Saturday, January 23, 2016

Auvillar: At the edge of the Tarn-et-Garonne

One recent day we continue our trip just beyond the southern border of the Lot-et-Garonne with a stop in the plus beaux village of Auvillar. Located about a half-hour southeast of Agen and 45 minutes west of Montauban, Auvillar is an easy day trip into the the northern Midi-Pyrénées region.

Outside the fortified walls of Auvillar

With its location atop a rocky outcrop, Auvillar has been a strategic location since Gallo-Roman times. Its residents suffered through many conflicts: Norman invasions, the Crusades, the Hundred Years War and the wars of religion.

The plaza in front of L’église Saint-Pierre in Auvillar

By the 17th century, things had settled down and the town prospered, mainly because of two industries: pottery and goose-feather calligraphy pens. Musée de la Faïence et de la Batellerie commemorates the importance of pottery and plumes, but it is closed on the day of our visit.

Today, the village can still credit its abundance of artists in residence, along with its sweeping views over the Garonne valley and distinct red-brick architecture, with making Auvillar a popular tourist destination. The village is along the one of the original pilgrimage routes to Santiago di Compostella and also hosts a jazz festival each July.

Auvillar contains a thriving arts community as seen
in this sculpture located in the central plaza.

A café scene in stone outside an Auvillar gallery

After parking our car, we head toward the town’s fortified walls, under which restaurants and shops nestle. We enter Auvillar under a 17th-century brick and stone clock tower, complete with drawbridge. Cobblestone streets lead to the center of the village — a triangular arcade-lined plaza with an unusual circular market in the center. Whimsical figures perch atop some of the buildings here.

Auvillar’s clock tower is constructed of alternating rows
of red brick and stone.

Interior of Auvillar’s circular covered market — the only one of its kind
in southwest France

Arcades line Auvillar’s triangular central plaza.

One of Auvillar’s diminutive sentries

A small statue on a ledge in Auvillar

Another statue in a niche in Auvillar

Auvillar’s main church, l’église Saint-Pierre, was built in the 12th-century and became a Benedictine priory two hundred years later. Its 16th-century bell tower was nearly destroyed during the French Revolution and was later restored.

Église Saint-Pierre in Auvillar

Although the day is growing cooler, we stop to admire the view from Place du Château. The castle that once stood here was destroyed in 1572, but the landscape over the Garonne valley remains. Auvillar’s harbor is located on the left bank of the river. We look across to the Quercy hills but fog prevents us from spotting the medieval Goudourville chateau. To our left we can see a newer part of the landscape: the pair of massive cooling towers at the Golfech nuclear power plant.

Place de Château in Auvillar

View on an overcast day from Auvillar

Throughout this picturesque village, we spot delightful details. Another noteworthy building in the Maison des Consuls, which sports a Louis XV-style portal and an octagonal turret. The site housed the commune government from 1265 until the French Revolution.

A door and a stone wall in Auvillar

Maison des Consuls in Auvillar

A very narrow maison in Auvillar

For more about Auvillar, visit the town’s website

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