The area of Gascony, Lot-et-Garonne, is bordered on the west by the Atlantic Ocean, the south by the Pyrénées mountains, the east by Toulouse and the north by the vineyards of Bordeaux. It’s a region that’s sprinkled with ancient Roman ruins and humble bastides and it remains as historically rich as it was in medieval times.
What to see and do in Nerac
Once home to the court of King Henri IV, Nérac is one of the most attractive larger villages in the Lot-et-Garonne department. During the Wars of Religion (1562-1598) Henri’s son, Louis XIII, ordered the entire city destroyed. Nérac lay forgotten and fallow until the 18th century, when it developed into a thriving agricultural community. So economically important was the city thought to be by then, that in 1830, Baron Haussmann, the architect who redesigned Paris in the 1850s, was sent to rebuild Nérac’s roads and bridges.
Nérac has one of the best Saturday farmers’ markets in the department. Arrive early, indulge in a mouth-watering pastry at the corner patisserie with a cup of delicious coffee, then set off on a leisurely stroll through the many market stalls.
Take a visit the Chateau-Musee of Henri IV, it’s small and fairly basic but history buffs will enjoy the ancient rooms. You can also ride one of several riverboats along the picturesque River Baïse, which dissects the village. It’s a tranquil ride with lovely scenery. Or promenade beneath the shade of a variety of stately trees in the grand park, La Garenne. This 35-hectare park, with its many hidden nooks and crannies, was once a royal hunting ground. It might surprise you to know that it provided the inspiration for Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost.
There are several restaurants in the town and pretty half timbered buildings. Though its a quiet sort of place, it is well worth a stop off when you’re in the area. If you’ve got kids, you’ll probably enjoy nearby Lud’O Parc, a water theme park that looks like Roman ruins with pools, slides and water jets.
More on Gascony
Sue Aran is a local guide and expert on the area, find her at www.FrenchCountryAdventures.com