for 10 euros. Another way to enjoy the local fare is to subscribe to the “repas du chasseur” or one of the meals at the local fetes. Here lunch can stretch through to the evening and would include the likes of Salmis de Palombe preceded by lashings of foie gras on warm toast, and followed by venison steaks with local wild mushrooms. This could be rounded off by a light salad, brebis cheese, and an apple croustade. Wash it down with some of the local wine and set the meal beneath the leafy plain trees in the village square and you begin to get a feel for the quality of life to be found in this remarkable region.
In fact “Quality of Life” sums it up. The region is unequalled for its unspoilt rural setting, natural and architectural beauty, low crime levels, lack of traffic and pollution fine wines, armagnac, cheeses, fine local produce, easy access to both skiing and the Atlantic coast, great golf courses……....
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