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Sifex France Guide to Lot

Cahors, the principle city of the Lot is best known probably for its ‘Pont Valentré’ which dates from the 14th century and is adorned with three impressive defensive turrets. Around the city are fabulous AOC vineyards which produce a rich red wine, the perfect accompaniment to meat or game and for which the area is famous. To the north of Cahors is Souillac, a bustling town which developed around a Benedictine Abbey in the 10th century and, on the way, you will pass Gourdon, perched high up and built of honey coloured stone, a landmark from miles in any direction with its medieval and renaissance buildings, the capital of the Bouriane country which has strong ties to its neighbour, Périgord and is in stark contrast to the plateaux of the Causses. Here you are greeted by Romanesque chapels, dolmens and dry stone houses and this is certainly the land of walnuts, truffles and ceps. From Cahors to Figeac, the Lot valley is a delight whether for boating or just enjoying the many delights along the river.

 The Parc Régional des Causses de Quercy is an area of little trees, short stunted oaks, honeysuckle, eglantine and the blue green haze of junipers. Scattered villages mingle with the odd dry stone hut and sheep and goats graze on the land. Caves and potholes abound, the result of water on limestone over many centuries. First discovered in 1889, the underground river of Padirac and the chasm is about 35 metres wide and 75 metres deep and forms part of one of the most intriguing systems of caves in France.

Set 80 metres above the River Lot, Saint Cirq Lapopie is one of the wonders of the Lot and has its origins back in the 8th century. Its impressive fortified Gothic church surveyes the overall landscape. At Marcilhac-surCélé you will find a beautiful village beneath striking cliffs with an old medieval abbey, and nearby, dolmens and cazelles. Worthy of a visit is the Bellevue Cave whose colours run from pure white to deep ochre. A little further up river is Espagnac-Sainte-Eulalie which is equally picturesque with the Convent of Notre Dame de Val Paradis, where at its height as many as 100 nuns resided, with its remarkable and picturesque half timbered bell tower.

However the most famous site in the department and the second most visited after Mont St Michel is Rocamadour. Originally an important shrine on the pilgrim route, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, this site has retained its magnetic qualities to this day and some pilgrims still ascend on their knees the stone staircases leading to the sacred sanctuary which is 216 steps high. Set above the Alzou, the village gives the impression of clinging desperately to the rock face. Rich in buildings of historical interest it enjoys stunning views. Rocamadour also produces a tasty goat’s milk cheese named after the village. To the south of the Lot is the Quercy Blanc, named after the chalky white soil and typified by the bright white stone buildings with their pink canal tiled roofs.

© 2003-2006 Sarah Francis

Sifex France Guide to the Departments in Midi-Pyrénées

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