A chilled glass of gasconade

Photo via Wikipedia

Photo via Wikipedia

Ah, with style; the French do it with such style.

I live in a new town. Built since the 1950’s, to accommodate Londoners after the war, it was designed as a little Utopia, a place where communities thronged around small community centres filled with shops and leisure spaces. It has moments of futuristic flare; but many of the ideas used in the creating of the new town have proved more wishful than practical. The town is fading, its leadership weak and wobbly; half  the centre has been closed for demolision pending a regeneration which has been trying ineffectually to happen for the last two decades. There is no date set for anything to be built in its place.

It is a bit of a damp squib.

Another set or new towns was built once. And now they are very, very old towns.

It was in the days when England was ruled by the Angevins. And whole swathes of the south east of France could just as well be ruled by a French as an English king.

Well, in those days, that part of France was a frontier. A wilderness, a barren waiting land. And France took one look at its ragged edges and the English aquisitorial streak, and she said to herself: that land needs colonising properly.

Properly being the operative word. It was no use letting people trickle into the wildreness and build speculative little farmsteads because the English would have those as soon as look at them. To colonise Gascony, and Languedoc, and Aquitaine, they needed structured towns which could defend themselves.

So Raymond VII of Toulouse got permission under the 1229 Treaty of Paris to build. He was not allowed to fortify, but just to create organised towns.

And build he did. They were called Bastides; exquisite eye candy for the mediaeval historian. Built on a grid system, with a central square, some say they were influenced by the port the crusaders used to leave from – Aigues Mortes – and some cite the Islamic tradition of having a central square.

Whatever the source, they are stunning. Incredible. And one day I shall trail along and visit a goodly number of the 5-700 new towns  which have survived  some seven hundred years.

It is said that the Gascons have a propensity to brag. So much so that their swanking tirades have become an etymological joke in France and England.

They call a good, hearty brag a gasconade.

But had I a place like that, with its climate and a land colonised by new towns which have lasted many centuries: why, I would be bragging too.


Written in response to Side View’s challenge, Gasconnade, which you can find here


32 thoughts on “A chilled glass of gasconade

  1. They definitiely owning the gasconading rights to that one Kate. Sorry to hear about your own town but remember cycles, it will cycle.

    1. It probably will. Tandy, though thoughts of regeneration were on the cards when I was a young cub reporter in the town, 20 years ago or so. Leadership is all, I fear.

      1. Well, quite! My whole entire point! 😀 All these years they have been blaming the Gascons for bragging, and the poor Gascons have just been telling the unvarnished truth! How fair is that?

  2. Reading this makes me that more excited about wandering through France this Fall. I especially want to go to places my sweetie has not been so that, together, we can take it something ‘new’ to both of us. Such a beautiful country to explore and sometimes I wonder will we ever leave?

  3. Regentrification is not always lasting. I hope your town can retain some of its charm during the revamping.

    That fortress, however, does look strong enough to withstand the onslaught of modernization. Thank you for sharing, Kate.

  4. I must say I like the idea of being able to be proud of one’s place of birth or adopted home. I don’t really think of it as bragging, but of finding the elements that make it special. Every place has something, I think. Of course, not all is equal. This particular French region sounds particularly noteworthy. Great use of “THE” word this week, Kate. I love to see what you come up with!

  5. This region of France is gorgeous; I’ve been lucky enough to travel and visit many of these charming cities (since I live much too far away from all this history). Isn’t the one you have pictured Carcassonne? It was one of our favorite regions because of the rolling hills and warm atmosphere. It’s fascinating to think of living within the battlement, since it appeared that some people still did when we were there.

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