Gascony is an area of South West France that was part of the "Province of Guyenne and Gascony" prior to the French Revolution. The region is vaguely defined, and the distinction between Guyenne and Gascony is unclear; by some they are seen to overlap, while others consider Gascony a part of Guyenne. Most definitions put Gascony east and south of Bordeaux.Gascony is currently divided between the region of Aquitaine and Midi-Pyrénées and from medieval times until today the Gascon language has been spoken. Gascony is the land of d'Artagnan, who inspired Alexandre Dumas's character in The Three Musketeers. It is also home to the hero of the play Cyrano de Bergerac and to Henry III of Navarre, who later became king of France as Henry IV. Gascony is famed for its food, medieval towns and villages, (bastides) green rolling hills, sunny weather, beautiful landscape, and breathtaking views of the Pyrenees which all contribute its "douceur de vivre" (sweetness of life).
Gascon Cycling Tours are based just outside the bastide of Miélan and her beautiful lake of the same name. Situated halfway along the N21 between Auch and Tarbes the range of cycling routes on offer here is endless, and we aim to show you the very best!
There are medieval villages, lakes, rivers and rolling hills all around. The changing vistas are endless, and, of course, every time you look Southwards, the Pyrenees beckon........
Cycling is rarely a major pull factor in deciding where in the world to live, but waking-up here to the golden light of the dawning sun quickly entices you outside into the crystal clean air. And, allowing yourself to discard the watches, phones and other pieces of twentyfirst century technology, you soon begin to understand how time here has slowed to a meander. But don't just take our word for it, Colin Duncan from Cheshire DID buy a holiday home here to avail of the conditions and these are his thoughts:-
'I've cycled most European countries from the Baltic to the Southern Mediterranean and in my opinion Gascony offers some of the most picturesque and varied cycling to be had anywhere in Europe. The roads are quiet and beautifully maintained. The cycling can be gentle and rural or as tough as you want it from short sharp hills to the classic climbs like the Cols de Tourmalet or Aspin. After a day in the saddle there's nothing better than a few glasses of the excellent local wines and some fabulous home grown food for which the region is famous. In fact, I like the cycling in Gascony so much that I have bought a holiday home there!"
Another friend of ours, Stewart Cox from South Devon, was also kind enough to share his thoughts about cycling in Gascony, plus a few photos of he and his 14yo son in the Pyrenees:-
I’m lucky enough to have family who live in Gascony so riding in the area isn’t a rare experience for me. That’s not to say I’m out there all the time, in fact I’ve not been able to get over at all so far this year but boy, have I missed it!
Why is that you may ask, after all I live on the edge of Dartmoor and near the coast so have access to some of the best and demanding riding in the UK. I have spectacular views of the countryside and coast but I still miss Gascony. I’ll tell you what I miss. It’s the safe, quiet roads that are not full of dangerous potholes, the rolling countryside and the spectacular views. It’s the ingrained French cycling culture seen in the attitude of the people, especially out on the roads. The French people understand cycling much better than in the UK.
What can be nicer than sitting outside a small village or town café on a beautiful sunny day for a coffee or a beer? After all, you’ve earned it haven’t you. I can do that in the UK I hear you say, and yes you can. But you’ve had to negotiate our narrow overcrowded roads with some not too sympathetic drivers. Once you’ve finished your drink you have to go back out there again and at times it feels like you’re getting prepared for battle! Do I get that feeling in Gascony? Not at all.
Now, let me talk about what I believe to be the Gascon jewel in the crown:- Looming in the distance are the Pyrenees and those iconic climbs of the Tour de France. They look so close you feel like you could reach out and touch them and they draw you to them whenever you set out on your bike for a ride.
'I remember my first ride up the Col Du Tourmalet vividly. It wasn’t too steep compared with the hills I ride on Dartmoor but it went on for a long time! What a great experience. I’ve since ticked off many of the famous mountains and I still have some to do but I will never get bored with them. The scenery is spectacular with a picture postcard view in every direction. You can reach the foothills easily giving every rider, regardless of ability, an opportunity to ride and experience those iconic mountains we see on television every year. The area is fully geared up (pun fully intended!) for riders and you are rarely on your own during the climbs. What goes up must come down so you can experience the thrill of a fast descent on great roads. I defy any cyclist not to want to experience riding in such a beautiful area. It truly is a wonderful place to ride so I urge you to visit the area and experience its roads, scenery and culture. I can’t wait to get out there again soon.