A day in Agen

Mondays are a bit problematic in France for tourists. Many things are closed for the day, to recover from the stress of le week-end, and then – for those hardy souls who do open – there is the closing for the sacred midday meal, which can last from two to three hours. We wonder where the lowly grocery store clerks go for all that time, presuming they don’t spend their wages at cafes.

Because our current gîte is having internet issues, we were a bit handicapped in planning, so we set off for the city of Agen on Monday without complete information on what was open in this medieval town.

We were lucky to find the Fine Arts museum receiving visitors. It contains artefacts, furniture and sculptures from prehistoric times onwards, including painting by Goya, Bonnard and Seurat. The collection also contains a large number of works by artists who lived locally, which can be perused quite rapidly.

Agen is the “Capital of the Prune,” the local produce sold as a sweet (stuffed with prune purée) or as an after-dinner delight (prunes soaked in Armagnac). Every September, the Prune festival organizes rock concerts, circuses and prune tasting. What a blast that must be. Sorry we will miss it – but we did take home a large bag of their (un-soaked) delights along with some prune jam.

We also dined here and did a round of laundry in an Agen laundromat. While all the gîtes we have booked have washing machines, they do not seem to have embraced the joys of dryers. When you are living in an 18th century stone building, we find it a bit difficult to get our clothes dry on a rack in a reasonable number of days. Guess we have really lost our pioneering spirit. At any rate, lunch was lovely and the clothes are now all clean and all dry.

We realize we did not spend enough time to properly admire this ancient city. Its medieval architecture is amazing and – while it is not high on the cuteness chart – it does wear its age with grace and dignity.


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