Les seules personnes qui trouvent un endroit intéressant sont celles qui se perdent – Henry David Thoreau
The only people who ever get anyplace interesting are the people who get lost – Henry David Thoreau
Today I wish to quote the great Indian author-poet Rabindranath Tagore. He said, “I came to your shore as a stranger, I lived in your house as a guest, I leave your door as a friend, my earth”. I realized it was the perfect fit for my experience with a city that was never on my visit-wish-list, a city that happened to me by chance! Welcome to ‘xenodochial’* Agen, an undiscovered gem in the southwest Lot-et-Garonne department of France, between Toulouse and Bordeaux on the banks of the Garonne river. It’s a conventional French town that very few have heard of, a handful may have visited but it’s the one that shines in glory of its title, “Rugby & Prune capital of France’
Let’s start exploring this wonderful town that may seem to be not so touristic in the first place.
Dedicated to Saint Caprasius, Agen Cathedrale is a Roman Catholic collegiate church built in the 12th century.
Sacked in 1561 during the Wars of religion, the cathedral was turned into a fodder store in 1789 at the beginning of the French revolution. It became a cathedral only in 1801. Its structure is in the shape of a Latin cross. The walls and ceilings have brightly coloured paintings of evangelists, apostles, patriarchs, martyrs of Agen, and great kings of Israel, in rich tones of blue, red and yellow.
The organ is remarkable in size and appearance.
Two wooden, decorative confession boxes caught my attention too!
Boulevard Pietons, the liveliest part of the city is the pedestrian-only, east-west axis spanning the entire Boulevard de la Republique.
Flanked by a variety of shops, cafes, boulangeries, ice-cream shops, and dotted with the ornate brown-red resting chairs and benches under the shades of the trees, the life is always vibrant here.
The aesthetically corbelled multi-storied houses with the wrought-iron balconies and large French windows make this area aristocratic.
The Original East-West Axis
La Rue Emilie Sentinel (Emilie street) and Rue Molinier (Molinier Street) made the town’s original East-West axis in the 11th century when the tradesman and artisans gathered around the Place du Poids de la Ville where the two roads meet.
It was the sight of official town weights and measures till Revolution. Present-day, the narrow lane has beautiful old buildings with fine restaurants offering cuisines from across the world apart from local French variety. I was pleasantly surprised to find an Indian restaurant there! The food was authentic 😊
Little ahead is the Rue Molinier which served as the distribution centre for the flour. The building on the corner of the Carrera de la Ambans (Ambans square) still holds on to its original façade, and so do some other buildings in the lane.
Place des Laitiers
The square that witnessed the busy mornings with milkmen setting up stalls to sell the milk and milk products in the olden days, now continues to be a thriving city centre. The cobblestone square is surrounded by the busy-at-any-hour cafes and gourmet ice cream shops. The open terraces of the restaurants offer the opportunity to relax and submerge in the harmony of life.
Marche Couvert (covered market) on one of its sides has shops selling fresh fruits, vegetables, cheese, wine, meat, and everything that is food!
The arcaded walkways of Rue de Cornieres offer an old-world charm.
Located near the Carrera de la Cornieres is the 14th-century house ‘Le Senechal’. It is a continuously habited one!
Let’s stop here to buy some ice cream, grab a chair by the road and just relax! Let’s meet tomorrow again to continue our exploration.
*Xenodochial (adj) – Place or person that is friendly to strangers. According to Oxford English Dictionary, it means ‘hospitable’
Click here for posts so far in the “Exploring l’Hexagone” series