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Nérac Once home to the court of King Henri IV, Nérac remains 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. You can also ride one of several riverboats along the picturesque River Baïse, which dissects the village, 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 the inspiration for Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost.
Bazas Perched on a cliff and surrounded by spectacular vineyards – most notably those of Château d’Yquem – Bazas is a jewel in the Gironde department. For 2,500 years Bazas was the capital city of the Celts, then the Romans. According to legend, its original church held a coveted relic which gave the town its prominence: a cloth with the blood of St. John the Baptist, wiped up by a woman from Bazas. The building of a church began in 1233 to house the cloth, which remained there until the French Revolution in 1789, when a fanatic ripped it from its shrine and threw it into a cesspool. This amazing Gothic cathedral was finally completed in 1635 and sits on an imposing rise at the end of an unusually vast, arcaded square that provides shelter and shade for shops and cafés. It’s serpentine, cobbled streets beckon admirers to view an eclectic variety of bourgeois houses and gardens. Bazas was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1998. It lies just off the Bordeaux-Graves-Sauternes Wine Route, where you can journey through 7,300 hectares of vineyards and visit some 494 winemakers in 52 villages for wine tastings. Gascony Essentials Take a tour with French Country Adventures and discover real Gascony and its authentic villages, gastronomic restaurants and wonderful vineyards. Getting there: By air: the nearest airport is the International Toulouse Blagnac Airport - although there a few other options within a couple of hours drive. (Carcassonne, Bordeaux, Bergerac and Pau.) By rail: There are regular train services from Paris to Toulouse, Montauban and Auch.
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