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Tournon d'Agenais

Tournon d'Agenais

First of May, First of May, Flowers Strive to Bloom Today
They certainly did in Tournon on Thursday. This ancient and beautiful bastide village was overflowing with flowers and plants of every conceivable variety. The sun shone, heat radiated from the old stones and delicious fragrances permeated the alleyways.
This is a famous annual festival in Tournon, attracting visitors from far and wide. As it is a true bastide, with only one winding road into the village – lined with parked cars – and one narrow winding road round, a one-way system had to be devised. Gendarmes were much in evidence, waving their arms, smiling benevolently and occasionally directing wayward cars, there seemed to be a remarkable number for the purpose and most were standing around chatting and smiling at the visitors, but they were there if really needed and that was the main thing. Meanwhile at the foot of the hill a park and ride shuttle bus was doing a sterling job of hoisting hundreds of old biddies to the top and the day’s delights.

Tournon d'Agenais

Tournon d'Agenais

I took my mother along to see what all the fuss was about, and it was indeed truly delightful. The cobbled streets were lined with flower sellers and nurserymen. Roses, oleanders and philadelphus smothered the walls, beckoning enticingly. Early geraniums carpeted the stone flags of the market place with scarlet, pink and white. In the burning sun at the centre of the square, bougainvillea bloomed riotously beside rank upon rank of luscious new herbs. And there were other attractions besides the flowers. Cafes and restaurants were doing a rip-roaring trade. Tables and chairs spilled out over the cobbles and waiters balancing trays of Coke, ice-cold beer and Perrier weaved dangerously through tables, crowds and encroaching plants. A patisserie stall was doing a brisk business in small cakes, whilst small children in new sunhats happily consumed liberal amounts of chocolate ice cream.

Tournon d'Agenais

Tournon d'Agenais

We stopped to admire a cart decorated with broom and filled with flowers, almost got snared by a pair of stunning white digitalis that were overpriced and would be dead in a week, and finally succumbed to a splendid little guelder rose, viburnum opulus, a plant I’ve been hoping to find for some time.
Mummy began to wilt in the heat; a chair in the shade and a coffee, she decided, were necessary to restore her equilibrium. In the event she plumped for a chair in the sun with merely her head in the shade and a cool glass of Stella Artois, but she is on holiday!
After our break we investigated the summer bedding, hundreds of little pots, creating a vivid mass of colour, all the more brilliant against the pale stone. Delphiniums reared their regal heads at the edge of a pillar, and hollyhocks, just coming into bud, were selling fast behind another. Our time was running out, but we made a last trip to an old rose stall where the exquisite scents were evocative of the ancient rose gardens of Damascus.

Tournon d'Agenais

Tournon d'Agenais

Equally delicious aromas were luring Mummy, from another direction, and she stopped to buy a large chocolate cake for tea. Then we made our way back down through the still crowded streets, full of hot, happy people clasping vast bobbing plants, towards the entrance and exit – where the shuttle bus was still gallantly unloading dozens of visitors, but it was five o’clock and we had had enough excitement for one day.
Back home, we sat on the shaded terrace imbibing green tea and chocolate cake and admiring the lacy white caps of the little guelder rose. Yes, a truly delightful day out. And I, for one, will definitely be back next year.
© Amanda Lawrence 2008

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Tournon d’Agenais Flower Festival from French Vie

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