If you’d love your very own castle and a laid-back leisurely lifestyle then Indre-et-Loire and Gers both have plenty to offer, but which one to choose?
With Tours (top), former capital of France, at its heart and the Loire river flowing leisurely through it, picturesque Indre-et-Loire was once home to French royalty and is studded with glorious châteaux – among them Chenonceau, Clos Lucé and Amboise. Today, the area is the home of celebrated wines, the Loire Valley’s fertile slopes producing Vouvray, Bourgueill and Chinon. It’s also known for its troglodyte, or cave, houses built into the cliff faces in the voids left where stone was quarried for its châteaux. But if a castle is out of your reach, there is still plenty of affordable property in its pretty towns and villages. Check out peaceful Amboise; Chinon, along the Vienne River; Loches in the southeast; and Richelieu.
Ryanair flies direct to Tours from London Stansted depending on the time of year. Travel by train from Paris to Tours in as little as an hour, while the drive from Caen’s ferry port takes two and three quarter hours.
The climate here is temperate, with July the warmest month seeing averages of 20°C. January is the coldest, wettest and windiest month, with lows of 5°C.
Surprisingly, house prices in this area tend to be lower than the national average – although it is more expensive than other départements in the region. Look out for farmhouses with land from €250,000, character family homes from €400,000 and manoirs starting at €500,000. Tours has some great buy-to-let options. But if you really have your heart set on a château, you could snap up something grand with turrets from about €1million.
Along with its amazing châteaux, the area has a great religious and historical heritage and is the start of the Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle pilgrim trail. Other cultural highlights include Tours’ Musée des Beaux-Arts; Honoré de Balzac’s retreat, the Château de Saché; and oodles of beautiful Renaissance parks and gardens.
Properties in Indre-et-Loire
Located in former Midi-Pyrénées, and created following the French Revolution from parts of Guyenne and Gascony, you might be surprised to discover that Gers has more châteaux than any other département – over 45 at last count (though some are little more than ruins).
The countryside here is lush and the climate very mild, and with the Pyrénées nearby it’s a varied and popular spot celebrated for its hearty cuisine. It also boasts six Plus Beaux Villages. If it’s peace and quiet you crave, you’ll be glad to hear it’s one of the least populated places in France with a very laid-back lifestyle. Auch (top) is the area’s prefecture; other places to focus your property search are bastide village Fleurance; medieval Condom; Eauze and thermal spa resort Barbotan-les-Thermes.
The easiest way to get to Gers from the UK is probably by plane. Toulouse is the nearest international airport and flights run from Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Bristol and Edinburgh. There are also airports at Pau and Bordeaux. Trains from Toulouse to Auch take an hour and a half, or by car you can be there in a little over an hour. The TGV links Paris with Toulouse and Agen.
Generally the climate here is mild, though Gers’ proximity to the Pyrénées and the Atlantic coast means it can be changeable. Summers tend to be hot (up to 35°C) and dry, while winters can be very cold with snow. Auch and Toulouse are among the driest cities in France.
Despite the Covid crisis seeing house prices rise in France, property in Gers is still among the cheapest in Occitanie. Here, in contrast to Indre-et-Loire, you can find affordable châteaux starting at around €500,000, while a four-bedroom family home can cost as little as €250,000. Auch is the most expensive place to buy, while property is somewhat cheaper in the south of the département – try bastide town Mirande and others nearby.
In this rural département, there are plenty of opportunities to explore nature, its charming historic towns and monuments. It’s home to many music events too, the famous Marciac jazz festival for one. Armagnac is made here, so do include a degustation on your itinerary.
Properties in Gers
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Lead photo credit : Indre and Gers side by side edited by Sarrah Turner © Shutterstock
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