Sunday, January 10, 2010

Penne d'Agenais, plum flowers in the French Tuscany

Plum flowers in Penne d'Agenais
The medieval village Penne d’Agenais in Lot-de-Garonne lies on top of a cliff that can be seen miles away. The village has been at the centre of many fights for power during the centuries.

View from the Peyragude Basilica in Penne d'Agenais

It is early evening in March, the light is fading. As we come closer to Penne d’Agenais we see fields and forest in this softly rolling landscape. Along the road there are hundreds and thousands of plum trees blooming. The white flowers float in the darkness. So beautiful. Suddenly a rock towers in front of us. That is Penne with the silhouette of the Peyragude basilica.

My guide Kristina

We're here to visit Kristina, the Swedish mother of a French friend from school. Her father participated in the Bernadotte White Buses Mission during spring 1945, saving the lives of hundreds of Frenchmen. Revisiting one of those grateful men she met her future husband in Cannes, where she married at nineteen.

When I discovered Lot-et-Garonne I was already divorced, says Kristina. I came here to help a friend that was moving here, found an old farm from the 18th century and decided to stay. It took me years to carefully restore it. This region is called the French Tuscany, because we have the same flowing hills, rich fields and wine yards.

Villeneuve sur Lot by the river

Saturday morning Kristina takes us to the market in Villeneuve-sur-Lot. Around the place the houses have several different fronts. We admire the beautifully presented vegetables and fruits. We arrive in Penne just in time for lunch and at Kristina’s favourite restaurant, Le Peyragude, we have a wonderful meal. The restaurant fills up quickly and the sound of the voices rises! Many seem at home here, like they come often.

Steep street in Penne d'Agenais

Then we go for a walk up the steep streets, up to the basilica Peyragude. Next to it you find the ruins of the Lionheart castle. The children are fascinated by the ruins, the caves under it and most of all, by the 30 meter deep well where they supposedly threw their enemies to meet a slow death! From the basilica the view stretches far out over the fields and the hills. Kristina tells me that many artists and craftsmen are attracted by Penne.

Pujol main streetWe rest with a coffee at Café des Arts and decide to make a last quick stop at Pujols before heading home. Pujols is on the list of the 100 most beautiful villages in France. It lies high, but on top of a plateau. When I take a picture of a house covered in flowers, the owner walks out. Sorry, I was just admiring your house. No problem, we are used to it, he answers.

For our next visit Kristina has many suggestions for things to do. Rent a boat and go for a trip on any of the rivers Lot, La Garonne or Baìse. There are over 200 km of water to explore. Or visit the kingdom of water lilies in Latour-Marliac. They delivered the flowers to the famous lily pond for Monet in Paris. For your stay, try Kristina's place, Al Cross, five minutes from Penne. Go there before she sells it, to her regret she is getting too old to maintain such a big house - see ad.

Tourist office in Penne d’Agenais
Tourist office in Villeneuve-sur-Lot

Children on the ruins of Richard Lionheart's castle
The children and the ruins of Richard Lionheart's castle

1 comment:

  1. Hello from Traverse City, Michigan USA
    Your pictures are beautiful, thanks for sharing!
    You live in a beaituful place and I have enjoyed touring your blog! Liz


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