Campsites, hotels and restaurants are named after it. It must be a Landes speciality - but what is it exactly?

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henhouse - airial - The Landes

Pierre (age 8) is on holiday at Airial campsite in Soustons. On getting back to the campsite after having seen the airial at the eco-museum of Marquèze and after having eaten at the Airial restaurant in Saint-Pierre-du-Mont with his parents on the way back, he decides to ask Gustave, the campsite gardener. He must know, since he has a strong local accent: "I was wondering, Gustave, I've heard the word airial all day long, but what is it?"

What is it?

"My dear Pierre, firstly, so as to not make any spelling mistakes at school, we say one airial but two airiaux. The word come from the Gascony dialect airiau and is only used in the Landes. It is a clearing in the heart of the Landes forest, where the pines give way to a lawn where oak trees can sometimes be found. Several Landes houses and their outbuildings are grouped together in this area. The oldest airiaux were created in the 14th century!"

But why?

"The airial is part of the cultural heritage and landscape of the Landes. Before there were cars, the airiaux were "districts" which were independent from the villages. Sites were chosen for their soil quality, which was perfect for setting up a living space, whereas most of the Landes region was marshy and barren at the time. Several families lived on the same airial, where their house, barn, oven, well, sheep barn, henhouse and everything else that they needed to live would be located."

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Airial - the Landes

And now?

 "Little by little, people left the airiaux for the villages and towns. Some disappeared when the forest was developed after a huge implantation of pine trees, which was decided by the State at the end of the 19th century. Today, there are still some beautiful airiaux, thankfully. And some of them are used for campsites and for gites for example, as they are in lovely, peaceful areas."

"Thank you Gustave for teaching me all that. Now can I say that I’m a Landes local like you?"

 

 

(CDT des Landes - Updated 22/03/2017)