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Springtime In The Jurançon…French Country Living At Its Best

“Sometimes, when the sun shines, you just have to drop everything and get outside!” writes France Correspondent Lucy Culpepper.

“This morning I dropped the children at school, then set off on my road bike into the Jurançon countryside in the southwest of France. This is rolling wine country. The vine growers use traditional grapes, such as Lauzet, Petit and Grand Mansengs, and Courbu. The vines are just starting to turn from woody looking sticks to the leafy boughs that will soon bear the fruit for both the golden sweet and the dry clear green Jurançon wines.

“Wine has been grown in this area since the Roman times, but Jurançon did not become nationally famous until it was used for the baptism of King Henri IV in 1553. The infant Prince had his lips rubbed with garlic and moistened with Jurançon wine. It was said that the wine gave him ‘a vigor and ardent spirit that never left him.’

“Everywhere I explored on my bicycle this morning was bathed in the sweet smell of spring. At almost every turn there was a sign for a chambre d’hôte (bed and breakfast) or a gîte (a self-catered house or cottage), and I can easily understand why. This really is the most beautiful place to visit. Pretty villages with bakeries bursting with breads and pastries, streets lined with blossoming fruit and nut trees, towering ancient churches ringing out their bells, rivers and streams in full flow from the melting Pyrenean snow and the glorious mountains, with just a little snow hanging on, towering up in the distance.

“I took a break at a small farm offering samples of homemade goat’s cheese, a delicious nutty, creamy variety made on the farm. The owner proudly showed me his flock, grazing in the valley below. I passed on the glass of Jurançon offered, not wanting to wobble off into the distance on my two wheels.

“This is France at its best.”

Kathleen Peddicord

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