Lot-et-Garonne is a region in South-West France named after the Lot and Garonne rivers. It has a population of around 318,000 and covers 5361 km2.
While still somewhat off-the-beaten-track in terms of tourism, Lot-et-Garonne is easily accessible from Bordeaux and Toulouse. The region boasts a rich mix of rolling hills, pretty towns and villages, vineyards, fields of sunflowers, woodland and waterways.
Lot-et-Garonne is one of the original 83 French departments created during the French Revolution on March 4th, 1790.
Evidence of settlers in the area dates back to the Neolithic period. Roman remains at Mas d'Agenais and Aiguillon bear witness to a period of expansion, interrupted by successive Germanic invasions in the 5th century.
The region is characterised by bastides. These fortified medieval towns have a grid layout and central market square. As feudalism waned in France from around 1230, landowners created bastides in an attempt to generate revenue by taxing trade rather than production. There are forty such towns in Lot-et-Garonne, purportedly more than any other region in France.
The climate in Lot-et-Garonne is generally fine and dry; temperatures can reach 40 degrees Celcius/104 degrees Fahrenheit in summer.
Average temperature in Agen, Lot-et-Garonne
Lot-et-Garonne's quintessentially French towns and villages are home to historic buildings, traditional markets, café society and fine restaurants. Open countryside, waterways, windmills and watermills also attract visitors.
Attractions include the Caves of Fonitrou (at Castella) and Lastournelles (at St Collombe-de-Villeneuve). Casteljaloux has an attractive spa resort, Duras Château is popular and Granges-sur-Lot lies in the heart of prune-making country.
Château de Cassaigne, just south of Condom, is the place for tasting Armagnac. Condom itself attracts visitors by virtue of its name, but manages to maintain a tranquil atmosphere.
Walabi Theme Park, near Agen, provides a variety of thrills and spills for families. Cap'Decouverte, near Albi, is a giant leisure park with an amphitheatre set in a disused open-pit coalmine. Archipel de Cahors is a water park with a 4300sq ft swimming pool, paddling pools, slides and Jacuzzis.
Museums, galleries and culture
Musée des Beaux Arts d'Agen has a varied collection of art including some Goya. The Prune Museum in Granges sur Lot tells the story of prune-making in the region. The Musée du Plein Air du Quercy at Cuzals, near Cahors, is an outdoor museum displaying traditional crafts.
Château de Duras, Château de Cassaigne, Château de Bonaguil, Château de Grezels and Château de Cénevières all welcome visitors to exhibitions, museums and special events throughout the year.
Annual festivals include Nerac's celebration of Buzet wine in August and Agen's two-month summer music festival 'Soirs d'Été'. Sainte Livarde welcomes hundreds of contestants and spectators each summer to the Prune-Stone Spitting World Championships.
The Côtes de Duras region, south of the Dordogne and east of Bordeaux, offers numerous opportunities for wine-tasting holidays and tours.
One of the area's best-known wines, Buzet, can be sampled at the Cave des Vignerons de Buzet and at numerous Châteaux and vineyards in the surrounding area.
Lot-et-Garonne is not the place for designer boutiques or large-scale shopping complexes. The towns' traditional markets, however, provide an interesting shopping experience.
Almost every town holds a weekly market selling meat, fruit, vegetables, bread and often clothes and household wares too. Farmers' markets offer excellent quality, locally-grown produce.
Lalbenque and Limogne-en-Quercy hold specialist truffle markets. Sénaillac-Latronquière, Nérac, Tauriac, Tonneins, Tournon-d'Agenais and Vianne all have night markets on occasion.
Lot-et-Garonne's gently sloping hills and valleys make for relaxed, pleasant walking terrain. There are many well-signed paths and local guides to follow.
There are 18-hole golf courses at Golf d'Albert, near Barbaste, and Golf de Casteljaloux. 9-hole golf courses can be found at Golf d'Agen de Bon Encontre, Golf de Castelnaud, Golf de Marmande and Golf de Barthe, near Tombeboeuf.
As well as the Lot and Garonne, the River Baïse and the Canal Latéral make for plenty of fun on the water, including pleasure cruises, angling, canoeing, rowing and kayaking. Though the region is thoroughly landlocked, swimming is possible in supervised swimming lakes, some of which have waterslides, pedalos and picnic areas.
Many stables in Lot-et-Garonne offer rides and guided pony treks. Henry IV's Bridleway, in the South-West, is a 150km route along the rivers Gélisse, Osse and Baïse, along the Albret hills and through the Landes forests. The Prune Trail, in the East, runs through the regions famous plum orchards.
Food and drink
The region is famous as the home of Armagnac, the 'other' brandy. It is made from the same grapes as Cognac and matured in oak barrels, but is lower in strength and is said to have a fuller, rounder flavour.
Côtes de Duras wines include reds from Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon grape varieties and whites from Sauvignon, Mauzac and Semillon. The wines of Buzet are well-regarded, as are Brulhois, Marmandais, vin du Tsar, vin du Mézinais and Agenais.
Agen prunes are exported around the globe and foie gras is another regional speciality. Restaurant menus will invariably include duck or goose dishes.
Ease of access
Lot-et-Garonne is accessible by car from Bordeaux and Toulouse airports. The TGV train runs from Paris to Bordeaux and links to Agen.
Value for money
In general, you will get more for your money in Lot-et-Garonne than in many of France's better-known tourist areas. Nevertheless, the amount you spend will depend on your choice of accommodation and activities. It is difficult to get around the region without a car.
Lot-et-Garonne remains unspoilt by mass-tourism and offers a good balance of lively towns and villages and peaceful countryside. With a warm climate, plenty of opportunities for outdoor pursuits and an abundance of speciality food and drink, Lot-et-Garonne is a great destination for a taste of rural France.