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Aquitaine / Lot-et-Garonne / Agen

The charming town of Agen is the capital of the Lot et Garonne department in south-west France. It has an enviable position close to the river Garonne on the plain at the foot of the Ermitage Hills. On account of the riverside location the area has been a site of human habitation dating back as far as the Neolithic era.

The area enjoys a mild Oceanic – type climate with some high temperatures recorded during the summer months and July having the best sunshine record.

Agen is truly a crossroads town as regards its transport infrastructure. Historically, the river provided the main means of communication. Nowadays you have a choice of either the A62 motorway, which allows easy access to other major cities, or the high speed rail link. From the Gare d’Agen, Paris can be reached in just 4 hours 10 minutes and there are also fast services to Bordeaux and Toulouse.

The town offers much of interest to entice tourists and just strolling around the boulevards and back streets is a pleasant way of passing the time. Many of Agen’s main attractions can be found in the old town centre with its array of well-preserved medieval buildings.

The 12th century cathedral, famous for its double nave, is worthy of visit as is the church of Saint Hilaire with the unusual statues of Saint Peter and Moses standing in front of it. The nearby Musee des Beaux Arts houses a collection of exhibits dating back to prehistoric times and the art gallery there contains works by well-known artists such as Goya and Seurat.

For theatre goers, Agen’s municipal theatre, ‘Theatre Ducourneau’, provides both drama and the occasional classical concert. The town’s other venue, Theatre du Jour’, has a resident company which performs a variety of plays ranging from Shakespeare to less well-known modern dramatists. There are also two cinemas, one of which hosts an annual film festival.

One of the locations you should definitely not miss is Agen’s fantastic covered market which is to be found opposite the tourist office. This is open daily apart from Monday and is the best place to find local delicacies, meat and produce of all kinds. Also on Saturdays you can visit the organic market, held in the Place des Laitiers.

Prunes are Agen’s most important product. Although grown in villages nearby, the town provides the centre of distribution. There is even a museum dedicated to this delicious dried fruit at nearby Granges sur Lot. La Musee Pruneau traces the history of prune production in the area. From July to September you can lose yourself in a prune maze or visit the shop which sells an incredible variety of prune-based delicacies.

The people of Agen are enthusiastic supporters of the town’s rugby team. Consistently one of France’s top teams, they play at the Armandie Stadium and include several famous internationals in their squad.

Water has always played an important part in the life of the town. The river Garonne itself, once the route of commerce, now provides river tourism in the form of passenger boats, cruiser hire and sailing vessels. So now it is possible for everyone to enjoy the peace and tranquillity of river travel by one means or another.

Also ideal for water-based pleasures such as boating, fishing or simply just walking along its picturesque banks is the Garonne Lateral canal. This 193 kilometre stretch of water forms part of the Canal des Deux Mers and crosses the Garonne at Agen’s famous canal bridge.

For family entertainment, head for Walibi Park near Roquefort. This 75 acre site, complete with genuine 18th century castle, provides a variety of rides and other attractions to suit all ages. Tickets for the park can be purchased at Agen’s tourist office and in July and August a shuttle bus runs from the station.

Agen provides an ideal holiday location whether you just want to relax and take things easy or take part in some of the more strenuous pursuits on offer in this unspoilt and hospitable corner of France.

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