Le plus beau du monde est, bien sûr, le monde lui-même – Wallace Stevens
The most beautiful in the world is, of course, the world itself.” – Wallace Stevens
To rightfully describe a city that belongs to the western world country, today I have used a beautiful term that belongs to the eastern world country. Yugen is a Japanese word that means to feel and sense beauty in something which apparently may not be that beautiful. In the case of a city, it means the beauty of it is not just postcard worthiness or the number of visitors that flock to it! It’s about the 4Ps that make it… past, present, places, and people. Agen scores straight As on these four counts, thus I wish to give it the moniker ‘yugen’ Agen!
Why not explore the city to verify my claim?
Place de la Marie
The nice and tidy Place de la Marie, when I visited bathed in the colours of autumn.
To add to it was a month-long breast cancer awareness campaign run by the city administration. The square was thus decorated with pink floating umbrellas reminding everyone about protection, early detection and care for the deadly disease.
La Marie is the administrative centre that carries out the various functions designated to the mayor, adjoints, and Conseil municipal. The stone-built building of La Marie de Agen is impressive.
So is its interior that shows its fossil roots.
Musee des Beaux-Arts
Founded in 1876, the Musee des Beaux-Arts is situated on one side of the Place de la Marie.
3000+ artefacts that are on permanent display in 26 rooms here vouch for its rich and varied treasures.
It is housed jointly in four Renaissance buildings with spiral staircases, fireplaces, and interior courtyards
It also showcases the use of the building as a prison between 1765 and 1861 prior to it becoming the museum.
Together they house paintings, sculptures, and earthenware from the middle ages to the 19th century. Five paintings by Francisco Goya are the top draw here. The archaeological section has an impressive collection from the Celtic & Galo Roman ages as well as from the Bronze age.
Le Théâtre Ducourneau
Le Theatre Ducoourneau is an Italian-styled public theatre next to Musee des Beaux Arts. It is an outcome of modern man’s technological advances in the field of civil engineering. It is the first cinema theatre in France to be built with reinforced concrete. Its foundation stone was laid by then-President Armand Fallieres in 1906.
A maze of narrow winding cobblestone alleyways with well corbelled, half-timbered, patterned brickwork houses from the 14th century await the curious eyes of the visitor at Rue Beauville.
Most of the houses have been restored to their past glory and are inhibited by the Agenians.
A corner porch with a reverse hornbill or say a boat’s bow strikes the inquisitive mind.
La Promenade du Gravier
La Promenade du Gravier exists since the existance of the river Garonne. Gravier is French for gravel. During periods of low water, Garonne deposited alluvium in the form of pebbles, thus giving it the name. Until the 16th century, it was an island whose area increased or decreased according to the level of Garonne. It served as the place of arms in the 16th century. The French Revolution turned it into “Champ de Mars” to celebrate patriotic festivals.
At present, it is a vast, well-manicured, green patch between the city of Agen and river Garonne. It is host to trees from Avignon and a huge lawn.
The statues of “Samson and Dalida” and “Etoile du Berger” dot the two ends of the lawn with a bandstand with an octagonal masonry plinth & zinc roof right at the centre.
Towards the riverside, there is a cable stead footbridge for crossing over the river while absorbing the panoramic views around.
On any fine day, you can find here a bunch of boul players, a random band of musicians, cyclists, jaywalkers, sportsmen, rollerbladers, etc enjoying life in the vicinity of nature.
How about sitting on the lawn of the promenade to discuss what we started with? Do you think Agen is “Yugen”? Let me know till we meet tomorrow to discover some other facets of it.
Click here for posts so far in the “Exploring l’Hexagone” series