It’s time to send Vance packing, and we’re putting him on the train to Paris. The easiest point of departure seems to be Agen, an hour north of us, sitting on the auto-route between Bordeaux and Toulouse. From there it’s a choice of TGV trains, and the noon service via Bordeaux will have him at Gare Montparnasse around 4.30pm.
Since I got to France I’ve skirted Agen twice, only seeing the white-box store zone around its periphery. This morning I’ve allowed time for us to have a little walk around the centre before seeing him off. It’s the capital of the Lot-et-Garonne department that borders the Gers, and feels at least twice the size of our capital Auch.
Agen is famous worldwide for its prunes, not stopping at bags of fruit or bottles of juice: specialty stores around the town centre offer aperitifs, chocolates and other prungent treats.
Even at 10.30am it was still a little early to get breakfast here; shutters were just rolling up and chairs unfolded onto the street. We pounced on one café as it opened, but with no prunch offerings in the window, went for a distinctly un-French pecan pie with our coffees.
Agen’s unusual double-naved cathedral; (inset) recent statue of a pilgrim on way to Santiago di Compestela
My other cunning motive for picking Agen was to check out a few of the (knitting) wool stores here: the first proved to be a good choice, but the other two were closed with no declaration of hours/days/vacations etc. The lesson in France is that small stores have very irregular openings (actually irrespective of posted hours), so don’t plan a special journey without confirmation that someone will be there.
With Vance safely on his way, I suggested to Gustav that we fall victim to Belgian burger chain Quick’s ad campaign for Dark Vador (Darth Vader in French) black bun burgers. That offer had expired a week earlier so we ordered the Jedi burger, Cheesy Etoiles (stars) and MixMania Pétillant desserts.
Yecch. Leaving aside the fact that all three were simply gross, and I have no clue what the little white rubbery cubes were in the top of the burger – they didn’t taste or smell of anything. Maybe they’re a culture of midi-chlorian soya. Aside from that any trace of Star Wars had been removed from all the packaging and we received regular non-starry cheesy blobs, and non-sparkling desserts. perhaps the best translation of “Quick” is “no effort”. Next time – unlikely as that is – we’ll go for the Death Star canteen’s penne all’arrabbiata.
Eddie Izzard: Death Star Canteen