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Condom-en-Armagnac, France

Mary and her husband work on international projects and have worked in the Maldives helping the government with skills development.

Condom-en-Armagnac

The City of Condom

The City of Condom

Condom-en-Armagnac in France's Gascony

Armed with a car and a map and a few Euros, the husband and myself found ourselves in the place where they make the best armagnac, Condom-en-Armagnac.

I have to admit that it was armagnac that drew us to this place. With five days to roam around between grandparenting assignments, we chose the less obvious destinations where no one had written a template book titled "A Year in...".

The Southwest of France appeared to be a great unexplored black hole that didn't qualify as "the South of France" and was not Paris. Digging a bit, part of southwest France turned out to be Armagnac country, the husband's favourite after dinner noggin. And amidst the giggly laugh of the granddaughter when she saw that the best Armagnac came from Condom, we drove off through Lyon to explore a brand new territory.

Driving from Lausanne, it took us almost two days on mainly country roads to reach Condom-en-Armagnac. With no real plan or reservations we could poke around and drive up side roads that promised Castles and Chateau and medieval this that and the other. We doddled a fair bit, discovering the Roman Village of Perouges, lunching in Lyon, falling over Roquefort and condemning the car to an endless future of cheese overture, and an overnight in Le Puy.

The Drive to Condom, Gascony - Truly Enjoyable in the Spring

Spring in Condom-en-Armagnac

Spring in Condom-en-Armagnac

An Early Spring Drive to the Gascony Region

The drive itself was truly enjoyable. No tourists yet in early Spring, zero traffic, endless testable boulangerie with meltable croissants. By the end of the second day, we staggered into Condom-en-Armagnac, having become stretched skins over slow digesting sausage, baguettes, a myriad of farm cheeses, a sampling of local wines and the remnant of swiss chocolate.

With our usual luck, we stopped right in front of the Hotel Trois Lys parking entrance. So, off we went to get ourselves a room in the hotel, a very European newly renovated 300 year old house right in the center of town.

Our arrival seemed to mark the official opening of tourist season for the owner/proprietor and our welcome swizzle was a massive Armagnac as a fortifying digestife. We stumbled out of the front gate to get some food loosening exercise while kicking the town's tires.

A Visit to Condom-en-Armagnac - The Center of Gascony

Southwest France

Southwest France

Where about is Condom-en-Armagnac? - Get to know how to get there

Condom France

Condom France

Condom France

The town is the capital of Gascony and an easy place to set up camp for exploring the region and taste its famous Armagnac and foie gras, the massively politically incorrect Pate de Foie Gras. Every little farm seems to be hammering out this stuff and the brandy afficionadoes are on the loose tracking armagnac down. Our experience suggests that the Cognac like drink is produced because the local wine is, ahhhhh, best distilled!

But beyond the armagnac and the foie gras, Condom is also the home of the international music festival called "bandas", the international chess marathon and tournament.

It is also home to two castles built in the 13th century, Château de Mothes and the Château de Pouypardin.

condom-en-armagnac

Interesting Historical Details on Condom-en-Armagnac

The city's name has its origin from the Gaulish words condate-ó-magos which means "market of the confluence". Condatómagos evolved into Condatóm and then into Conddóm. Condom was first recorded in Latin in the 10th century as Condomus or Condomium.

Early on, Condom has already developed as a wine country. With the River Baise, it has been able to develop its commercial interest.

Condom was once under the crown of England brought about by the marriage of Eleanor of Aquitane to Henry, Duke of Normandy who later became Henry II. After the Hundred Years War, this place was returned to France.

Condom had once been a major resting place for pilgrims on the road to St. James of Compostela. To appreciate Condom's place in this Via Podiensis, take the walking tour following the Circuit d'Artagnan as this takes you to the sites connected to this pilgrimage route.

If your interest is the Cathedral, then take the Circuit de Bossuet which will take you not just to the Cathedral but also the Abbey and other older buildings.

The Cathedral of St. Pierre In Condom

St. Pierre Cathedral in Condom France

St. Pierre Cathedral in Condom France

Condom-en-Armagnac's Gothic Cathedral

Condom-en-Armagnac's late Gothic cathedral, St. Pierre, was once rescued by its citizens during the Wars of Religion in 1569 when the French Huguenots threatened to destroy it. The citizens happily raised the ransom of F30,000 francs which lets us enjoy this landmark today. In punishment, the Huguenots had to spend 4 centuries living with the Boers in South Africa being the icing between English and Dutch in that particular Oreo cookie.

The Cathedral was designed at the end of the 15th century and finished at around 1531 with the leadership of the bishop then, Jean Marre. It was famous for its sumptuous 16th century liturgy and its 1605 organ. You still can see its original pulpit with its delicately carved stone baldaquin.

Condom, Gascony: The "Pays d'Artagnan" Country

D'Artagnan and the Three Musketeers

D'Artagnan and the Three Musketeers

The Three Musketeers of Gascony

The Gascons call their area the "Pays d'Artagnan". In the center of Condom on the verge of the St. Pierre Cathedral is the superhuman bronze statue of the Three Musketeers, the famous charactersl from Alexandre Dumas novel.

Apparently, the character of d'Artagnan was based on Charles de Batz, considered an ideal musketeer or royal bodyguard because of his chivalry and impetuousness. This seems to be interpreted as committing massive faux pas but apologizing so well that one is forgiven. A classic was exhibited in Batz' arrest of Louis XIV's most formidable minister and then stickhandled his way out of the mess.

Condom-en-Armagnac is the Capital of Gascony - The Center of Armagnac and Foie Gras

How Armagnac is Made

How Armagnac is Made

The Chateau Le Courrejot: The Award Winning Armagnac Producer

But, of course, the highlight for us was the visit to one of the Armagnac producers. We just drove around the Condom environs and happily got lost in one of the beautiful chateaus where we boldly went where no tourist had gone before. This was because it was a private residence. De batz would have been proud!

The Mistress of the Chateau recognizing my husband as a well meaning doofus with theatrical French let us take a few pictures and directed us to a tiny award winning producer of Armagnac next door: the Chateau Le Courrejot.

The proprietress of the Chateau knows her Armagnac and her passion for the best produce is overwhelming that one really understands why this area is home to the finest brandy in the world (the husband made me say it) putting Cognacs to shame.

She told us that their Tenareze Armagnacs are distilled, aged and bottled right on the property. Through continuous distillation and a long aging process in their home made oak casks, four of their vintages got Gold medals at the Paris competitions.

Watch how Armagnac is made:

A Taste of Armagnac

Armagnac Tasting

Armagnac Tasting

A drink of armagnac? - A fine drink

The best armagnac

It is here in Condom France that you can taste the best Armagnac. You can watch the producers here make armagnac of which they're very proud of.

The River Baise - Private Docks of Old

River Baise

River Baise

The River Baise

The River Baise skirts the town centre and was once a major transport highway for the residents and their exports to the Nordic countries and even America. One can still see the private docks and feeder canals that houses had on the river and may still be used today.

Hotel de Cugnac and the Musee de l'Armagnac

Located in the former stables of the Bishop of Milon, the Musee de l'Armagnac, with its presentation of the phases of armagnac production, gives you a much deeper understanding of what distinguishes the Armagnac from other fine brandies.

The Hotel de Cugnac with its ancient wine and spirit distillery and storehouse especially the 18-ton press and beautiful premises is a must see. But hitting the country roads and counting on your luck is much more fun.

Chateau de Cassaigne - The Bishop of Condom Old Residence

condom-en-armagnac

Chateau de Cassaigne

We also visited the old residence of the Bishop of Condom. Fantastic. Massive kitchens, with 13th century spits and all the gunge needed to feed the resident cast of characters. Fabulous grounds and a basement video giving you everything you ever wanted to know about the area and armagnac. It has a well stocked store of the products of the area.

So, what's the take away? - There are lots from Condom-en-Armagnac and its environs

Southwest France

Southwest France

The Take Away from Gascony

  • Get into rural France from Caesar's invasion to modern times. The locals are really friendly with not a hint of Paris arrogance. The food is solid fare and you can buy in the stores and picnic anywhere.
  • The country side is a bit like the Shire in Lord of the Rings and late March is the time to go with sweater weather and before the tourists arrive to put on their theater of excess.
  • This is the heart of France and the center of French rural and agricultural life. There is so much to taste of cheese, foie gras, terrine, wine and armagnac, the finest of these produce.

For more information on Condom, France:

1. Information on Condom and the Cathedral. Wikipedia

2. For more on tourism in Condom, France, see this guide.

© 2012 Mary Norton

Share your visit of Southwest France - Or just let us know you have visited this lens

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on May 02, 2019:

Hope you'll enjoy it.

Liz Westwood from UK on April 19, 2019:

This is a very thorough and well-illustrated hub. I will certainly look out for Armagnac next time I am in France. You have awakened my interest in the south west of France. The nearest I have been is Marseille, which I would highly recommend as a place worth a visit. We have visited rum, gin and whisky distilleries, a coffee plantation and a vineyard in the past year, but Armagnac is now on the list.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on December 12, 2018:

Thank you for this information. This is really a valuable addition.

Carla Jung on December 12, 2018:

While the article is interesting and informative I have to say that I never heard the town name Condom called Condom-en-Armagnac! Technically it can be called this way since Condom IS in the region Ténarèze that produces Armagnac, just this name is not in use.

Rob Hemphill from Ireland on October 16, 2013:

Looks fabulous here. I've only been to Bordeaux before in this part of France.

Melissa Miotke from Arizona on September 16, 2013:

I've been to France but haven't gotten this far South. I enjoyed learning more!

MiaMusement on March 31, 2013:

My friend and I are planning a France trip (she's retiring from teaching soon, and my husband isn't interested in returning to a country he's already visited), so your Armagnac info is perfectly timed. Thank you for giving me so many ideas!

KimGiancaterino on November 05, 2012:

Wow ... this is a beautiful place. Thanks for the virtual getaway!

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on July 17, 2012:

@goo2eyes lm: Really lovely.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on July 17, 2012:

@miaponzo: It is not hard to do this in Europe.

miaponzo on July 16, 2012:

What an amazing place! You have really been to loads of places! :) Blessed!

goo2eyes lm on April 15, 2012:

blessings to your lens before i forget that again. i love france, its food, its culture and people.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on April 11, 2012:

@sprevendido25: It is and it was also a surprise for us.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on April 11, 2012:

@julieannbrady: Really enjoyed our drive there. Armagnac was the draw for us and we were really happy to discover more.

julieannbrady on April 10, 2012:

Sounds like a very lovely place to visit ... love the Three Musketeers. Delicious wine and cheese and some good company! Scenic sights.

sprevendido25 on March 31, 2012:

Interesting name for an interesting place!

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on March 31, 2012:

@lbrummer: I am satisfied you enjoyed it.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on March 31, 2012:

@JoshK47: The drive was enjoyable as it was spring and fresh and not too many people on the road.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on March 31, 2012:

@Kailua-KonaGirl: Thank you for the blessing. We enjoyed the foie gras and armagnac and also the cheese and sausages.

KonaGirl from New York on March 25, 2012:

I have enjoyed the trip with you and your husband immensely! I have had to laugh several times at your great sense of humor and your way with words, especially in reference to your husband French accent. At least he has a basic understanding of the language. Wish I did. I was drooling just thinking about the delicacies you were eating while in route. Just lovely. I must agree with the husband on his taste of the Armagnac. I too think it much superior to Cognac. Well done again, my friend. I love to read your travel descriptions. *Squid Angel Blessed* and added to My Squid Angel Blessings for 2012 in the "Travel & Places » Western Europe" neighborhood.

JoshK47 on March 20, 2012:

Looks like quite a beautiful place! Thanks for sharing!

anonymous on March 20, 2012:

Condom-en-Armagnac! As the name suggests - seems to be a well protected place from even the many 'virtual' tourists like me! Lol! :))

Thanks for sharing these treasures!

Password below ses: megagiggle! I bet you had one too... :))

Loraine Brummer from Hartington, Nebraska on March 20, 2012:

Thanks for the trip to France. Lovely lens.