Meilhan-sur-Garonne to Agen - Melo Vélo Meanderings - CycleBlaze

June 17, 2018

Meilhan-sur-Garonne to Agen

Father's Day and generous new friends along the canal

On leaving the auberge, our host Rachael suggested taking the road along the canal and crossing over to the bike route at the next bridge.  After descending back down to the canal, however, the road was barricaded in both directions!  Moreover, the barrier that we had easily slipped through the previous evening was now secured with a newly wired gate - which we easily breached.  After a short distance along the canal, we spotted the new landslide that had resulted in the road closure. Further along, we encountered several additional areas of caution and/or detour.  Since the start of my journey, almost everyone has commented on the unusual amount of rain and the lack of sunny warm days. 

Carolyn breaching the barrier at Meilhan-sur-Garonne
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Mudslide along the canal forcing road closures
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Water damage to canal path
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Despite some brief detours, the cycling under the plane trees and along the canal was magical.  There were many cyclists and walkers out enjoying this Father's Day, and exchanges of Bonjour were frequent and always met with a smile. We stopped at the town of Le Mas-d'Agenais, where the the Saint Vincent church houses a Rembrandt painting "Christ on the Cross'.  We met another cyclist, Annie, who was originally from London and was spending the summer in the area.  She joined us for our visit to the church and treated us to coffee and conversation at a canal-side cafe a few kilometers down the road.  She was a great source of local information, and identified the snake we had observed yesterday as the western whip snake. 

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Rembrandt's "Christ on the Cross" in Le Mas-d'Agenais
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We opted to stop for lunch in Damazan and cycled up into town in search of an open restaurant. We arrived at the only open restaurant simultaneously with another couple on a similar mission.  We sat down at the table for two, and the waiter came rushing over to say they couldn’t serve us, at least not for thirty minutes or more. As it was Father’s Day, there had been a rush of diners and the kitchen would need time to attend to us. After talking in over amongst the four of us, we decided to stay, invited the couple to join us, and we all sat down at the only empty four-top. What a great decision! We had the most delightful time with Eddy and Ria, a couple from Belgium. During the time waiting for service, as well as during the meal itself, we covered a range of topics – cycling, family, politics, work. Eddy is a chemist specializing in hazardous explosions, fires, and such, so we were quite keen to hear his stories. Both Eddy and Ria had cycled up Mont Ventoux – Eddy having done all three routes – and offered lots of advice on how best to accomplish such a feat, if we so desired.  Maybe one day.  The waiter, who reminded me of John Malkovich, eventually smiled at us, and we were served another great French meal.  Eddy and Ria were so kind and generous and insisted on paying our share. In return, I promised I would take them up on their offer to visit them in Belgium - I'm looking forward to it!   

Carolyn, Eddy, Ria, and Susan enjoying Father's Day in Damazan
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As we neared Agen we passed by fields of the famous Agen prune, which were protected by some sort of netting. The Agen prunes were originally developed by monks from a nearby Benedictine Abbey, who crossed local plum trees with Damson trees brought from the Middle East by returning crusaders. This produced a new variety of plum that is now known as Pruneaux Agen.  We crossed the Pont Canal to enter Agen, found the hotel and went out for crépes. In the spirit of Agen, I had prunes with both my savory galette (chicken, prunes and carrots) and flaming dessert crepe (prune compote, prune ice cream and Grand Marnier).  Our host Pascal was quite charming - he kept trying to get us to sample his hard cider. A small, sprite-like man, he was born in Réunion Island and came to Breton as a lad of 12.  This November, he plans to take his wife and 10 year-old son back to Réunion Island to meet his relatives – much as he was introduced to his new family at a similar age. We left without tasting the cider, but with bon voyage wishes for all.

Pruneaux Agen
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Pont Canal d'Agen
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Today's ride: 45 miles (72 km)
Total: 647 miles (1,041 km)

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Steve Miller/GrampiesWe found and also breached the same barriers on our way through her a few months ago.
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