Christmas 2009 In Villeneuve sur Lot, France

Villeneuve Sur Lot Travel Blog

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Frozen water fountain in main square at -4c

Villeneuve-sur-Lot is an ancient bastide town and is a commune in the Lot et Garonne department of the Aquitaine region, South-western France. popular with a community of British expatriates who live mainly in the surrounding countryside, It borders the River Lot where 3 bridges cross north to south, that date back to the 13th Century. Villeneuve was founded in 1254 by Alphonse, count of Poitiers, brother of Louis IX, on the site of the town of Gajac, which had been deserted during the Albigensian Crusade. The town itself is quite small and doesn’t have a train station as such. There are Buses that run from the former SNCF train station to connect to the nearest train station some 30 kilometres away at Agen, which is on the Bordeaux to Toulouse line.

Popular with a community of British expatriates, who live mainly in the surrounding countryside the town also serves as an important agricultural centre. Villeneuve has a very large trade in plums (prunes d'ente) and in the produce of the market gardens which surround it, as well as in cattle, horses and wine. The preparation of preserved plums and the tinning of peas and beans occupy many hands. There are also manufacturing of boots, shoes and tin boxes. The important mill of Gajac stands on the bank of the Lot a little above the town.

Villeneuve is a pleasant, everyday sort of town but otherwise does not have a great deal to commend it.

14th century Porte de Paris where on the fourth floor was the local prison.
There are no great touristic sights to talk about, though the handful of attractive timbered houses in the old town go some way to compensate.

 

The town's most striking landmark is the red-brick tower of the church of St. Catherine. This church is unlike any I’ve ever seen. It is built from red bricks and has a wonderful elaborate tower. The church has been built in Romano-Byzantine style and was started in the 19th century and finished in 1937. Take a look inside, all around the edge, high up on the wall are paintings of the saints. There is also a good stained glass window belonging to the 13th Century church that used to stand here, and there are five gilded wooden statues that are classified historic artefacts.Unusually the church is built on a north to south axis. In the streets around the main square, place La Fayette, (where you’ll find “The Coffee shop” which also has Free WiFi internet) a couple of towers alone survive from the fortifications of this originally bastide town. To the south of the main avenue, rue des Cieutats, crosses 13th Century Pont des Cieutat, which resembles the Pont Valentré in Cahors (75km west) but devoid of its towers.

The centre of the town is found between two old gateways - the Porte de Paris and the Porte de Pujols - easily spotted as you approach the town from either direction. The Porte de Paris was built in the 14th century and also serves as the local clock tower. On the edge of the old town centre is the second gateway - the Tour de Pujols, the ‘Pujols Tower‘. This is built in the same style as the Paris tower and with the tower of St Catherines church these towers give Villeneuve a very interesting sky-line. Next to the Pujols Tower you can see some remains of the town’s fortifications. The two gates are now classified as historic monuments. From here drive to the nearby hilltop town of Pujols, itself a very beautiful little village.

Villeneuve was once surrounded by a fortified wall with six towers and eight gates in it. The town is now largely given over to shops (real shops not tourist shops) and makes a pleasant place to explore. The market is held here on Tuesday and Saturday mornings. This is also held in the Covered Market Hall just down from the Place Lafayette on the river. The market hall was built in 1864 of iron, cast iron and stone in a similar style to those of Paris.

Heading for the river there are three bridges across the river.

Rue de Paris shopping street, Villeneuve.
The old bridge, the ‘Pont Vieux’ is a 13th Century bridge, based on the bridge at Cahors, the principal arch of which was constructed in the reign of Louis XIII in place of two older arches, has a span of 118 ft. and a height of 59 ft. but has lost its original towers. However it still provides attractive views along the river valley and you can admire the Chapel of Notre Dame at the end of the bridge. Legend has it that in the early 13th Century some boatmen were stopped in the middle of the river by a powerful force. One of the boatmen dived in to investigate and emerged holding a statue of the Virgin Mary. A chapel was built here - especially for mariners.

 On the right bank, boulevards have for the most part taken the place of the ramparts. Arcades of the 13th century surround the Place La Fayette, and old houses of the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries are to be seen in various parts of the town. The church of St Etienne is in late Gothic style. On the left bank of the Lot, 3 kilometres S.S.W. of Villeneuve, are the 13th-century walls of Pujols.

To the north east of the town centre, approximately one and half kilometres away, lies the buildings of the ancient Abbey of Eysses (17thCentury). Today the building serves as the local Prison. The local Hospital ‘St Cyr’ which sits in grounds surrounded by beautiful gardens and lies in the town centre just across from ‘Rue de Paris’ (main shopping street), still has its original 19th century pharmacy with 500 decorated porcelain pots.

 Facing south and just left of the Porte de Paris, you will find the Tourist information office, I opted to stay at La Platanes hotel just right of the tourist information office at the end of the street. The hotel was 2 star, but clean, basic and comfortable. Rooms starting from 32€. They also had a restaurant with good food and menu prices starting from 7€, which turned out to be the average price of a takeaway locally too. This hotel also offers Free WiFi internet. Opposite the hotel to the west side is the local cinema which does play films in English.

In conclusion, Villeneuve sur Lot can be seen in a day, but is a good resting place to explore the surrounding areas.

View of St.Catherines church from River Lot.
You can also take the bus to Agen (5.60€) from the Town Hall (Hotel de ville) opposite to the north side of the hotel La Platanes. I was also fortunate enough to meet a fellow traveller ‘Wilf’, who plays the Bagpipes. After polite introductions and lots of chatting, we decided to go on a road-trip in his campervan to CAHORS to do some busking and explore this beautiful city. I have since introduced ‘Wilf’ to travbuddy.com!

(Some references from Wikipedia).

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Frozen water fountain in main squa…
Frozen water fountain in main squ…
River Lot running through Villeneu…
River Lot running through Villene…
14th century Porte de Paris where …
14th century Porte de Paris where…
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View of St.Catherines church from…
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Wilf Busking with his bagpipes!
"Wilf" Busking with his bagpipes!
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Villeneuve Sur Lot
photo by: rjgalvan77