These blog posts are like buses – none for ages and then a few together! Unless you’re waiting for a bus in Wellington, that is, when you wait for ages then… nothing.
Petit Dejeuner – Saint-Cirq-Lapopie
Another day, another incredibly pretty narrow-streeted village clinging impossibly to a hillside. There are strict rules around what you can and cannot do in these towns, hence you never see a house painted bright green or dayglo orange, and shiny steel and glass are nowhere in sight. Saint-Cirq-Lapopie has the added benefit of being perched on the edge of a cliff on a bend in the Lot River and valley, meaning the views are outstanding in all directions. The Lot shines silver, a reflection of the first cloud we’ve seen since leaving Wellington, and the bucolic beauty of fields and trees is punctuated with majestic limestone and sandstone cliffs rising above it.
Morning coffee – Bouziès
We walk the Chemin de Halage alongside the river, the path cut into the rock face, a tunnel with a wall missing. It was originally dug out to enable horses to tow barges along the river.
In parts the stone is carved and polished into patterns of whorls and swirls, permanent artwork in an open air gallery. We pause to watch a boat travel through a lock, the only way to navigate this many-weired river. A young boy gets a round of applause when, after struggling to turn the winch to open the lock, he throws his whole weight behind it and the gate slowly opens.
Lunch – menu-du-jour, Saint Géry
A restaurant full of locals is always a good sign and this place is busy with them. As we order the menu-de-jour we notice it also has a four star rating on Tripadvisor. 15€ gets us a starter of salad with melon and jambon (larger than a main course in one hotel restaurant we ate in), a main of pork rotis with linguine – what I thought an unusual combination until I realise the pasta soaks up the ceps sauce beautifully – and a dessert of pear flan with crème anglaise. Oh, and a ¼ carafe of wine each. Even at twice the price it would be excellent value for money.
Afternoon tea – Chapelle Saint-Roch
Neil decides he wants to check out a tiny chapel high above the road. Huffing and puffing my way up I wish he’d mentioned it before I ate three courses and drank nearly half a bottle of wine. The air smells of hay, the occasional whiff of figs wafting in. I’ve noticed this before – it seems that figs grow rampant around the Dordogne (the Lot valley is considered part of the same area) and the air is often pungent with the smell of them. Sadly it’s too early to harvest them or I’d be tempted to do a little stealing. What’s the equivalent of scrumping when it comes to figs?
Supper – Pont Valentre, Cahors
It’s a hot walk through the town to the crowning glory of Cahors, the UNESCO listed fourteenth century bridge with three tall stone pillars rising majestically over eight arches. It took nearly seventy years to build and was purportedly only finished when the architect made a pact with the devil for help in exchange for his soul. Like many buildings of the era that are still standing it’s an amazing piece of architecture and stunning to look at. The cobbled surface makes Neil determined to return with his bike so he can say he’s ‘ridden the pavé!