Lot et Garonne – a well kept secret!

This wonderful part of southwest France hasn’t been discovered yet by many tourists, which is certainly an advantage as its roads are surprisingly empty and its pretty villages remain truly authentic and full of charm! Lot et Garonne has something of interest for everyone and is situated just a few hours from both the Atlantic coast and northern Spain.

Lot et Garonne is in the Aquitaine region and covers an area of more than 6000 km² with rolling countryside, dominated by two large rivers – the Lot and the Garonne. It is a truly beautiful part of France as the rivers make it lush and verdant. Agriculture is the primary source of income and the fertile river valleys are perfect for growing maize and sunflowers as well as vegetables, salad crops and fruit including apples, strawberries, kiwi fruit and the plums used to make the famous Agen prunes. There are plenty of vines and nut trees too.

The two rivers have plenty an important role in the area’s history because over the centuries they were important transport routes for carrying produce and commodities for export. Today they offer really great and challenging fishing with record breaking carp and catfish amongst the many species to be found. The rivers are perfect for many different water sports including kayaking and in several places (such as Clairac) there are attractive river beaches for those who prefer to relax with a good book.

The beautiful countryside supports a rich variety of wildlife and red squirrels and deer are a common sight. There are numerous wild flowers and herbs to be found and the rivers attract many bird species especially as the area is close to one of the main migratory routes. The perfect way to explore the countryside is on foot but cyclists and horse riders might contest this statement!

The area has a rich history which can be traced in its numerous villages and the 40 bastide towns in Lot et Garonne. This area has the most bastides as the rivers were once the border between French and English held land and the bastides were built in the 13th century on the ridges on either side of the Lot valley. Amongst the bastide towns that mustn’t be missed are Monflanquin, Montpezet, Puymirol and Vianne. Their classic design and beautiful architecture are well worth seeing and their traditional weekly markets are held in the central market place.

Lot et Garonne has so much to see including a magnificent castle at Duras in the northwest of the department, Arcachon Bay on the Atlantic coast with the largest sand dune in Europe lying to its south and the spa town of Casteljaloux . There are wineries and prune museums, flower growers and cheese producers. Latour-Marliac near Granges-sur-Lot is where one of the world’s largest collections of water lilies can be seen. There are more than 300 species of these beautiful flowers on display and visitors often leave the gardens fully understanding why  the artist Claude Monet fell in love with them and regularly visited  ‘le jardin d’eau’ – ‘ the water garden’ to buy new species for his garden in Givency, which were the inspiration for his most famous paintings..

The residents of lot-et-Garonne are warm, friendly and hard-working and can often be seen working in their fields, tending their crops early in the morning. They warmly embrace the passing seasons and enthusiastically celebrate successful harvests of the different crops with village parties where everyone can join in.

During the summer months, many of the villages hold weekly ‘night markets’ where everyone can enjoy delicious meals prepared using local produce accompanied by a glass – or two- of locally produced wine. Sitting at one of the long trestle tables watching everyone dancing to music from the village’s musicians, it is hard to imagine a better place to holiday, which is why so many families vow to return the next year….and they do….