Journees du Patrimoine – Gers Edition

One of my favorite weekends of the year is the third weekend of September. That’s when FR holds its annual ‘Journees du Patrimoine.’ Countries throughout Europe do it these Heritage Days, but since I’m here in LegoLand, the FR version is the one I get to experience.

During these weekends, places of cultural significance that are normally closed open themselves to the public. Two years ago we got to see the magnificent courtyard of an estate turned lycee and the year before that I saw the interior of the Hopital de la Grave, a landmark of the Toulouse skyline, and the former bishop’s palace turned administrative headquarters of the prefecture.

But as I wrote at the end of the 2012 entry, I think I had pretty much seen everything in Toulouse that I had wanted to see.

It was time to head out of town.

In this case, that meant a couple of trips out to the Gers, the departement just to the west of our departement, the Haute-Garonne.

Luckily, the new editor of the Americans in Toulouse newsletter included a really handy ‘unofficial’ link to patrimoine events held throughout FR. So I used the site and frequent references to Google Maps to plan an itinerary. Feeling I’d seen enough churches, I focused on finding – and visiting – chateaus.

On Day 1, I started with the Chateau Lavardens. First mention of a chateau there is from 1140. Thanks to various wars and sieges, the chateau was destroyed and rebuilt any number of times. Now owned by the local government, it hosts art expositions throughout the year.

Things are looking up.

Things are looking up.

Intricate floor tiling.

Intricate floor tiling.

Sculpture from an artist named Toutain.

Sculpture from an artist named Toutain.

The backside.

The backside.

For more photos of Chateau Lavardens, click here.

Then I was off to Chateau Lagardere. Here I received a bit of a surprise:

Say it with me: they left the place in ruins.

Say it with me: they left the place in ruins.

There was one courtyard you could look into:

I'm assuming that's not a naturally formed group of twigs.

I’m assuming that’s not a naturally formed group of twigs.

The chateau dates from the late 13th C. It has, obviously, seen better days.

For a few more photos of the ruins, click here.

Next was an unplanned stop: Chateau du Busca Maniban. I was on my way to another place when I saw a couple of road signs pointing the way to this place. It was my lucky day. First, I received an exclusive tour – the benefits of being the old English-speaking visitor. And the tour was given by a descendant – who still lives there – of the family that built the chateau back in 1649. And…they produce – and sell – armagnac there. After my tour, I bought a bottle of 26-year-old armagnac. She told me told their armagnac goes great with cigars. Who was I say to say No?

Be it ever so humble, there's no place since 1649 like home.

Be it ever so humble, there’s no place since 1649 like home.

The view of the back.

The view of the back.

FR garden.

French garden.

In another 20 years, these will go great with a cigar.

In another 20 years, these grapes will go great with a cigar.

For more photos of my favoritest chateau, click here.

After not finding a couple of chateaus in or around the town of Barran, I went to the nearby town of L’Isle de Noe. The chateau here is kind of the new kid on the block: it only dates from the 18th C.

I love the hat-like top.

I love the hat-like top.

The front, which overlooks a ginormous green space of parks and playgrounds.

The back, which overlooks a ginormous green space of parks and playgrounds.

Horseless carriage.

Horseless carriage.

Here are a couple of more photos from L’Isle de Noe.

For the last stop of the day, I went to place a little different: the abbey of Ste. Marie de Boulaur, home to group of nuns of the Cistercian order. There, a really friendly nun led a tour of the grounds and interior (“Please, no photos of where we live and pray.”)

It was OK to take photos of the chapel.

It was OK to take photos of the chapel.

I liked the figurehead on the post.

I liked the figurehead on the post.

Exterior.

Exterior.

For more photos of the abbey, click here.

Back tomorrow (he says hopefully) with a couple of visits from Day 2 of the Patrimoine Weekend.

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About skinsphins

The stories of a 'never out of the country until we moved to France' American.
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