Gascony remains unchanged since the 1950s by industry, tourism or major highways, its landscape has stayed resolutely agricultural for centuries. Soft white clouds languish in deep blue skies above fields of bright yellow sunflowers, sun-kissed vineyards that stretch to the horizon, and velvet green pastures dotted with gaggles of geese and cream-coloured cows, Gascony’s appeal is seductively earthy, full-bodied and lusty, like its wines. It’s a culinary heartland of garlic, foie gras, duck confit, and France’s oldest brandy, Armagnac, and is as authentically farm-to-table as it gets.
Bazas in the Gironde Department
Perched on a cliff and surrounded by spectacular vineyards – most notably those of Château d’Yquem – Bazas is a jewel in the Gironde department. For 2,500 years Bazas was the capital city of the Celts, then the Romans. According to legend, its original church held a coveted relic which gave the town its prominence: a cloth with the blood of St. John the Baptist, wiped up by a woman from Bazas. The building of a church began in 1233 to house the cloth, which remained there until the French Revolution in 1789, when a fanatic ripped it from its shrine and threw it into a cesspool.
This amazing Gothic cathedral was finally completed in 1635 and sits on an imposing rise at the end of an unusually vast, arcaded square that provides shelter and shade for shops and cafés. It’s serpentine, cobbled streets beckon admirers to view an eclectic variety of bourgeois houses and gardens.
Bazas was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1998. It lies just off the Bordeaux-Graves-Sauternes Wine Route, where you can journey through 7,300 hectares of vineyards and visit some 494 winemakers in 52 villages for wine tastings.
Sue Aran is a local guide and expert on the area, find her at www.FrenchCountryAdventures.com