Cahors, Compostella and Le Tour
Apr 24, 2007
|This morning we set off quite early, for a day exploring Cahors on the Lot River. The roads were narrow and winding, through forests and tiny villages whose streets were lined with cars. We stopped at Goudouain to capture some photos of the old market place and the stone cottages with the rays of the sun warming them.
The weather continued warm-it was 32 degrees at the hottest.
Tashie was craving a MacDonald's cheeseburger, and soon found it as we came into Cahors. We found a service station and filled the car for the first time. We needed bowsers marked 85 or 89. They were the unleaded and premium unleaded. The cost was about €46. The lady in the kiosk was British, and had lived in Cahors for three years. She had a little boy of five, who was happily at school and she and her husband were content to stay in Cahors. We drove round and round the town before finding a car park beside the river.
From there we walked up the hill to the tourist bureau. It was closed for lunch, so we walked around the Old Town for an hour or so. There was one of the oldest, most ancient houses I have ever seen, built a bit like Topsy, "It just grew." It had been a Gallo-Roman settlement. We saw a clock fountain from the fifteenth century, and hung over the rails, looking at the magnificent River Lot and the Bridge of Valentre. A kindly man, Jean-Luc, offered to take our photograph together beside an old church, closed for renovations. Everywhere, the wisteria was magnificent, as it has been throughout the region, and even I could smell its fragrance. It smelt much nicer than a classroom full of ten year old boys after recess. I counted my blessings.
We arrived back at the Tourist Bureau where a lady helped me find out about the role of Cahors in the ancient Compostella Way, which passed through the town. There is little tangible evidence of the ancient pilgrims, but the Way was clearly marked on the maps. She supplied us with a map of all the walks in the Lot region, new and old. Later, Tash and I walked about a hundred metres across the Bridge, part of the Way for the pilgrims entering and leaving the town.
Whilst we were at the Bureau a young Australian couple were reporting the loss of her passport. She had left it on the train. We spoke to them later in the street-Tash remembers faces so well. There was nothing to be done. They must return to Paris, from whence they had just come, and go to the Consulate to replace the passport, before returning to Australia in four days' time.
We retraced our steps, after leaving the Bureau, to find the starting off point for the Tour de France, later in July. It was already demarcated by the quintessential yellow banner over the street by the Place de Gaulle.
I had to make use of the stainless steel street conveniences. When you enter and press the red button, you feel a little like being entombed in a weird cell, but it all works. The actual pedestal is not there-just the floor deal we know from Asia, but stainless steel. As you leave and close the door, you hear a huge wave of water being swirled through, as the whole interior is cleansed.
The heat was intense; the town seemed to be virtually being rebuilt-street works everywhere, archaeological recherches happening; machinery, cars, jack hammers, people dining on the pavement. One man was using his fork to vigoursly stir and mix his uncooked mince before tucking in.
A man with a backpack was rummaging through the T shirts at one shop, and I approached him, Tashie trailing behind. "Are you walking the Way?" I asked him-he had the staff with the chequered flag that is carried by some walkers. He told us he was French and had started walking from Le Puy and was going the whole way to Compostella in Spain. He kindly posed with me for photos "If you wish it." He was a huge man, and strong, all dressed in black and quietly spoken. I told him my sister had walked part of the Way, but of course, he must know lots of people who have done so. He was polite and reserved.
We found our way to quite a large supermarket, a Casino, and bought pasta for a quiet night at home. We took a sandwich, and picnicked beside the Lot in the warm somnolence of Spring.
A family of ducks came to join us, and a lady nearby spoke to us, telling us the sad tale of how the ducklings were being taken, one by one, by the water rats.
People were climbing aboard the tourist boats to take the trip around the bends of the river. It reminded me of Brisbane, how the river arcs around to form an isthmus style. The water was flat and flowing quickly over a weir, and under the bridges.
Tashie loved Cahors. She felt at home there; there were many people of her own age, and she felt, even though we were in sightseeing clothing, no one took any notice of us. More like a big city, than the little village in which we are staying.
We returned safely to Monpazier, to find a party organised with other Australians invited for an aperitif. We showered and changed, and met Bob, a Qantas pilot, and Cathie, his wife. They kindly brought cheese and crackers, so we had a fine party happening. Also joining us was Annie, the owner's French girlfriend, who spoke almost as little English as we did French.
We had a pleasant chat, and when Cathie asked, "Where are you going next?" We told her about Uzes. Bob and Cathie had just spent two weeks there, and were flying home to Australia from Bordeaux, via London. The topic of Chinon came up, and I explained we had tried to book a week there but it was all booked out.
"No," the owner said, "The people have cancelled." Things snowballed rapidly-he phoned his partner, and soon we were booked into Chinon, in the Loire Valley, for next week. The new house in Uzes was not finished, and I was delighted to change plans, to go into the far better appointed home. Its special appeal is that the wi-fi is connected, or will be, after Wednesday. It is closer to Paris and our forward plan of reaching Munich would be far more tolerable from Chinon, in the Loire Valeey, than Uzes, in Provence. Tashie would just have to come back again another time to see Avignon and the Riviera.
We finished the night in a restaurant some distance away, the owner demonstrating how some people drive through the empty winding streets of outback France-dangerously. He took us through Belves, a lovely old town, where many people were dining. We went a bit further out, to a place Annie knew about, arriving about eight thirty. THE AUBERGE de La Petite Reine is situated 1 kilometre from the village of Siorac en Périgord village, in 3.5 acres of grounds. Staff were dressed in period costume, and the experience was delightful. I ventured a course of salty dried food, that turned out to be goose gizzards, I think. No harm came to me.
As we were well into our four course meal a very distinguished-looking couple approached us. Tall and slim, they were from Wales, but with cut glass English accents. They came from an area close to Holyhead, and we exchanged stories about Conwy. They said they had not heard anyone speaking English for a while, and had heard us say we were Australian. They were in the audience at the opening ceremony for the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne last year and had cruised home. Aboard the ship, she somehow managed to conduct the singing of the Anzac songs for the two hundred or so Aussies on the ship. That would be exactly one year ago, as Wednesday is Anzac Day again.
We came home and hung our flag in the window of our cottage to commemorate Anzac Day, before checking the Internet, and falling into bed.