Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Cahors on the Lot River

Before moving on from the Lot, we thought a day in Cahors would be a must. It was only a short drive from Vers and before we knew it, we were entering the main street and thinking, Cahors, it doesn't look all that old at first sight yet it has a 2000 year history. It sits on a horse shoe bend of the Lot River offering protection from its enemies. Its as if the river is hugging the city like a protecting mother while the cliffs rise steeply to the opposite side like a father overlooking his child.

The city has many features worthy of more than a one day visit.
Cahors' famous son Leon Gambetta was born here. Gambetta was instrumental in bringing France back to recovery after the Prussian war in 1870. The main boulevard with its plane trees either side and cafes is named in his honour. When we arrived at Cahors there was much construction work happening, well not really, as I think it may have been stopped having discovered some Roman remains. A statue of Leon Gambetta stood overlooking his boulevard just in front of the square. He stands leaning with one hand resting on a cannon as he looks out upon the shoppers and tourists.

Leon Gambetta shows the way - much construction work when we were there.
Not my photo - taken from Google images but seems to be taken at the same time when we were there.
  Cahors has been producing wine since those Roman times and we did try a few bottles of the dusky, dark and heavy Cahors red. Its said that the first vines were planted here in 50 BC. It reminded me of the wines from the Rutherglen district of northern Victoria where the big full bodied Shiraz and Cabernet wines are produced. Many years ago in Australia we could buy these wines under the name of Hermitage but the French put a stop to calling wines by such generic descriptions outside their own districts. The most famous of the Australian "Heritage" wines was Penfolds Grange Hermitage now known just Grange today.
The wine of Cahors (known as the black wine) is made from 70% Malbec with 30% Merlot I understand.
I have to admit that the lighter Burgundy wines are more to our liking these days. Still a good full bodied red goes down well with a bit of roast beast!!!!

It wasn't till we wandered off the Boulevard Gambetta that we discovered the narrow lanes of Medieval Cahors. Located between the Boulevard and the Lot river, you then feel you go back in time. I don't think you can fully appreciate all the hidden treasures of a town on a day trip but Cahors did open up many of its wonderful sights to us. By walking the length of Boulevard Gambetta and then returning via the back streets and laneways of old Cahors one can appreciated Cahors as a city of new and old. We took Rue Docteur Bergounioux, a narrow laneway which then took us to Rue Nationale. The street then opened up to a small square where we were confronted by Cathedrale de Etienne. It's not overly visible until you are almost upon it.
Feeling a little peckish, we found a delightful cafe for lunch and from memory we may have had crepes. Naturally a glass of wine was ordered, not the robust red at this time of day but a chilled Rose.

At every turn there's a photograph that needs to be taken.

From memory, this laneway may have been Rue Docteur Bergounioux and if not, then it was one of many that invited you to take a side step from the main path.

Many of the doorways had wood carvings similar to this.

The doors of Cathedrale de St-Etienne which dates back to 1119.

We did want to see the Cahors Museum of the French Resistance but on the day we arrived it was closed - we did get to see a much larger one in Lyon the following year which made up for it I guess.
Having reached the top end of the old town, it was time to stop for coffee at a cafe just near where we had parked our car. I remember sitting with Sue and just watching the locals go about their business as they would in any small regional city, but this was different - we were in France. Having spent a week in Provence and several days criss-crossing the Languedoc and the Midi Pyrenees, we were now in the heart of the Lot Valley in the Quercy region. We were on our way to the Perigord, tasting the cuisine, drinking the wine and taking in the regional sights as they presented themselves to us, sometimes by chance and sometimes by design.

With one more sight to see before leaving Cahors, we jumped back in our car to drive across the Lot River at the other end of the city and then snake back along the road that hugs the river.
It didn't come into view immediately but when it did, you could see why it was the jewel of Cahors. Pont Valentre is a grand fortified bridge that was built over a seventy year period. Building started in 1308 and was completed in 1378. It opened to traffic in 1350 with its seven stone arched span. Pont Valentre stood defiantly against the 100 Years War and the Wars of Religion and is just as impressive as Pont of Avignon.

Goodbye Cahors, sorry we couldn't stay longer.
It was time to leave Cahors and return to Vers to pack our bags for the next leg of our journey through France. We had a full week booked at Le Bugue in the Dordogne. Our drive would see us take a small stopover at Rocamadour with "Tommy" again taking us on a most interesting route to our destination.


  1. Fabulous post - love the archways and so... much history in that place. Thanks for the tour.

  2. Geeeeez you're quick - only posted 30 min ago. Thanks for visiting.
    Enjoy yours too.

  3. Wonderful. The medieval back lanes are fantastic. And that bridge is simply stunning. Another cracking post guys.

  4. Fantastic photos. This looks like a place I would like to visit sometime. Diane

  5. Craig - Wish we could spent more than the several hours we did in Cahors, but there were many more exciting adventures ahead of us on this trip.

  6. Diane - A place to visit sometime - you just did, with us. Are we getting closer to your part of the world?

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