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William and Kate in Gascony

Monday 05 September 2016

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge choose to spend their summer holiday this year in a quiet corner of South West France.

According to local newspaper reports, the couple arrived discreetly in the region by private jet at the Pyrenees airport of Pau at the end of July, accompanied by their children George and Charlotte.

Without ceremony they were whisked away to a charming XVI Century chateau near the pretty village of Aignan, in the department of Gers, part of the ancient region of Gascony.

The week-long stay by the couple was one made in the strictest secrecy, with not even the mayor of the village knowing anything about it, apparently, much to his indignation.

The choice of la France profonde may not be a surprising one for the Royal couple, who were able to enjoy complete privacy for their holiday, far away from the paparazzi who might have been expected to have hounded them had they joined the other rich and famous on the Cote d’Azur.

Such was the secrecy that the local newspaper La Dépêche only became aware of their whereabouts as their visit was coming to an end, but their own more tame efforts to get a photo of the couple were thwarted by British security staff who kept them at a distance.

All accounts suggest that the couple kept pretty much to themselves during the stay, rarely straying from the chateau, although they attended a concert at Marciac Jazz Festival, a rite of passage for most visitors to Gascony.

Prince William with security guard was also spotted enjoying a beer with locals in a bar in the village of Lupiac, birthplace of musketeer D’Artagnan.

The Royal couple are not the only ones to fall for the charms of the Gers, often referred to as la Toscane Française for the rolling hills and mediaeval townscapes that characterise it. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair regularly holidayed in the area, and it is a bolt-hole for a coterie of more reclusive luminaries seeking to avoid the usual playground of the Cote d'Azur.

Many Parisiens also own holiday homes in the department, which achieved a substantial facelift in France following the success in the late 90s of the comedy film Le Bonheur est dans le Pré, about a stressed-out Parisian businessman who escapes to the area to find a new way of life.

The couple ended their holiday by travelling over to the Atlantic coastal resort of Biarritz, where they stayed one night in the five star Hôtel du Palais, former imperial residence of Napoléon III.

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