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Stage town for the fifth time.

Prefecture of Lot-et-Garonne. 

Population: 32,500 (Agenais, Agenaises)

Specialities: Agen prunes, floc de Gascogne, tourin (garlic soup), tourtière (apple cake), ceps, salmis de palombe.

Personalities: Bernard Palissy (ceramist), Montesquieu (spent his childhood in Agen), Henri Caillavet, Jean François-Poncet (politicians), Michel Serres (philosopher), Bernard Campan (actor), Francis Cabrel, Georgette Plana (singers), Abdelatif Benazzi, Daniel Dubroca, Albert Ferrasse, Philippe Sella (rugby union).

Sport: SU Agen (rugby union, eight-times French champion), SU Agen (football, DH), Canoë-Kayak Club Agenais.

Economy: essentially tertiary, administrative and commercial activity (O'green shopping park). Family tourism (Walygator Sud-Ouest, boating on the Canal Latéral à la Garonne), business tourism (Convention Centre) and industrial and commercial zones (Agropole, Technopole Agen Garonne), food industry (prunes, Bigard, etc.), pharmaceutical industry (UPSA).

Festivals: Grand Pruneau Show (August), Fêtes d'Agen (August), Journées du bien-être (November), Quinzaine occitane (October), Festival de la prairie (September).

Labels: Tour de France cycling city / Internet city (5@) / Child-friendly city / Active and sporty city / City in bloom (3) / Association of cities for urban cleanliness.

Website: https://www.agen.fr/ https://www.agglo-agen.net/ / https://www.destination-agen.com/ / https://www.tourisme-lotetgaronne.com/


AGEN AND CYCLING

Agen has only hosted the Tour de France on four occasions, and only once for a finish, in 1951, but it remains legendary. The first non-Italian to win the Giro in 1950, Hugo Koblet broke away with 135-km to go and went on to win by a margin of 2:35, despite a furious chase led by favourites Coppi, Bartali, Magni, Bobet, Geminiani and Ockers. The Swiss rider, who had already won the time trial in that year's Tour, made quite an impression: he won two more stages in the Alps and the Pyrenees lead Raphaël Geminiani by 22 minutes in Paris. His performance and his pedalling had won over so many fans that, the day after the Agen stage, a journalist from Le Parisien Libéré gave him a nickname that was to live on: Pédaleur de charme, the "charming pedaller". 

SIGHTS:  

  • Saint-Caprais Cathedral

Construction: 12th to 19th centuries.

Style: Romanesque and Gothic.

History: built on the site of an episcopal basilica built in the 6th century, sacked by the Normans in 853 and then restored, it was originally a collegiate church. Ransacked in December 1561, it became a fodder shop in 1791 before being reopened in 1796 and becoming Agen's official cathedral in 1802, replacing the former cathedral of Saint-Étienne, which had fallen into ruin.

Characteristics: Saint-Caprais cathedral in Agen has a number of distinctive architectural features. Its Romanesque apse is extended by a Gothic nave. Replacing an old wooden bell tower, the current bell tower was built in 1835 on the initiative of Bishop Mgr. de Levezou de Vezins and has the unusual feature of being made up of three Gothic stylistic elements (lancet Gothic, Radiant Gothic and Flamboyant Gothic), curiously presented in reverse chronological order.

Listed as: Historical Monument since 1862. World Heritage Site as part of the Pilgrim's Way to Santiago de Compostela.  

  • Prefecture of Lot-et-Garonne

Construction: 18th century.

Style: neo-classical.

History: the Agen prefecture is housed in the former bishop's palace, built between 1775 and 1783 for Bishop Jean-Louis d'Usson de Bonnac to replace the previous bishop's palace, an old feudal building that had fallen into disrepair. It was built to the plans of the architect and engineer Charles Le Roy, who completed the construction of the Château d'Aiguillon. Ravaged by an accidental fire on 21 October 1904, it was rebuilt in 1909.

Listed as: Historical Monument since 1947.  

  • Museum of Fine Arts

Founded in 1836 and opened in 1876.

Construction: 16th century.

Style: Renaissance.

Characteristics: founded in 1876, Agen’s Museum of Fine Arts is housed in four superb Renaissance town houses, including the listed Hôtel de Vaurs and Hôtel d'Estrades. It is one of the richest museums in the south-west of France, particularly renowned for its collection of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Spanish works, including five exceptional paintings by Goya. Other highlights include Flemish and Dutch still-lifes, 17th-century French (Champaigne) and Italian (Tintoretto) paintings, and the collection of portraits by the Dukes of Aiguillon (Greuze, Oudry, Drouais, de Troy, van Loo, Nattier, etc.). The French 19th century is represented by the great masters of painting (Courbet, Millet), the landscape painters of the Barbizon School (Corot) and the Impressionist painters (Boudin, Sisley, Caillebotte, A. Lebourg). The 20th century is represented by the collections of painters Roger Bissière, Claude and François-Xavier Lalanne. The archaeological section exhibits objects from the Lot-et-Garonne region, with the Celtic and Gallo-Roman collection a key feature.

Listed as: buildings listed as Historical Monuments since 1903.  

  • Canal Bridge

Built: 1841

Characteristics: Agen’s canal bridge is a suspension bridge built in the 19th century to provide one-way access across the Garonne from the town of Agen on the right bank to the town of Passage-d'Agen on the left bank. Built entirely of ashlar, it is the second-longest canal bridge in France, measuring 539 metres and comprising 23 arches.

TO EAT:

  • Agen prune

Prunes came from China along the Silk Road to Syria. It was the Romans who brought the cultivation and drying of prunes the Agen region. They planted several varieties, including the Saint-Antonin or Maurine plum, a small blue plum that produced a very black prune of small size. Other varieties of Damascus plum were later brought to the Agen from Syria by the Crusaders in the 13th century. The monks of Clairac, by grafting with local plum trees, selected this new variety of Prune d'Ente (in old French "enter" means "to graft"). This new variety, with its thin skin and beautiful mauve-blue colour, is well adapted to the terroirs of the South-West. The resulting new prune is large in size, with delicate flavours and aromas. Thanks to its port on the Garonne, Agen became the main town for prune shipments. As they are stamped with the name of the port of embarkation of origin, they are known as Pruneaux d'Agen (Agen prunes). Pruneau d'Agen left from the great port of Bordeaux and were sold all over the world from the 17th to the 19th century. It was part of the navy's supplies in the days of the French Royal Navy and then the steam merchant navy, and was more generally taken on as an on-board provision for all long-distance voyages. Mixed with a custard made from eggs, flour and sugar, sailors created the famous recipe for Far Breton with prunes. The mid-19th century was a golden age, with annual production of 70,000 tonnes and over 20,000 tonnes exported to North America every year. As a result, the company expanded into California, followed by Argentina and Chile, South Africa and Australia. After a number of difficult years due to the two world wars, Agen prune production regained its pedigree with the award of a PGI in 2002 by the European Union.

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