Departmental capital: Auch
Main cities/towns: L’Isle-Jourdain, Condom, Fleurance, Eauze, Lectoure, Vic-Fezensac, Mirande, Gimont, Pavie
It is said that Gers is for Brits who are too rich to live in the Dordogne. With its rolling hills, views of the Pyrenees and historic villages, Gers has long attracted well-heeled French, British and other Europeans looking for a second home.
Some 6,400 properties are classified as second homes, of which 1,300 are owned by foreigners – 49% British.
Long-standing foreign residents are not counted as second-home owners and in some parts are the backbone of a number of associations involved in village life.
The locals do not mind. They have made tourism, and especially food tourism, a speciality and it now counts, after agriculture, as the second most important industry in the department. Duck foie gras, Armagnac and wines such as the traditionally well-structured Madiran feature.
There are no large towns – Auch is the biggest and the department prefecture, with a population of 22,100. Condom (no sniggering at the back!) has a population of 6,500, and a section of the budget to replace stolen place- name signs in tourist season.
Gers is easy to get to, with no fewer than three autoroutes skirting its borders. but once you arrive, expect to slow down – most of the roads are two-lane or less, and the rolling hills do not make overtaking easy.
For all the magnificent second homes, property in Gers is not stratospheric. If you do not mind being in a small village, it is possible to find a house for under €100,000. Most are stone-built with thick walls, perfect for keeping cool during the hot summers and conserving heat in winter when, especially in the higher south, frosts are common.