Want to visit a unique city nestled inside a bend in a river, an authentic and non-touristy town with highly-cultivated gastronomy?
Yes? Then Cahors is for you.
But wait until you get a look at this bridge—now you’re sold, aren’t you?
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.
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.
Picnic at the Pont Valentré: Croustilot (tasty but wickedly chewy) and canned cassoulet (classy!).
Post-picnic we strolled about the old city and inside the Gothic cloister of Cahors Cathedral.
There were lots of freaky carvings about, including this bizarre bottom stabbing scene.
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.
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.
The charming couple graciously led us to their favorite secret gardens. Cahors has 25 secret gardens based on primary sources from the middle ages.
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.