I will admit up front that Ellen hasn’t weighed in too much on this leg of the trip; it’s mainly my doing at this point (although I’m sure she’ll weigh in once we get closer to it and she starts thinking more about it).
Anyway, it turns out that Gascony — as a formal region or department or whatever — apparently no longer exists. From what I can tell it went away with the French Revolution. But for the purposes of this discussion I still consider it the essence of this leg.
Why? The food. For me this is the core of the trip, as I mentioned in a very early blog post. The food of southwest France — which I know only through Paula Wolfert’s book (on the upper left) — has really captured my imagination over the past few years. I’m itching to track down and try as many dishes from her book as I possibly can. And for whatever reason, when I first started getting interested in this region and its food, the term “Gascony” kept popping up. So that’s how I think of it.
And then there’s Aquitaine, and my 1,100 year old crush on Eleanor of Aquitaine (played by Katherine Hepburn in the film version of The Lion in Winter). I’ve had a thing for Eleanor and that era of French history since undergraduate days over 30 years ago, and I’m as excited about driving around Aquitaine as I was about driving around Cornwall, England and visiting the King Arthur sites.
In any case, this is where it all comes together for me, and we plan to spend a fair amount of time here.
We don’t have much in the way of definite plans yet, other than to drive over from Aix-en-Provence…stop by Roquefort-sur-Soulzon for some of the cheese…see the fabled Medieval city of Carsassonne (who would have guessed there’s a board game by that name)…and then tour the region.
Here’s the map of this leg for orientation, with a notional route around the region.
Some of the things we’d like to see and do:
- Take a charcuterie course and learn how to make Toulouse sausages
- Visit Bayonne and sample the famous ham
- Drive through the Armagnac region and imbibe some Armagnac at the source
- Go to Andorra and get an old Andoran peso
- Tour some of the Basque country along the French/Spanish border
As I said, things are still pretty vague in terms of where we’ll be staying and what specific itinerary we’ll be following. If I had to guess, I’d guess that we’ll spend the first 10 days or so near the Pyrenees (see that road between Toulouse and Bayonne), and then the next 10 days or so up near Bordeaux.
But regardless of what we end up doing, I’m completely jazzed about this leg and I’m expecting nothing but good things.