Give Gers a go.
This unspoiled southwestern swathe of the Mid-Pyrénées may seem sleepy, but be assured there is as much to do in the region as in France’s neighbouring tourist magnets. The headline acts for foodies are Armagnac (the world-class brandy hails from here), and duck, foie gras and wild mushrooms. Francophiles can also expect fantastic antique markets and vineyard tours within their grasp in d’Artagnan’s history-steeped birthplace – and all sans the holidaymaker hordes. An alluring date for any diary is the Marciac Jazz Festival in the summer.
Where to stay? Our tip is to round up friends and family for a special-occasion gathering at Château de Lartigolle, a chic eight-bedroom 18th-century estate 40 minutes west of Toulouse. Here, statement mid-century furniture sidles up to centuries-old antiques creating an effortless elegance elemental to once-in-a-lifetime celebrations as well as relaxing all-ages family holidays. Stylish to the gills, this hip holiday house is low-key luxury at its best with a sitting room for every mood and boutique-hotel-style boudoirs that make time indoors as enticing as hours spent in the leafy swimming pool- and tennis court-studded studded grounds. Play architects to your own adventures in the ‘belly of France’ or let the bon viveur proprietors take the reins and rustle up your fabulous meals throughout your stay using the best of Gers gastronomy. Bon voyage guaranteed.
Sleeps As well as six ensuite bedrooms, the château has a sprawling studio that sleeps six more in a sleek dormitory-style room. Rates €11,500 a week (low season) to €14,500 a week (high season), not including catering. Prices including catering can also be provided. Book mrandmrssmith.com/lartigolle; ring 0845 034 0700.