Lectoure was the first capital of the Gers department, considered the heart of Gascony. It is a classified “most beautiful detour of France” destination and is the sort of place dreams are made of…
History of Lectoure
The Gallo Roman town has many traces of the past. During the Middle Ages it became the capital of the Counts of Armagnac, three very influential territorial lords who commanded strategic parts of historic Gascony. It was sacked and rebuilt by Louis XI in 1473, and when Napoléon Bonaparte created the départements de France, the Gers’ capital was moved south to the city of Auch.
What to see and do in Lectoure
Today Lectoure is a beautifully re-defined, Neo-Classical, hilltop village with its one main street running east to west. Its cathedral, Saint-Gervais, which was rebuilt in 1488, stands as a sentinel at the east entrance of the village. Walking from one end to the other, you’ll pass lovely old convents, half-timbered houses, and remnants of its original, fortified wall.
Book-ending the west entrance of the village is the château of the Counts of Armagnac which has been converted into a sprawling antique mall.
The views from either side of the village are breath-taking, and on a clear day you can see the Pyrénées and a large swathe of the Gers Valley. Lectoure’s pièces de résistance include its annual crop of potently fragrant cantaloupe melons, rose-pink garlic (comprising more than a third of France’s entire crop), and 20 pagan altars from the 2nd and 3rd centuries which are housed in its museum.
Lectoure holds a fantastic farmer’s market every Friday. Sample cheeses, olives, fresh vegetables and wine and wonderful local produce. Stop at Maison Baudequin, a magical chocolate shop, for a thick hot chocolate topped with whipped cream that rivals those of the famous Angelina’s on the Rue de Rivoli in Paris.
For those who like to cycle, there are 400km of marked trails in and around Lectoure.
Sue Aran is a local guide and expert on the area, find her at www.FrenchCountryAdventures.com