The restored chateau of the 16th-century humanist, statesman and essayist Michel de Montaigne is less than an hour’s drive from Gibeau

Gibeau is situated on the border of the Gironde and the Lot-et-Garonne, two of the five departments comprising the Southwest Region of France. Its location affords an excellent base to explore the areas diverse riches and relaxed lifestyle.

During the middle ages, the region’s abundance was prized by both England and France, who battled over it for hundreds of years , resulting in the rich architectural and cultural history visitors here enjoy today. The castles, Romanesque churches and bastide towns dotting the countryside are evidence of the value rival kings placed on the area, and to the lengths they went to capture and hold it.

The region is defined in large measure by its distinct gastronomic tradition, emphasizing confit, duck, goose, rabbit, foie gras, chevre and brebis cheeses, plums, figs, and cepes, among other delights. Outdoor enthusiasts have a wealth of options, including hiking, cycling, equestry, rowing and canoeing. The region is also in the heart of French rugby country. Many towns field homegrown teams, and taking in a game is a wonderful way to pass a golden autumn afternoon.

The area is easily navigable by car, and trains connect the larger cities. Another option is exploring the region by river barge, lazily plodding the waters of the Canal du Midi, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Combining barging and cycling is, for many, the perfect way to experience the area.

Duras

Duras. You’re almost certain to visit Duras a least a couple of times during your stay at Gibeau. The Carrefour supermarket is at the edge of town; there’s another smaller market in the town center. The open-air market is Monday mornings. There’s a nicer restaurant in the Hostellerie du Ducs. For simpler traditional fare and pizzas, try Don Camillos. There’s also a post office, two banks with ATMs, a doctor’s office and a pharmacy. A regular stop for me is the boulangerie on Rue Paul Persil which features chewy rustic breads and pastries all baked in a genuine four au bois — a wood-burning oven.

Bicycle Rentals: You can rent bikes by the day or week at the hardware shop in the center of town. We’ve done this several times and have always been happy with the quality of the bikes and the service.

Cycles da Rocha
11 Rue Paul Persil
(05) 53.83.71.54
(06) 85.58.65.29l
cycledarocha@sfr.fr

The Château de Duras was built in the 12-century. Primarily a fortress at first, it was developed over the centuries by the Ducs de Duras into a grand residence, then reduced to a shell during the revolution. Now state-owned, it is largely restored and open February through November. Self-guided tours include state rooms as well as underground kitchen and storerooms. The museum of local history here includes displays with many artifacts on agriculture, wine-growing, and crafts of daily living.

Chateau de Duras
14 Blvd Jean-Bisseau
Tel: (05) 53.83.77.32
chateau-de-duras.com

The Pays du Dropt

The Pays du Dropt. Situated in the northwest corner of the Lot-et-Garonne, the Pays du Dropt is a region of gentle valleys, with several historic towns and villages. You’ll find quiet cafes and small Romanesque churches. Gibeau sits at the edge of this area, so it's a lovely, easy day tour by car or bicycle. Plan your tour in advance using the maps at the house, or just follow the signs along the small intersecting roads and go where the day takes you.

Allemans-du-Dropt: The church here dates to the 13th century. Frescos were added 200 years later. The left-hand wall depicts the crucifixion; the right, the resurrection. The artist dressed Christ, Mary and the apostles in the clothes common to that time, and placed them in the surrounding landscape of green rolling hills.

Esclottes: This village once marked the boundary between the dioceses of Agen and Bazas. The 11th-century church features finely carved capitals.

La Sauvetat-du-Dropt: The village gets its name from the Old French word for an area of cleared land. The church is larger than most in the area dating from the same period, and features a 12th-century choir. There’s a also a charming Romanesque bridge.

Monteton: I find a particular sense of timelessness and calm in the 12th-century church here, my favorite in the area. Pale, rough-hewn stone and beautifully carved capitals of dragons, griffins and other mythic animals. This tiny place is situated strategically on a high hill with a commanding view of the entire Dropt valley. My favorite time to visit is late afternoon, when the sunlight on the valley takes on a slight golden tint. The café next door, with patio seating, is a great place to spend some time.

Saint Sernin-de-Duras: The is a sweet, attractive village. The church is covered in Virginia creeper whitch turns fantastic orange-red in the fall.

Monségur

Monségur is a lovely bastide town on the Gironde side of Gibeau, about equal distance from the house as Duras. The town — its names means “hill of safety” — was founded by charter of Eleanor of Aquitaine in 1265. Like Duras, Monśegur has all the practical stops — there’s a Shopi supermarket on the way into town from Gibeau, a post office, and a Credit Agricole bank with an ATM. The public market here in Fridays, and it’s always very good.

There’s also a movie house in town, the Cinema Eden, which from time to time shows films in VO, or Original Version, which usually means in English without dubbing.

Cinéma EDEN
7, rue porte du Dropt
Tel: 05 56 71 95 58
(www.cinema-eden.com).

The layout follows a classic bastide design, with a town square surrounded by arches, narrow streets, parallel back lanes and ramparts.

The town hosts festivals throughout the year, including the Fete des Fleurs every April. The most famous annual event in surely the 24 heures du Swing de Monśegur, which has been drawing enthusiasts from all over France since 1988. For three days in July, visitors of all ages, shapes and sizes swing to the rhythm of swing jazz in a series of concerts, most held in the square . The opening ceremony is accompanied by a musical parade through the town.

Gibeau. An authentic country home for vacation rental in Southwest France. Inquire about availability