I've fallen in love with the little town of Lectoure. Situated 38.5km South of the city of Agen (and 563 km from the bustle of Paris), Lectoure offers everything you could hope for from the South of France. Honey-coloured houses circle the Cathedral of Saint Gervais and Saint Protais, covered in colourful shutters and beautiful balconies. And what's more this Gallo-Roman town offers an archaeological museum, a thermal fitness centre and the aristocratic 'Hotel de Bastard' (once the Hotel de Castaing) where you can sit out on the terrace and enjoy a view of the Gascony countryside that backdrops the town.
The centre of town runs down one main street, lined with houses and mansions built during the 17th and 19th centuries, now home to coffee shops, clothing boutiques and art stores. And in line with tradition, everything closes between 12pm-2:30pm to allow the owners to enjoy a long, lazy French lunch (if only London would adopt this practice!)
Situated at the bottom of main street is the Village des Brocanteurs, an abandoned hospital of antiques which spill right out onto the courtyard. It was like walking into a film set, surrounded by pieces of the past piled high and wide! And everything is interspersed, so you'll find Victorian dining tables covered in vintage vinyls and Aztec artwork leaning against giant globes! You can easily lose a few hours in this labyrinth of lost time, but I bet you'll find yourself wishing for a bigger suitcase!
The food is fantastic and lunch in Lectoure is a wonderful way to watch the world go by- sat outside soaking up the ambience of this peaceful province. Despite the subtle flow of tourists, Lectoure remains authentic and unaffected, seamlessly blending the signs of modernisation with the aged architecture. There are also a wealth of artists based in the centre and I would strongly recommend visiting 'AM-Boucher.' Imagine a modern day Picasso, as he mixes abstract shapes with bright colours, which are both simple and mind boggling. Do check him out if you love a bit of modern art: http://am-boucher.com/ !
Sadly I didn't have time to go cycling but I saw plenty of road cyclists passing through or parking up for a coffee and a cake stop. However I did manage to sample both of the latter at 'Maison Baudequin' and they were spectacular! Also, Market Day takes place on Friday mornings and stretches out across the length of the street, so be prepared for a busier vibe on Friday's (and weekends), particularly during the summer season.
I can understand why so many people come to visit this South-Western town and never leave... (If you're tempted, a 2 bed flat costs around 80,000 euros!) Flooded with history, culture and character, this colourful town is also renowned for its creativity (and was designated a town of 'history and art' in 1985), 'Argmagnac' brandy and foie gras (although being a vegetarian I can't comment on the latter!) and sits right on the bank of the River Gers.
For a real flavour of the South of France, look no further than Lovely Little Lectoure!