What's the area like ?

The bastide village of Beauville  from the sky
The bastide village of Beauville from the sky
Image courtesy of Philip de Lang

To give you a flavour of our area, here are some brief details that might interest you

Geography and Agriculture

Our area includes the Quercy and Gascony regions.

Map

To the North, the rocky sometimes arid terrain of Northen Quercy around Cahors. Great for vines....hence the vast and world famous vineyards of the Cahors appelation.... but less good for more traditional arable crops. However, in some pockets of more sandy soil, excellent asparagus and tobacco are grown.

Lower Quercy region..... Lot et Garonne and Northern Tarn et Garonne. Here there is a totally different look and feel to the countryside..... a land of gentle hills and valleys, lush with orchards, pasture and arable land. The soil is richer here and the lanscape softer, and intimate countryside. Excellent fruit growing country.... orchards of Plums (for the famous Prunes of Agen) Peaches, Nectarines, Apples Pears, Cherries and even Kiwi fruit. Good valley land for traditional arable crops of wheat, barley, maize but with Sorghum, soya and garlic too. Some herds of Aquitaine Blond, beef cattle. Superb wines from the Buzet (around Agen) and Duras to the North West of the department.

To the South, the Gers. ... A more open, rolling landscape of great fields of wheat, maize and barley. Garlic is grown in great abundance to go with the many flocks of Duck and Geese which are raised here for the traditional cuisine of Gascony. There are some interesting and little known wines produced here ( for example the delicious Madiran) as well as the more well known Armagnacs which are a major export of Gascony.

Climate

Pigeonnier

This is an inland area , away from seas and mountains.... so we benefit from a stable climate of 4 distinct seasons, with particularly short, mild Winters and long hot Summers.

Winter is in effect December and January. A time of crisp mornings ( 4-5 frosts each month, around -1 or 2C) and clear afternoons with temperatures around 5-15C. Yes, you can actually eat outside at Christmas some years !!. Snow is a stranger to the area.

February is a lovely month.... and my favourite. It arrives suddenly with warm weather and bright blue skies to announce that Spring is on its way. As I speak, it is warm and sunny outside.... afternoon temperatures can often be between 15 and 20C. The Forsythia is budding, the beautiful yellow clouds of Mimosa are bursting all over the department and the daffodils are busy pusing up their heads.

March is a month of 'April showers' and more changeable than other months.

April heralds Spring and continually improving weather.

June to mid September is our Summer. Long hot and pretty dry. Yes, you can actually plan your BBQs in advance !! Mid Summer temperatures range between 30 and 40C (stay in at Lunch time and grab a siesta) Autumn is a balmy period with changing colours and comfortable weather.

November is the only month I have found at all like those in England... ie wet and grey !! > The less said the better.

People

This is rural France ! Most of the people in the area are involved in agriculture in one way or another, and there aren't many of us out here..... for example, the population of the department of Lot et Garonne is only 300 000. The agriculture is rich and the farms are mostly small, mixed farms. The sort of agriculture that works, and which has disappeared from many other European countries. As a result, the villages are all alive and thriving, providing a full range of shops and services to the inhabitants in and around them. The country folk are friendly with open characters, as in most truly agricultural communities. Make an effort to speak the language and integrate in the community and you will be given the warmest of welcomes. Market days are the perfect opportunity to meet your neighbours as well as to buy good local produce. They accept us foreigners with open arms, particularly when we use local artisans, shops, schools etc..

Food

Fruits

This is too big a subject to cover in detail, as it is the main subject of conversation and interest to most people here. Suffice it to say that the South West is renowned for its good wholesome country cooking, including duck (in every way imaginable) goose, confit, croustades (apple and armagnac in flaky filo pastry). Seafood is available in abundance as producers bring their wares in from the sea to sell at the markets. Of particular interest are the lovely Oysters brought in from the Atlantic or Mediterranean shores.

Go to the local produce markets ( nearly every village has one) to buy local produce from your farming neighbours, together with organic produce and wines. A coffee or glass of wine in the village caf rounds off market day very nicely.