DISCOVER GASCONY : MADE-TO-MEASURE CULTURAL HOLIDAYS IN SW FRANCE

DISCOVER GASCONY

Accommodation in a 200 year old farmhouse. English hosts and guides. Day trips through spectacular scenery to medieval villages, cathedrals, castles, prehistoric caves and sites of cultural interest.

All our holidays are tailor made to suit each client.
No stress – we arrange everything for you.
No language difficulties – your hosts and guides are English.
No travel problems – you are collected from the airport or station and driven everywhere in comfortable air conditioned cars.
A recent client wrote the following appreciation of her holiday for her art club magazine in Melbourne Australia. I have recently returned from a holiday package in France, a special offer to MAS members and would like to share my experiences with fellow members of the society who may be considering taking up the offer this year.

The part of France where this holiday is offered is in Gascony, south west France, known as deep France or ‘la France profonde’. And indeed it is. Consider travelling each day to delightful little villages where you can wander, paint, browse and eat to your heart’s content. Of course there are things missing. When you arrive, you will not see cruise ships, bus tours, long lines of people following someone with a flag or umbrella held aloft. Indeed it is unusual to hear a voice speaking any language other than French. It is that rare treat of seeing a place little spoilt by tourism. The trouble with going off well trodden paths can mean language problems. However our hosts, Mike and Kate Nicholls have been living in the area for over twenty years so translators were there when we needed them.

The holiday centres around staying in a charming two hundred year old farm house, called Borde Basse. This has a seamless addition to the original house and it is the new section in which guests stay in absolute privacy while having easy access to our hosts should we need anything. Really the addition is a large home with plenty of bedrooms and a large kitchen and family room that can accommodate a crowd.

A typical day would start in the following way. Open the shutters to a glorious view of rolling hills and the sound of farm animal noises softly wafting across with the breeze. At breakfast time Mike arrives with freshly home baked warm bread. If we wanted croissants Mike was happy to fetch them from the shops for us. I loved having the opportunity to do clothes washing each day after three weeks of travelling prior to Borde Basse, knowing they would be dry well before we returned each afternoon. Then Mike and Kate would drive us to a few different villages each day. We chose the ones we wanted to visit before leaving Australia but our hosts were highly flexible as far as each day’s journey was concerned.

I urge you to ‘google’ some of these delightful places to get a sense of where we went and of course they are so much more beautiful when you go in person. Places like Sarrant, Cordes sur Ciel, Moissac, St.Circ Lapopie, Auch and Albi.

Most of the areas we visited were at their most affluent around the 14th century through the production of pastel, the blue dye that was otherwise hard to acquire at the time. These villages are largely intact so we saw wall protected towns with winding narrow streets filled with two storey lopsided houses. Words like, charming, picturesque and full of character spring to mind to describe them. With the strong darks and lights of the late Autumn sun, each curve in a streetscape offered a new perspective to the artist’s eye. If I had wanted to I could have stayed all day sketching/painting in one place but I only took up the opportunity to sketch occasionally simply because there was so much I wanted to see and I was gobsmacked by all that was on offer. I chose to take many photos and now back in class at MAS I can relive those lovely days by working up paintings from them.

Each day finished in the late afternoon back at Borde Basse. We had our separate swimming pool if we wanted to refresh ourselves and again sketching time was available around the property or the woods nearby or among the dying sunflowers in the fields next door. Then it was in for dinner on our host’s verandah. We’re talking aperitifs then a four course meal with wines as the full moon rose in a clear sky. The only things missing were flies and mosquitoes!

Kate is a first class cook and what’s more clearly enjoys looking after her guests while Mike kept us laughing regaling us with tales from his very interesting working life. They both took the trouble to learn what interested us and when they found out we enjoyed classical music they arranged to take us one balmy night to a piano recital in a glorious cloister in Toulouse. I cannot imagine more thoughtful hosts.

We also went out to dinner together one night at a local restaurant. There we sat under the trees and ate superb food … again! When the cheese trolley arrived with over twenty five cheeses on it and the waiter proceeded to explain the provenance of each one, I knew our experience was unique.

Given the price includes accommodation, most meals, drives to villages each day, informative ‘tour guides’, collection and return to Toulouse, this was an extraordinarily reasonably priced holiday with generous, attentive hosts in a beautiful part of France.

To find out more and to book a « Discover Gascony » holiday click here

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