The unanticipated side effects of a picnic at Pont Valentré, Cahors

Want to visit a unique city nestled inside a bend in a river, an authentic and non-touristy town with highly-cultivated gastronomy?

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Yes?  Then Cahors is for you.

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But wait until you get a look at this bridge—now you’re sold, aren’t you?

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The Southwestern region of France is teeming with medievalist catnip, and Cahors’ Pont Valentré is a prime specimen.  Built in mid 1300’s, Pont Valentré is designated as UNESCO World Heritage Site as one of the Camino de Santiago pilgrim’s routes.

croustilot

A picnic with a view of Pont Valentré was clearly a requirement.  To go with our sensational view, we needed equally sensational bread.  It took a while to track down Croustilot, the artisanal bread of Cahors, baked exclusively with wheat gown in the Lot Valley.  Running short on time for more extensive picnic shopping, we picked up a supermarket can of Cassoulet beans.

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Picnic at the Pont Valentré: Croustilot (tasty but wickedly chewy) and canned cassoulet (classy!).

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Post-picnic we strolled about the old city and inside the Gothic cloister of Cahors Cathedral.

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There were lots of freaky carvings about, including this bizarre bottom stabbing scene.

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Cahors felt strangely empty: where were the people?  They must be have been somewhere–people with dogs—people who walk their dogs to funny little sand piles with a stick for the dogs to do their business on.

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We wandered into a picturesque but empty medieval square, swiveling our heads to take it all in, when all of a sudden—what was that sound?  Was someone ripping a sheet in half?  Could a Cahors resident be revving up a chainsaw?  Was it possible that a crop duster was flying low over the town square? No, it was HOB, my husband, the source of the offending noise.  (I blame the lunch of Cassoulet beans, or perhaps just being uncouth Americans.)  As I turned to punch HOB on the arm, I saw them, the family walking immediately behind us.  Sure enough, after a day spent almost entirely alone on the streets of Cahors, HOB had let loose with fierce flatulence directly in front of a large French family.

What followed was a mutually helpless laughter fit which didn’t end until we were tear stained and exhausted.  Giddy and giggle-tired we tried to resume our walking tour and were directly approached by a young local couple.  “Are you Americans?” they asked in perfect English.  The couple was delighted to learn we were from Chicago and preceded to name their favorite Chicago Bulls basketball stars.  The couple asked if they could show us around Cahors a bit, and we gratefully followed.

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The charming couple graciously led us to their favorite secret gardens.  Cahors has 25 secret gardens based on primary sources from the middle ages.

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This is one of the medieval illustrations the secret gardens are modeled after.  We saw several more, at the direction of the nice couple and found them delightful and a perfect showcase for this jewel of a town.

Lovers of gardens, medievalists and devotees of off-the-beaten-path travel should make Cahors a priority destination.  And while I can’t advise flatulence as a conversation starter, it was certainly helped us to connect with friendly locals.

 

How we got to Cahors: train from Perigueux.

Where we slept: INTER-HOTEL De France,  Price: €69 for a double.  Recommended: a bit pricey, but yes.

 

 

 

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21 comments

  1. Wow! Gorgeous scenery!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes it is–even in winter, which is when we visited.

      Like

  2. You had me at “cultivated gastronomy”, well before the bridge — and then the secret gardens! A delicious stroll. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The French concept of terroir–both in food and wine–is especially embraced in this region. It is truly glorious!
      Thanks for reading.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. joytheexplorer · · Reply

    You had me at that freaky bottom stabbing scene. Hahahaha! But seriously, 25 secret gardens? I must go there someday!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Medieval art is so deliciously weird. That’s why I adore it.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Sounds so lovely! I have wanted to visit Carcasonne for quite some time (largely, I confess, because I rather like the board game of the same name) – Cahors sounds a little similar but off the tourist trail. It has been added to my list!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You have a list too? Mine is soooooo long. Good problem to have, that.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. amazing clicks 🙂 Hope you had a great time there 🙂
    Lerry
    https://inflateddreams.wordpress.com/

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    1. Thank for clicking Lerry. We did have a super time (we almost always do, fortunately). 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. How do I not know about this town?? Looks perfect for a stroll and a picnic!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have yet to find a town I couldn’t picnic in, though weather has occasionally forced us to be quite resourceful.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. You took me back years….more than I care to consider….traversing that bridge into the heart of Cahors in the early hours of a summer morning.
    Nothing was open, of course…
    I wish I’d known about the secret gardens

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Did you live nearby Helen? Or was this during a summer trip?

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      1. It was on one of my trips as a student…using the railway pass.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Hubby and I just got back from a trip to Belgium and Germany, and I’m already dreaming of next year’s trip – I think it’ll be a driving tour of Southern France, or maybe a Spain/France combo. Either way, adding Cahors to our preliminary itinerary 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Looking forward to your posts from Belgium and Germany Erin!

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  9. Stunning place! And the secret gardens are definitely a plus, there’s alway a sort of a magical atmosphere in there which I love.
    Another UNESCO World Heritage city that I’m in love with is Lyon, I’m going to post an article about its highlights very soon, it’s definitely worth visiting.

    Lovely blog, I just subscribed! Have a nice day 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you theglobeeater. I haven’t been to Lyon yet, but it’s high on my list. I can tell from your blog that you know a lot about food—can you recommend any budget friendly places to eat in Lyon? I esp. love French cheese.

      Cheers!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Sure! 🙂 I recommend ‘L’épicerie’ in rue de la Monnaie, it’s a small restaurant in an even smaller street in the city centre, close to rue de la République.
        It’s a “tartinerie” so their signature dish is toasted bread with typical French ingredients as a topping, simple yet delicious.
        If you like French cheese I highly recommend you try the melted cheese and pear tartine. And their menu also offers a wide variety of yummy desserts. 🙂

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  10. Ooooh, those places sound divine–merci!

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