A walk through Mas d’Agenais and along the Canal du Midi yesterday

It’s not easy to know what to do when you want to get out and about, walk the dog and avoid getting muddy.  Head for the beautiful town of Mas d’Agenais and walk the Canal du Midi.  So that’s what we got up to on Saturday.  We had been last year on our bikes and we plan, at some stage, to cycle to Agen, but for now just a leisurely walk was in order.

Mas d’Agenais is one of the most historic villages in the Lot et Garonne and overlooks the Canal du Midi.  The village is over 2000 years old and was once occupied by the Romans. Eglise Saint-Vincent overlooking the old market place houses a painting by Rembrandt of Christ on the Cross, painted in 1631.

Around the time of the first century, the village was know by the name of Ussubium and was located to the west of the current main square.  Later on it went by the name of Pompejacum, which remained its name until the eleventh century, when the name “Mas” was adopted.

The church was started in 1085 and took 40 years to complete. It was a collegiate church for a secular community which meant that it provided distinct spaces within it for congregational worship and also administered the village directly and held the “three hands of justice” (high and low justice, and the right to levy taxes).  These three hands were used in the design of the town’s coat of arms more recently.

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It is a Roman style church and was built with a traditional Benedictine apse, a transept and three naves.
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It was restored in the nineteenth century by architects Paul Abadie Jr and Viollet le Duc. Originally, the church had a tall slate spire similar to other French churches in the region.  However, when it became too dangerous to repair in the nineteenth century, it was destroyed. Now, to some extent it does have the appearance as if something is missing when you look at it.  In 1875 an extract of a report by Paul Abadie valued the necessary restoration work at 39,600 francs. In 2010 the town of Mas d’Agenais was given a grant of € 20,694 relating to the restoration of the nave.    

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In the Middle Ages, the village was surrounded by a brick wall with five high gates.  Only one still remains.IMG_4758

There was originally a feudal château next to this gate which was destroyed in the seventeenth century and its beams reused to build the covered wheat market.  This is now where the village’s weekly market is held on Thursday mornings.

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Just the other side of this gate was a huge axe, probably made from one of the old beams I imagine.  Anyway it made for a good photo.

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Until the beginning of the nineteenth century, the ferryman was the only way of travelling between the banks of the Garonne. A toll suspension bridge was built in 1840 and later adapted to allow twentieth century traffic across it.  It is very tight though and gives you height and width limits. We just managed to breath in and get across.

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We passed through the village last summer and it was a hive of activity, lots of people on the canal and cycling between Bordeaux and Agen. There are also lots of events such as the Foulées du Matin Vert, a running race from the town centre to the neighbouring town of Tonneins in June, concerts, vide greniers and an artists festival during August.

It’s quite therapeutic watching a lock fill.

 Paul took up botany on our walk.

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Question – does my bum look big in this? Answer, yes.

Question – is my 14 year old son bigger than me? Answer, yes.

C’est fini.

   




 

 

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Cinquième Pâques

So here we are and it’s our fifth Easter in France. It’s four years ago that we acquired Le Petit Coquelicot and we’ve spent every Easter here in France since 2012. There is a part of me that misses being at home at Easter.  The last Easter egg hunt we had when the weather was gorgeous and all our friends were round for a barbecue and the children racing around the garden looking for the eggs. But most of the children are now in their teens and struggle to get out of bed before midday; and I’m sure an Easter egg hunt would no longer inspire them.

So after Breakfast Club at St Peter’s we set off at 11am on Good Friday morning and drove for 18 hours to get here to France. I’m still recovering from an awful virus that I’ve had for the past 4 weeks now. So it was great to get to the French house where I can really relax. Even though the building work is still way off being finished. We do have two sides of a tiled roof😀image
So what have we been up to, well the weather has been up and down. Yesterday it just rained and rained. We were in the garden on Saturday and Sunday and the weather was lovely then. There was much investigation into the roof space of the extension and the boys mowed the grass. I took some more fig cuttings from the fig tree on our boundary and decided to try putting them straight into the ground as every other set of cuttings that I’ve taken have failed and gone mouldy. Fig trees are apparently very easy to propagate but not this variety.
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I also purchased three little Bay trees and planted them to break up the grassed area and to hopefully provide a bit of a wind break eventually, as the wind just whips across and tends to blow plants over.
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Monday we went to a vide grenier at St Sernin just down the road. I was initially disappointed as I saw someone walking away with a bottle dryer which is just what I am looking for, so I immediately thought I should have been up and out earlier. But then I purchased a lovely set of Bakelite bangles for a euro each and was actually given the maroon one on top by a stall holder.  When I asked how much it was he said je vous donne. How nice is that?
I also bought a lovely little old green glass bottle but it was not to be, as my son accidentally smashed it before the end of the day.
We also met my friend Barbara at the vide grenier and then went over to hers after for coffee and a chat. I ended up helping her put a gîte that she has on Airbnb. This seems to be the go to place if you are looking for accommodation theses days.  And then later on we all went through to Bordeaux to the cinema.
Well today it’s Vendredi and the sun is beginning to shine, hopefully the sign of a good day to come😯

Cette Pâques

Poor weather the first week of our Easter hols meant we didn’t get out and about that much.

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We also had quite a bit of gardening to do.  We are hoping to build an extension to ourlittlehouseinfrance. The builder is hoping to start at the beginning of May and we needed to move some plants as they will be in the way.  So there was a good deal of digging for Paul.

I brought this stool from the UK.  Purchased it from a charity shop and it was already shabby chic so just gave it a wash and now it has a new home in France.

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Went to a couple of vide greniers and purchased four demijohns (see previous post).  Also on my hit list for this year is an old wine bottle dryer, this is the spiky metal object in the middle of the picture below.  I know, it’s sad😂

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There were more birds in the garden this year.  I do think that the increase in plants attracts them.  This is a dove but we also have a nesting bird of prey, just didn’t get a really good photo😕

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As usual, Bella enjoyed the garden and the sunshine in week two.

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I planted a fig tree given to me as a Christmas present by my friend Zena.  So I’m hoping that the weather isn’t too dry over the next few months.

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The garden got several grass cuts by Paul.  So we left it looking like a bowling green.  Not sure how long that will last?

IMG_4187 We moved a rather large cypress tree to the bottom of the garden.  Unfortunately we had to cut some large roots so we are hoping it will survive.

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We moved other plants close to our garden shed.

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We went for a lovely walk one day.  The blossom is gorgeous at the moment and the spring flowers a real treat.

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Can you see the Heron below?

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Loads of Mistletoe!

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Here’s our famous windmill in the distance.

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Marmande, our nearest big town, has a super skate/BMX park at the side of the river Garonne.  I think Grandma must have been telling me the tale of the old iron pot here😆

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And Marmande old town was also a revelation.  I didn’t think it would be so pretty.

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A le mois prochain.

Not quite a wild goose chase

Bonne Pâques et Joyeuses Pâques. So I’ve been struggling to take photos of our trip to South West France this Easter. The weather, until today has been the opposite of last Easter when it was glorious and so far my photos are all a bit drab and sad looking.

Our first real trip out and we decided to head East to check out the villages of St Pompon and Daglan in the Dordogne. Well actually I got everyone to take the trip on the basis that there was a vide grenier at Pompon. After all it is a couple of hours away. I also had in mind to pass through Monpazier a village that we have been through before but weren’t able to stop in at the time. It has been recommended to us by several people as being a lovely place to visit.

Once you get to St Pompon you really get the sense that you are in a valley, most of the houses are made from visible random stone. Quite pretty, if a little chololate boxy. No vide grenier though, big disappointment for me but great to get out and about even if the weather isn’t brilliant. Onto Daglan then, only about 5 kilometres away from Pompon. Daglan is also chocolate box pretty, almost looks like a film set. Stone buildings.

Daglan, Dordogne, South West France.

Daglan, Dordogne, South West France.

Daglan, Dordogne, South West France.

Daglan, Dordogne, South West France.

Daglan, Dordogne, South West France.

Daglan, Dordogne, South West France.

Daglan, Dordogne, South West France.

Daglan, Dordogne, South West France.

I have to say that I always find villages situated in valleys a little oppressive and this is no exception as Daglan is situated in the Céou valley. I’m probably being a little unfair as the weather was dreary and the village toilets locked, just when I was desperate to use them, why? I much prefer the villages near to Duras in the Lot et Garonne which have long distance views of vines and rolling hills.

So desperate for a wee, we drove back via Monpazier.  As you enter the village you are confronted with a plaque that tells you this village is a member of the “Most Beautiful Villages of France Association” (Plus Beaux Villages de France).  Wow! that’s got to be something to live up to.  Well first things first.  The toilets were open, clean and with toilet paper.  I’m impressed already.  And this is indeed a lovely village.  According to the Pays de Bergerac tourist site it is one of the best preserved bastides in the Dordogne.

There is a beautiful square, La Place des Cornières which is surrounded by houses with ground floors that form the arches of an arcade that surrounds the square.  Although the shops were not open, they appeared to be very varied and interesting.  We were desperate for food and came across a super restaurant “Bar À Vin”.  Bella (our pooch) was welcome too.  Lovely food and best service we’ve had in France.  Really polite and helpful waitress.

Montpazier, South West France.

Monpazier, South West France.

These narrow alleys that take you into the square are called “Androns”.

Montpazier, South West France.

Monpazier, South West France.

Montpazier, South West France.

Monpazier, South West France.

Montpazier, South West France.

Monpazier, South West France.

Montpazier, South West France.

Monpazier, South West France.

Even on a drab day, Monpazier was a treat.  We’ll definitely be back in the sunshine.