I first visited France on a French Exchange when I was 13. I was partnered with a girl called Patricia who insisted on wearing a sailor’s hat for the entirety of her time on the return leg to the UK. I was mortified.
But even at that young age, I do remember liking this Gallic neighbour of ours. And I still do, with its proud heritage, incredible food, and rolling countryside straight out of a Claude Berri film.
And so it was great introducing The Small People to a few of the finer sides of French life, now that they are that much bigger.
We spent the days making the most of the sunshine and the pool, but our hosts kindly took us to see some of the lovely surrounding areas as well, including the amazing smelling Chateau de Cassaigne, famous for its Armagnac, lovely Castel Moron, and the medieval weapons centre at Larressingle. This was a particular favourite for Small Boy, who as you can imagine was in his element. It reminded me of our visit to The Viking Centre in Ribe last year. He couldn’t resist the opportunity to duel with an (albeit slightly smaller compared to the Viking, but very enthusiastic, and knowledgable) French opponent this time!
My favourite part of the trip though? The fabulous Night Markets that take place at this time of year. A bit like the Bavarian Bier Garten principle, you roll up, take a seat at a long table and either bring your own food and buy your own wine, or bring your own wine and buy your food from the plethora of food stalls awaiting to satisfy every gastronomic whim. First stop the butcher’s van for a Fred Flintstone sized steak (to share of course!), and then to the old ladies on the barbecue next door who will expertly cook your purchase then and there. Move on to the grocer’s stall who will supply you with beautiful salad ingredients to go with dinner, and then to the baker’s stall for the obligatory baguette… Take it all back to your table, surrounded by like-minded folk all enjoying the same. Then rinse and repeat for cheese and dessert courses! Perfect!
Should you happen to be in the Agen area, I also highly recommend you pay a visit to Restaurant Marriottat, which is one of the nicest (and the poshest) restaurants I have been to in a very long time. The French are experts in this field of food, and this restaurant excels in some of the most amazing and delicate dishes I think I have ever had (and the service is second to none – plus they were gracious enough to pretend they understood my GCSE level French)! Back to Bavaria, and back to a diet!