Markets in and near Marcadis, Moncrabeau
Condom: market Wednesday all day (9km)
Mezin: market Sunday (10km)
Nerac: market Saturday (15km)
Lavardac: market Wednesday (20km)
Astaffort: market Monday (36km)
Lectoure: market Friday (32km)
Layrac: market Friday (38km)
Agen: market Wednesday & Sunday & Saturday (37km)
Bon-Encontre: market Sunday (45km)
Eauze: market Thursday all day (37km)
The little village of Moncrabeau – population 800 – lies on a hill overlooking the Baïse River on the south part of Lot-et-Garonne department of southwest France. The name Moncrabeau comes from the local Gascon language “Mountain of Goats” due to the many goat herds that were grazing here in olden times.
The site of Moncrabeau was inhabited since antiquity but it really came along during the 13th century when it became the residence of the powerful family of the Knights of Piis. During the religious wars of the 16th century the village saw its fortified surrounding wall destroyed never to be rebuilt again.
Throughout the centuries the inhabitants of Moncrabeau achieved the reputation of wittiness. It was in their habit to gather in the centre of the village to discuss the news and some were just inventing stories in order to participate to the conversation. This is how the liars’ tradition was born in Moncrabeau, tradition that culminated in 1748 with the founding, by a letter patent that is still preserved in the archives of Agen, of a Liars’ Academy. By this order the Academy “brings together all the braggarts, liars, fictionists, misfits that practice the fine art of lying without bringing any prejudice to anybody save the truth”.
The academy that numbers 40 members organizes each first Sunday of August the International Festival of Lies. Participants from all over the world come to Moncrabeau and compete in a truth twisting or pure invention contest. Each lie is rewarded by the academy members with a certain quantity of salt that depends on the plausibility of the lie! At the end of the competition the participant with the most salt is declared “King of Liars” for the duration of 1year. Unfortunately for non-French speakers, the festival is held only in French and the local Gascon language.
Moncrabeau, a village with clean little streets that offers from the view point in the tiny public garden, a wonderful panorama of the Baîse River valley, is well worth visiting any day of the year. The village has a “Liar’s Path” (“Circuit Menteurs”) that takes the visitors to different make-believe “historic” sites. The humour is quite subtle and in few cases it requires a good knowledge of French and/or French history in order to understand the meaning.
When visiting Moncrabeau it was hard to distinguish what is true from what was intended as a fabrication! An example was the town’s tiny museum dedicated to the history of the local fashion and to Michel Goma, an haute-couture stylist born in Moncrabeau.
Condom is a quiet rural market town with a cathedral and a few monuments of interest in the historic centre making the town interesting to visit. Before you start exploring, visit Condom Tourist Office on Place Saint-Pierre to ask for the map that shows a suggested route to follow (1 1/2 hours) and the principal places of interest in the town.
The principal highlight in Condom is the Cathedral of Saint-Pierre and its associated cloisters. The cathedral was built at the end of the 14th century, and then substantially rebuilt in the early 16th century, mostly in the gothic style. On the outside of the cathedral the very large upright supports every few metres down the sides of the building are typical of the gothic style and allow large windows to be included right along both sides.
The cathedral entrance on Place Saint-Pierre is ornately carved with 24 Biblical personages while inside the cathedral there is an interesting statue of a seated Saint-Peter as well as an impressive series of ornate carvings all around the choir and 19th century stained-glass windows. The main facade is to the west of the cathedral on Place Bossuet, where you can also see a substantial square tower added in the 19th century.
While you are here in Place Bossuet, you can also see a 13th century tower, the Tour Anger d'Adiran, where the Abbot Anger d'Adiran once lived.
The cloisters adjacent to Condom cathedral cloisters are also in the gothic style, with a series of large pointed stone arches, although the lack of a garden or grass means the cloisters here in Condom lack the charm of many we have seen elsewhere in France.
The last part of this religious complex is opposite the cloisters and a short distance north of Place Bousseut - the Bishop's Chapel in renaissance style and the Old Bishop's Palace are now used as the Trubunal and Subprefecture offices for Condom.
As well as the cathedral there is a small medieval old town to visit with some pleasant streets to explore - Condom is a quiet, relaxing town where you won't feel the pressure to rush around but you will be pleased you stopped for a visit. One of the oldest medieval streets in Condom is the short Rue Charron from the west of Place Saint-Pierre to Place du Lion d'Or.
You will see medieval houses on the Place du Lion d'Or - as early as the 13th century this square was a regional centre for trading Armagnac. There are also some grand 18th century townhouses with stone balustrades and ironwork balconies here and elsewhere in Condom: the Post Office on Rue Gambetta and the Maison de Loubiére (now a restaurant) at the west end of the Place Saint-Pierre are typical examples but there are lots of others as well.
To the west of Rue Gambetta you can follow walkways along the location of the fortifications that once protected the centre of Condom, while to the north of the centre the fortifications are within the Jardin des Remparts. Don't forget to try the local brew while in Condom - Armagnac is produced here and there are several places where you can try a sample. There is also a small museum dedicated to explaining the art of Armagnac production just north of the cathedral facade.
Nerac is a town on the southern edge of the Lot-et-Garonne department of south-west France. There are few major highlights except the castle but Nerac is nonetheless a pleasant town to spend a morning exploring and there are some interesting medieval buildings to discover around the town which lies on both sides of the Baise River. Nerac was the capital of the historically important Albret region on the northern edge of Gascony. Like other historical region names (Gascony, Perigord, Quercy) the Albret name is now used in a lot of tourist information to describe the region around Nérac (and Castejaloux).
A good place to start your visit is at the cluster of buildings just north of the old bridge. From here you can then explore the section of the town between the two bridges, behind and south of the castle. Near the Vieux Pont (Old Bridge) take a look at the wonderful colombage (half-timbered) buildings of the old tanneries. Ahead of you above the river is the Church of Notre Dame.
You can ask for a map which suggests a guided walk around the town's highlights in the Nerac tourist information office.
It is the Chateau Henry IV that attracts most visitors to Nerac. Only a part of the original chateau remains but it is a very impressive wing of the original castle, with a round tower and an arcaded balcony with decorative columns running along the first floor level. The castle now houses a museum tracing the history of the region, and in particular of the Albret region - the museum holds archaeological finds and an exhibition about the history of the Albret family.
In the main part of town as well as the Chateau Henri IV you can see the town hall, which was once the town's prison. If you follow the guided walk around Nerac you will also see the building which was the original town hall and is one of the oldest buildings in Nerac although it was largely destroyed by a fire in 1611.
Another notable monument is the Church of Saint-Nicholas, a large church with a baroque style facade built in the 18th century on the site of an earlier church that had fallen to ruin. The inside of the church is decorated with wall paintings and stained-glass windows which were added to the church around the middle of the 19th century.
Wandering around the centre of Nerac there are many attractive buildings dating from the 15th to 17th centuries. You should also take a walk up to the viewpoint (belvedere) as the views over the river and the town below are really excellent.
If you have time you can also take a walk along the river and through the Parc Royal de la Garenne. Once a royal hunting ground this is now a very pleasant park and there are a number of notable fountains in the park. On the other side of the river is a 16th century pavilion which was once used by ladies to undress for bathing in the river. After exploring the old town and park it is also possible to take a boat trip along the river to get even better views of this lovely stretch of the Baise River.
Close to Nerac is the newly opened Lud'O Parc which is a large water park which has been designed to look like a Roman ruin but has lots of water jets, slides etc. to keep the family amused.
Mezin is located in the Lot-et-Garonne department of Aquitaine, about 14 kilometres from Nerac. It is a small town with an attractive main square which originally developed more than 1000 years ago around a monastery (the monastery no longer exists).
A visit to Mezin will focus around the lovely paved central square that is dominated by the Church of Saint John the Baptist and appears unchanged since medieval times. This fortified church was built in the roman style over an extended period, from the 11th to the 14th century.
Opposite the church there is a row of attractively galleried arcades and at the top end of the square are more arcades and a pleasant bar from which to soak up the peaceful atmosphere.
Behind the church is another square which looks out over the surrounding 'Pays d'Albret' countryside, and with a round bandstand in the middle of the square, and around the two squares there are some narrow streets of medieval houses to explore.
Sunday morning is market day in Mezin, and a good time to visit.
Mezin is also home to the Musee du Liege et du Bouchon. In its heyday Mezin produced 4-5 million corks each week, and the museum is dedicated to the cork making industry and its historical importance to Mezin.
The most famous resident of Mezin was Armand Fallières, born here in 1841. M Falliéres was President of France from 1906 - 1913.
The town is set in the peaceful Gascony countryside with several small picturesque villages to visit nearby including Larressingle and Fourcés , both classified among the 'most beautiful villages of France', and many others that you will discover as you explore the region.
One interesting way to explore the region, known as the Pays d'Albret, is on the small tourist train between Nérac and Mezin although this only operates from late spring to early autumn.