The rolling hills and forests to the north, near the border with the Dordogne, gradually change to agricultural scenery with fields of sunflowers and fruit trees to the south where it merges with Gascony. Two picturesque rivers flow through the region: the navigable river Lot and the Garonne which rises in the Spanish Pyrenees and meets up with the Dordogne.
Dotted around this scenic landscape are well preserved bastide towns, which were the ‘new’ towns of the Medieval Ages, built to bring the rural population together for economic, social and security reasons. Typical features are a grid pattern of streets centred around a square, often with a covered marketplace and arcaded buildings around. These towns are lovely to stroll around, with a boutique here, an art gallery there, and plenty of cafés and restaurants.
You will undoubtedly visit at least one or two bastide towns during your stay. Monflanquin and Villeneuve sur-Lot are two of the bigger bastides, whilst Castillonès, Tournon d'Agenais, Penne d’Agenais and Prayssas are more bijoux versions! Admire their medieval buildings and gates, their narrow streets and arcades surrounding a central square, and their traditional ‘halles’, covered marketplaces.
Other possible visits include the Château du Bonaguil, one of the most splendid and beautiful fortresses in France; the beautiful Latour-Marliac water gardens at Le Temple-sur-Lot, the oldest aquatic gardens in the world; and the impressive Lastournelles and Fontirou caves near Villeneuve.
The departmental capital, Agen, is a university town, enclosed on two sides by the River Garonne and the Canal, with a good Fine Art museum which shows a wide range of items from archaeological exhibits to tapestries, jewellery to furniture, ceramics to paintings, including works by Goya, Tintoretto and Corot. The castle town of Nérac, on the banks of the River Baïse, is also worth a visit, and you can enjoy a river cruise here.
Markets and cuisine
Browse the weekly markets to find stalls laden with locally grown fruit and vegetables: melons, strawberries, peaches, cherries, grapes, figs and, of course, the famous plums from Agen, the capital of the Lot-et-Garonne. The plums can be enjoyed fresh, but are most renowned in their semi-dried format as prunes, either ‘au naturel’ or variations such as being soaked in Armagnac or cloaked in chocolate! Look for ‘Pruneaux d'Agen’.
Another speciality from this region is ‘Tourtière’, a very fine pastry with apples and rum, made in Tournon d’Agenais.
There are also some superb wines produced in the Lot-et-Garonne, including the Côtes de Duras, often described as ‘the smallest of all the great wine areas’. Head to the ‘Maison des Vins’ in Duras for an overview of the local wines.