The old province of Gascony is still relatively undiscovered and therefore the “tourist industry” in the area is relatively underdeveloped, but you can find most things that you might expect, and several unexpected treasures too.
Visitors are usually warmly welcomed everywhere – there seems to be little of the tourist fatigue found in Paris, in the Dordogne or on the Mediterranean coast – and there is still a great deal of local pride in the area which will readily be shared with you by the local residents, especially if you can try to communicate in French. There is a tennis court in the village, several good golf courses within half an hour’s drive, various horse-riding possibilities, lake swimming and boating, a mini theme-park/funfair (Parc Walibi) just outside Agen and a tourist railway or two. (Mézin to Nérac opened summer 2004 and I am on the committee to reopen Port Ste Marie to Condom). There are also museums to the prune, to armagnac, to cork and to the condom (in the town of Condom), the French national collection of water lilies (where Monet bought his for Giverny) and a collection of ancient fruit trees and vegetable varieties of worldwide importance. Villages still have village fêtes and meals to celebrate the solstice and the change of seasons (leaping over bonfires a speciality in June), and Sos and others organise rambles and historic tours. There is a classical concert season in July/August and occasional visits from theatre or folklore groups. There is a wonderful producers’ market on six Wednesday evenings in July and August in the main square in Sos village – good to walk up the hill, enjoy the food and wine and roll down later…
This corner of the Lot-et-Garonne département is characterised by small farms set among heavily wooded rolling valleys, changing rapidly to the west to the sand and pines of the Landes forest. Agriculture and viticulture are the dominant local activities, local crops including early strawberries and asparagus (March to June), maize, sunflowers, melons, tomatoes and grapes. Wine from the area is distilled into the famous Armagnac brandy – with plenty of tasting opportunities nearby! Be sure to try Floc, the rather less fiery aperitif made from armagnac and grape juice, and delicious ice-cold. Slightly further afield, the vineyards of Bordeaux, Sauternes, Bergerac and Duras can all make fascinating day or halfday outings, as can several local vineyards beginning to make more interesting wines – Tariquet/Grassa and Millet near Éauze, various Buzet properties in and out of the co-op, Fézas and Magnaut near Fourcès, Chardonnay from Pellehaut etc.
Road and track sides are still mown rather than sprayed, and are therefore thick with wild flowers, especially orchids in the spring. Deer, wild boar, otters, buzzards, kestrels, red and black kites, herons, hoopoes, nightingales, woodpeckers, owls and bats have all been seen round the station.
The weather, affected by the proximity of the Atlantic and the Pyrenées, is as variable as in the UK, but it is usually at least 5°C warmer, and the summer temperatures can be very high indeed (up to 39°C in 2009). It can also be grey and miserable for days at a time, though this is unusual in the summer months. Even in January, however, it warms up rapidly whenever the sun appears, and “Indian summers” in September and October are frequent.
Sos itself, dating back to pre-Roman times, is charming, and there are many other attractive local villages, bastides and small towns (most with markets selling local produce), châteaux, castles, churches, chapels and trees to be visited. Four nearby examples are Fourcès, Poudenas, Mézin and Nérac. There is a range of restaurants to suit every budget and every occasion, from € 14.00 for five courses including wine and coffee via ferme auberges serving excellent specialities (this is big duck country) mostly grown on the premises, to Michelin-recommended style and quality. Further afield, the Atlantic coast and Bordeaux (1.5 hours), the Pyrenées and Toulouse (2 hours) are all tempting outings and pleasant drives.
If you don’t want to cook or eat out there are various catering possibilities by prior arrangement, including North African/Mediterranean specialities and Gascon “takeaways” – let me know if you would prefer lamb tagine, duck confit or seafood paella!
I live opposite in the former Pumphouse if required for help or advice, and a full handbook is provided in the station with more detailed information, instructions and hints on how things work along with a “house book” of what previous visitors have seen and done.
The holiday home is in the former passenger building of the station and comprises kitchen (former ticket office) and living/dining room on the ground floor, then three bedrooms and two bathrooms on the first floor (former station master’s apartment) and a dormitory and further shower room in the attic. You can see the original station layout in the plans shown on the Booking page.
My mother Ann lives in the adjoining former Goods Warehouse – excellent soundproofing means that you will not know she is there.