The wide valley fed by the river Lot nurtures the grapes, the plums and the tomatoes that are produced in abundance by the fertile soil. At the edge of the valley little roads wind up smaller valleys cut into the limestone of the Haut Agenais. We live in the commune of Sainte-Colombe-de-Villeneuve, although our house is some 2 km as the crow flies (and 4km by road) from the village, which has a church, the mairie and a village hall.
Our little corner of paradise sits on the edge of one of these valleys, some 5 miles from the old bastide town of Villeneuve-sur-Lot, set in the Departement of the Lot & Garonne. So, although we are in a quiet and peaceful spot along a cul-de-sac, we have only a short trip to the facilities of this town of some 23,000 inhabitants. Our nearest hypermarket is only 3 miles away via a route that is not only the direttissima but also the scenic! The mediaeval village of Pujols is also only 3 miles away and is well provided with restaurants.
Villeneuve is not as new as its name implies; Alphonse de Poitiers, Count of Toulouse, built it as a new bastide town starting in 1253 to replace the bastides of Fumel, Penne and Pujols, which had been razed during the Albigensian wars. A magnificent stone bridge, the Pont des Cieutat, crosses the Lot; the English king Edward 1st built this in 1282 - its sister bridge at Cahors - the Pont Valentré - retained its towers and is world famous. Two tall towers, vestiges of the old town ramparts and called the Porte de Pujols and the Porte de Paris, dominate the skyline, together with the attractive tower of the red-brick and relatively modern Eglise Ste Catherine.
Modern Villeneuve is well provided with shops, including Auchan and Leclerc. There's a colourful vegetable market at the Place Lafayette in the town centre.
Not far from chez nous are the limestone caves of Lastournelles and Fontirou; further afield are the pretty villages of Penne d'Agenais, Casseneuil, Laparade, Clairac and Granges-sur-Lot. The fairy-tale castle of Bonaguil near Fumel is a must-see!
Connections to the Great Outer World are handy; Ryanair fly to Bergerac which is a 50-minute drive to the north, and Agen, 20 minutes to the south sits on the A62 Autoroute des Deux Mers and the TGV rail connections to Bordeaux and Toulouse.
The weather is generally good, most days have at least some sunshine and even the winter rays will warm your back. The temperatures are generally 5°C or so higher than the UK. However, with less Gulf Stream and no North Sea and a more "continental" weather pattern, there can be more frequent extremes of temperature - a range of -10°C to +40°C during the year is not uncommon and it can and does snow. However the cold days are usually clear and sunny, so the midday temperatures can be very pleasant - and the snow doesn't usually last very long!.
In the hot, dry summer period many plants, such as roses, shut down, then there is a little "second spring" when spring flowers and strawberries appear in early autumn. The winter is short and effectively confined to December, January and February. Outside this period there can be an unexpected outbreak of knees at any time, as shorts are kept always to hand!
The air quality is very good and the absence of atmospheric and light pollution produces some spectacularly starlit nights.
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