Agen gets a new look! After seventy years of a deep urban sleep, the chief town of the department is restoring its city center and the result is amazing. Once a major port on the Garonne (now located on the esplanade du Gravier) from where prunes (dried plums to be able to travel for a long time; a source of vitamin C, then the best enemy of scurvy), market garden produce and wines from the South-West used to transit, the city has undergone - it must be said - a most erratic post-World War II urbanization. Along the canal bridge or on the Passage footbridge, admire the submerged ruins of the old locks on the river. But above all, Petit Futé recommends a walk in the historic centre, which is now pedestrianised. The curious walker will be surprised by what can be called a hybrid architecture: sometimes Haussmannian on the Boulevard de la République, sometimes typically Occitan (Médiathèque Lacépède), but also largely medieval in the Rue de Beauville, with its charming half-timbered houses. And for good reason, the town is at the crossroads of historical commercial and religious routes, equidistant from Bordeaux and Toulouse, whose influences it has suffered throughout history... It is not surprising that even today the people of Lot-et-Garonne are torn as to whether they are more Bordeaux or Toulouse; because before rallying to a strong regional identity, the Agenais is above all, and whatever they say, a Gascon; that is to say, a crazy mixture of the Toulousian and the Bordeaux, without forgetting the geographical proximity of the two great French terroirs that are the Périgord and the Gers.

The smart reader will have understood that Agen has the discreet charm of those who are willing to be asked... In order to understand this environment, it is necessary to go to the Hermitage hillside, visible from the train station and the first settlement of Agen. At least 400 years before Christ, the Nitiobriges elected their troglodyte homes at the top of the aforementioned hill - and more generally on all the heights of the Garonne valley, whose level was then much higher. Nearly 1,700 prosperous years followed, from the Gallo-Romans to the Hundred Years' War. The river trade was flourishing at the time and generated strong revenues that allowed the construction of places of worship, including the Jacobins church, the jewel of Agen and the oldest Gothic church in the South of France. The 16th century marked a new stage in the town's development: Bernard Palissy laid the foundations of artisanal pottery by creating the first French enamels (there are only a handful left in the world), the recipe for which had previously been secretly kept by the Chinese. A vestige of these years of renewal: the current Museum of Fine Arts, located on the Place du Dr. Esquirol, contains four Renaissance townhouses. A must see in Agen! A Catholic town opposed to Nérac (the town of Henri IV was a major competitor at the time), Agen was even home to Marguerite de Valois, Queen Margot. After a difficult Grand Siècle (shortages and famines, plague epidemic), Agen specialized in the manufacture of cloth, sails and draperies.

Unfortunately, the city missed the boat on industrialization in the 19th century, its situation as an intermediary between Bordeaux and Toulouse weakened as transportation became faster and safer. That said, Agen was a significant centre of the craft and pharmaceutical industries; in 1935, Doctor Camille Bru created UPSA, its clover and aspirin products now sold to the Americans Bristol-Myers Squibb, but still produced locally ! Agen is also developing from a university point of view and welcomes a good number of students on the Michel Serres campus, named after the famous French academician and philosopher from the town. In terms of culture, the Ducourneau Theatre is the guarantee of a successful evening and the Florida will delight the spectator's ears. Finally, Agen is above all a rugby club, the legendary SUA and its Armandie stadium, which offers the people of Agen and all visitors good moments of adrenaline.

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