Travels

Sweaty in Condom

Posted

Monday 22 July 2019

I spent the weekend getting sand between my toes on Bayonne Beach, finishing my book and scoping out a route through France. Today, three hours to Condom.

What can I say? It was a long enough drive in the right direction, had an aire and the potential for lots of knob jokes, which I shall uncharacteristically resist! Condom has no responsibility for its name being misappropriated.

As long ago as 1666, the English Birth Rate Commission (who’d imagine such a thing at that time) attributed a downward fertility rate to use of “condons”, the first documented use of that word (or any similar spelling). Other early spellings include “condam” and “quondam”.

A variety of unproven Latin etymologies have also proposed, apart from condon (receptacle), condamina (house), and cumdum (!) (scabbard or case). It has also been speculated to be from the Italian word guantone, derived from guanto, meaning glove.

Nothing to do with Condom.

Condom is pretty, but hot as hell today. Seems I’ve chosen to come inland with temperatures nudging 40 for a few days.

There’s a town festival going on but no need for those umbrellas, though it’s always good to have access to protection.

Condom is known for its production of Armagnac,

and the county it sits in, Gers, is home to D’Artagnan.

Gascony’s famous hero was born Charles de Batz de Castelmore in about 1611 at his childhood home, the Château de Castlemore, close to the village of Lupiac.

One of eight children born into minor nobility, Charles followed the tradition o younger sons by leaving his homeland to seek fortune as a soldier in Paris, eventually joining the Musketeers. It was a time of plots and wars. D’Artagnan, who took his name from his mother’s family, soon distinguished himself as captain lieutenant. He became so well regarded that the French king and the dauphin were godfathers to his two sons. After he was killed in 1673, during the siege of Maestricht in Flanders, (where there is a statue to him, which I saw last year) the king held a special service in his own chapel.

Therefore there is an association between Armagnac and the musketeers. Armagnac societies around the globe call themselves musketeers.

There are Armagnac tours to top producers and cellars hereabouts, a reason, if one were needed, to visit this area.

Some of France’s prettiest villages lie north of here,

and, apart from the cathedral,

though there’s not much more to the town of Condom, there are castles and so on nearby.

And when else would I see this activity on my tracker?

Great trick if you can do it!

Time, 23:20, temperature 31 degrees; a cold shower is called for.

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