We decided to go to Agen to visit The Prune Store. Agen is the prune capital of France, and the locals are very proud of this. There are plum trees everywhere in the southwest countryside, and plums and prunes are pretty much everywhere in the farmers markets, super-marches, and shoppes. There are prunes painted on the sides of buildings, teapots, teacups, thimbles, plates, placemats, napkins, aprons, etc. I wouldn’t be surprised if in the olden days prunes were traded as currency.
Agen is a fantastic city of about 35,000 people, but felt a little bigger to me. Its famous prune is called pruneaux d’Agen (Ente variety). You can find it stuffed with chocolate, covered in chocolate, armagnac-soaked, and made into eau de vie. It’s hard to overstate the ubiquity of prunes in Agen and the local countryside. Several months ago when I first asked GB what the region was known for, she said without hesitation, “Prunes.”
At the prune store I tasted the cocoa-covered prunes and they were good, but I didn’t go prunes for them. However, most people really seem to love this delicacy here. I ended up buying some nougat instead that was fantastic. It felt a bit wrong, but oh well.
Next stop, my first marche couvert (covered market). The covered markets are basically large supermarkets, but not at all like the Casino super-marche in Monflanquin. The covered markets are way, way better. They are more like an indoor farmers market with individual vendors collected together under one roof, like a mall filled only with food vendors, or, like paradise. There are fish vendors, cheese vendors, meat vendors, and so on. There are also bars inside the covered markets, and in Agen, people were drinking at them, at lunchtime. LOVE this country!
We had to take a break from the overwhelm, so we went back to the square and had a kir while people-watching. Kir is my new drink. It’s really nice in the hot weather here and locals seem to love it.
After that we went to the African masks exhibit at the musee (sadly, I could not find a link to this). The building itself was quite something, an old church. I think people here accept the oldness of things as part of life, in the same way I took the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz for granted growing up in the Bay Area. They just weren’t on my radar outside of second-grade field trips.
On our way back to the car, we heard cars honking in the distance: a wedding, and they were coming our way! It’s quite a site to see a line of cars driving fast down these narrow European streets, honking their horns like mad. Many were decorated with wedding paper and streamers and waving at people. I got a little video of that but it doesn’t quite convey how fun it was to watch.
Then back to Monflanquin, navigating the country roads in our Ford diesel stick-shift, a car you can’t even get in the States. Oh yeah, and a big accident involving a horse trailer out in the countryside because people are truly crazy drivers here.