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Report 1975: Prowling Around the Lot Valley

By anne moore from New Hampshire, USA, Fall 2011

Trip Description: Highlights of our week spent day tripping in the Lot Valley with Cahors as a base, during September 2011.

Destinations: Countries - France; Regions/Cities - Pyrenees

Categories: Hotels/B&Bs; Day Tours; Sightseeing; Walking/Hiking; Wine Trip; Independent Travel; 2 People

Page 1 of 1: Prowling Around the Lot Valley

photo by Anne Moore

Pont Valentre, Cahors

The Lot Valley in the south of France offers an ideal location for our favorite mode of travel, which is to establish ourselves in a central spot and drive out from there on day trips. Ancient villages, historic monuments, picturesque vineyards, castles and gorgeous scenery all are within a day’s drive from Cahors, the ancient and beautiful city on the Lot River, in the region south of the Dordogne.

One of the best decisions we made prior to this trip in September of 2011 was to book a reservation at a B&B in Cahors, in the home of Annie and Gerard Frayssinet. On a quiet hillside street just across the Lot River from the city center, the location was perfect. Accommodations on the first floor of the Frayssinet home consist of two bedrooms, one with a double bed and the other with twin beds, a totally modern bathroom with double sinks and a stall shower, and plenty of hanging and storage space. They do not rent both bedrooms at the same time unless requested to do so, and as a result we had the total run of the place for a very reasonable rate. The continental breakfast was served upstairs in the Frayssinet’s dining room, a sunny enclosed porch overlooking the garden. Every morning Gerard went out to his favorite boulangerie for fresh bread, and Annie served her own home-made confitures (including such exotic choices as fig, yellow tomato, and prune) with juice and huge mugs of coffee.

But even better than breakfast was their advice about the region. Annie’s family goes back in that area into the 16th century, and Gerard had been the district postmaster prior to his retirement. As a result, they were better than any guidebook in helping us prioritize where to go and what to do. And our breakfast conversations helped forge a friendship that continues on with the help of email!

Cahors itself is a fascinating city divided almost in half into two distinct parts - modern and ancient. The Lot River forms about three-quarters of the diameter of the city, with an old wall built across the remaining area for fortification. There are many bridges, but the Pont Valentre with its three towers has become the city’s symbol, as well as a symbol for the bridges of France. An attractive park for meeting, greeting and strolling borders the river near the bridge. The entire city could well compete with Paris for the “city of flowers” title, as there are numerous small gardens throughout the urban area, and wonderful container plantings up and down the streets and decorating many of the city’s buildings. In addition, a walking tour of “the Secret Gardens of Cahors” takes you to various precious gardens which are largely hidden from public view unless you know where to look!

Saturday morning market on the Place de la Cathedrale is a typical fun-filled experience with lots of choices in breads, cheeses, meats, and produce of the region along with some handcrafts. The Halles de Cahors, covered market, open every day is well worth a visit especially to stock up on our favorite picnic fare, bread and cheese with a little sausage and, of course, some wine of the region. The Cathedrale of St- Etienne is a bit of a hodgepodge architecturally speaking, having been constructed over several periods – but one of the lovely “secret gardens” is its cloister, and behind the large cathedral is another “secret garden” tended by a little old lady wearing a sunbonnet, totally made of wicker!

The best activity in Cahors is just walking around, looking at the old buildings and architecture, and enjoying the views along the river. But there is one small museum not to be missed, the Musee de la Resistance on Charles de Gaulle square in the northern part of the city. It’s a very impressive small museum with three floors of maps, photos, memorabilia, letters, and newspaper clippings detailing the two years of the Vichy regime, the “maquis” fighters, and Nazi horrors.

Our B&B

Annie and Gerard Frayssinet
247 Combe Del Trel
46000 Cahors France
Tel: 05 65 22 24 17/ 05 65 20 21 48
gerardfrayssinet@orange.fr

Favorite Restaurants in Cahors

  • Le Lamparo, Place de la Halle
  • Auberge Vieux Cahors, Ave. St. Urcisse
  • Le Palais, Ave. Leon Gambetta, one of the few open on Sunday
  • Hotel Le Chartreuse, outdoor dining on deck overlooking the river, and walking distance from our B&B. “All you can drink for €4.50 wine bar.”

Day Trips

Saint Cirq Lapopie

Touristy but picturesque , one of the oldest towns in the region with stone houses and tiled peak roofs, up and down the hilly streets, lots of restaurants and shops. Great for photographers. En route, stopped at Bouzies to see the old towpath beside the canal, and marina. Attractive small hotel and homes, lots of flowers. Beyond St. Cirq LaPopie reached Souillac on the Cele River, where we found a picnic spot beside a little waterfall, and then drove as far as St. Sulpice before turning back.

Puy L’Eveque via the Rt. de Vignoble

Beautiful drive with vineyards stretching out in every direction. Stops at the Chateau de Mercues, historic chateau now a luxury hotel, quaint town of Douelle with lovely old iron bridge and the “longest painting in France” on the seawall holding up the quay. Stopped at a few chateaus to taste wine, and found a good picnic spot. Beyond Puy L’Eveque drove to see the castle Bonaquil which looks just like a fairy tale castle made for a Disney movie.

Chateau St. Sernin

At the invitation of winemaker Jean Michel whom we had met the previous day. Had a full tour of the winery, saw all the operations in action including frantic picking to get the grapes in under optimal conditions. They produce a Malbec, dark, dense and very delicious, and a Malbec/Merlot blend.

Figeac

Charming old buildings that seem more Tuscan than French. Tiny narrow streets, made for strolling around, and for photographers. Beyond Figeac is Capdenac Le Haut, surrounded by craggy limestone outcroppings and cliffs, very scenic, and turning south again one passes through Laroque-Toirac and Montbrun.

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