fun things to do with kids gasconry gers france   Travel for Kids

Gascony (Gers)

Gascony (Gers) is the land of d'Artagnan and the three musketeers. Alexandre Dumas based his best-loved action adventure novel on the Comte d'Artagnan, a real-life captain of the musketeers. Gascony is dotted with medieval fortified towns and rolling hills – from castle ramparts kids can cheer, "All for one, and one for all!"
Medieval dioramas
  La Tour de Termes (Termes d'Armagnac, near Riscle) – This is the best preserved castle keep, built in the 13th century by the Termes family – only the donjon remains, but it's a beauty.
    Inside the keep is the Musee du Panache Gascon, each floor has rooms with full-size dioramas from the Middle Ages, as well as traditional life in Gascony. Check out knights in armor, Thibault de Termes going off to fight in the army with Joan of Arc, musketeers, kings and courtiers, the garderobe (latrine) and baths, plus scenes from 19th century family life. At the top of donjon, there are panoramic views of the countryside, and on a clear day you can see the Pyrenees.
      Outside the castle keep are picnic tables, and a children's playground.
Bassoues castle keep
  Bassoues – Bassoues is worth a stop, not only because of the 14th century donjon, but the town itself is a super little "bastide," where people live today. Bastides, fortified villages from the Middle Ages, have a central square with covered market in the middle, and stone walls and towers for protection.
    Walk through the town to get a feel for the Middle Ages – the covered market in the middle is still in use, on Saturdays and Sunday's there's a farmer's market. Climb up the donjon of Bassoues, a 141 foot tower, with walls 6 feet thick. Inside the tower, check out the each floor reconstructed as living spaces, with big fireplaces and window seats, sinks and garderobes (latrines). On top of the castle keep are guard towers in the four corners and a bird's eye view of the town below.
Stained glass Auch cathedral
    St. Mary's Cathedral (La Cathedrale Sainte Marie D'Auch) – Step into the cathedral of Auch to see dazzling stained glass windows, masterpieces of the Renaissance. Eighteen windows by Arnaud de Moles tell the familiar Bible stories of Mary and Jesus. What's amazing is not only the spectacular colors, but the stained glass is painted on, and the figures are incredibly lifelike, portraits of real men and women from the 16th century.
      Also, don't miss the carved wooden choir stalls in the center of the cathedral. 113 different seats, carved from oak over 50 years, each choir stall is decorated above and below with angels, religious figures, lords and ladies, even the armrests are decorated with griffins, cherubs, dogs, phoenixes, lions, snakes.
Statue of d'Artagnan
    Statue of d'Artagnan – From the cathedral, walk down the monumental staircase (L'Escalier Monumental). Midway down, stop to look up to see the Tour d'Armagnac, this was once a prison. On the steps is a large bronze statue of d'Artagnan from The Three Museketeers. D'Artagnan was a real person, born in Gascony in the 17th century, named Charles de Batz-Castelmore, Comte d'Artagnan.

From the statue, explore north or south through old medieval streets, some of the narrowest streets with steps were used by people to carry water from the river below to the town above.
      Walk along the River Gers – It's a nice walk on the west side of the River Gers, from the Pont de Lagarrasic to the Jardin Ortholan, which has a small playground, benches, flowers and fountains. Little kids can play in the playground of the Jardin Ortholan, while parents relax on the benches, and everyone will enjoy a picnic lunch here.
  Larressingle – Larressingle will match any kid's idea of a medieval walled city. Approach the excellently-preserved outer walls, then walk over a stone bridge (the moat is empty), through the gate under a guard tower, and enter the fortified town. Inside the walls are shops, the castle keep (originally an abbey and residence of the Bishops of Condom) and a super museum. Outside the walls are grassy areas and benches (the perfect place to picnic).
    Musee La Halte du Pelerin Life-size dioramas vividly portray life in Larressingle during the Middle Ages – a workshop for carding and weaving wool, soldiers guarding the town, pilgrims on their way to Compostela, the bishop and his clerks at work, peasants preparing grain, salted meats and fish, food for the winter and to withstand sieges. Audio tours in English and French provide explanation of each diorama.
Medieval weapons Lasrressingle
    "Cite des Machines du Moyen Age" – Outside the walls, at the wooden palisade, check out weapons of the Middle Ages – trebuchets, battering rams, siege towers, all set up like a 13th century camp. See fascinating re-creations and demonstrations of these medieval weapons, as well as other crafts – blacksmith, stone masons, rope makers, carpenters. Daily during July and August (daily, except Wednesdays, in other months). A "must see" for kids who like all that medieval weapon stuff.
    Condom – (This town dates back to Roman times, and the origins of its name are lost.)
    Boat cruise – The River Baise runs right through the center of Condom. In July and August, from the center of town, at the "Port du Condom," pick up a cruise on the river. Chose from a relaxing one and a half hour cruise that goes down the river, through one lock and back. Or, you can take a longer cruise, 2 ½ hours, that starts in the town of Valence-sur-Baise (south of Condom), and chugs up the river to Condom, passing through three locks (return to Valence-sur-Baise by bus).
river baise
    Go to the park – If you arrive in Condom around lunch time, gather together your picnic supplies, and head down to the city park along the Baise River, the Base de Loisirs (take Chemin de Gauge to get to the park).
    Here along the river are big wide grassy areas, shade trees, picnic tables, a large playground with slides and climbing structures, and lots of kids and French families. Walk south along the river to see an old mill, and a lock in action as boats pass through.
    La Romieu
    La Romieu is a medieval town that started as a village on the pilgrimage route, and grew up around an important abbey. Step into the bright, airy 14th century Collegiate Church (La Collegiale), and the eight-sided beautifully painted sacristry, a gem of Gothic architecture. Walk around the Gothic cloister, and climb up the large tower (Tour de Cardinal) for a great view of the red roofs of La Romieu town.
Cats of Romieu
    The cats of Romieu – According to legend, during the Middle Ages, the town was so poor, they barely survived the winter, and then rats attacked the harvest. A village girl, Angeline, secretly kept 20 cats, and her cats chased the rats from the village, saving the town from disaster. Inspired by this legend, cat statues are placed all around the square in La Romieu. Kids can play "I Spy" to spot the cat sculptures, and you might also see a real cat napping on a warm wall in the sun.
    Musee de l'ecole public (Saint-Clar) – In Saint-Clar, see what a rural French public school was like a century ago. Sit at the wooden desks in a 1930's classroom and find out what children would have been studying. Also, visit the teacher's apartment, and check out school materials, such as a goose feather writing pen, abacus, notebooks.
    Lakes for swimming – All around Gers are "leisure centers" (base de loisirs) – artificial lakes with swimming, water slides, children's pools, lifeguards, sandy beaches, canoeing, pedal boating, playgrounds, and picnic areas. Spend an afternoon relaxing at the lakes at Gondrin, Lectoure, Lupiac, Marciac, Mirande, Plaisance, Saint-Clar, Thoux-Saint-Cricq. In Mirande, there's also a large waterpark, called Ludina, with water slides, whirlpools, children's pool, volleyball, ping pong and grassy areas, snack bar.
      Tip: Museums in Gascony often close between noon and 2:00pm, as well as food shops (shop for your picnics before noon).
travel for kids | france | gascony (gers)
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