A distinguished history, a fiery temperament and rolling landscapes all contribute to the personality of this Major Historical Site that has made fine living a raison d'être. Along the River Baïse, on the Armagnac hillsides, sheltered by ancient stones, from abbey to cathedral, this little piece of Gascony sings about the joys of sharing and living with a united voice.
The Baïse Valley will guide you along its fanciful winding path from Condom to Auch in the Gers towards a magnificent surprise: Flaran Abbey. With its copper-coloured stone and lush green setting, the abbey is a perfect example of the rural charm that is Gascony’s secret.
Flaran, which is one of South-West France’s best-preserved Cistercian abbeys, is a stone's throw away from the bastide town of Valence-sur-Baïse.
The Abbey’s life is a novel in which the chapters unfold with each stone that you pass: from the original Romanesque church to the delightful Medicinal Garden, passing through the superb Gothic cloister on the way, the 14th century Chapter House, the monks' dormitory, the abbot’s house and the vast centennial gardens surrounding the Abbey, which was founded in 1151.
Flaran Abbey flourished in the Middle Ages. It was later transformed into an agricultural estate after the French Revolution and has belonged to the Gers Department since 1972. It is now the Departmental Cultural Centre and offers a wide range of activities all year round, including exhibitions, educational events and concerts, etc. The Abbey also houses a permanent exhibition, which is one of a kind in France, dedicated to European Masters from the 16th to 20th centuries.
The Abbey is set in the heart of AOC Armagnac area, and will make you want to wander through its famous vineyards. Among the wineries, estates and typical villages, enjoyment is everywhere. You will be warmly welcomed by the families who lovingly produce small quantities of this very old wine-based eau-de-vie, a tradition that makes France a synonym for luxury and fine living.
Take the time to explore Condom, whose heritage reflects the power of the former bishops and the wealth produced created by the Armagnac trade. The historical centre, which is overlooked by an imposing Gothic cathedral, is made up of private town houses built in the 18th century, of large Armagnac mansions, and of wineries and cellars, without forgetting the Armagnac Museum, of course!
Continue your trip along the river, leaving Condom behind.
The River Baïse, once used for transporting and trading Armagnac, now provides a navigable waterway along a 60 km route which passes through valleys coloured by crops and rolling woodlands. A boat trip along this waterway, which offers you many opportunities for discovery, will take you right into the heart of the generous and resolutely Epicurean land of Gascony.
Keys to discovery
> Learn all about tasting "the Gascon Spirit" at AOC Armagnac wineries and estates. Armagnac is a noble product dating back to the 14th century and its production is a family affair handed down through the generations. It exceptional character, its panache and its distinct personality are particularly evident in its wide aromatic range, which includes cranberries, vanilla, candied fruit and cinnamon.
> A great experience awaits you in Flaran Abbey: the Simonow exhibition, featuring masterpieces from the 16th through to the 20th century, which have been loaned by Michaël Simonow, the renowned art collector. Works by the likes of Monet, Matisse, Renoir, Cézanne, Braque, Picasso and many others are beautifully exhibited in the monks' dormitory. Flaran Abbey also houses an exhibition which is unique in the Midi-Pyrénées, and dedicated to the Saint James of Compostela pilgrimage routes.
> Take a boat along the Baïse. You can choose a theme-based gastronomic boat trip or hire a license-free boat from the port in Condom, the historical capital of the Armagnac region. Don't miss out on the Bandas y Penas Festival in May, which is a festive gathering for amateur musicians in keeping with South-West France's great festival tradition.
> Sites around Flaran: visit the bastide town of Valence-sur-Baïse, founded by the Abbey's monks, and Fourcès, an authentic circular-shaped Gascon village. Stop off at the tiny fortified village of Larressingle at the heart of the Armagnac vineyards, half-way between a fairy-tale and a swashbuckling film. You just have to see it!
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