Sunday, 1 October 2017

The Manche to the Med - Day 11: Sarlat to Cahors

Breakfast was another decent buffet this morning. The room was busy, lots of American's fussing over which sort of coffee to choose. For us it was back to our usual routine, eat as much as possible, get our bags packed, load the bikes, pay the bill and off. And because we were staying in a place more geared up for tourism, shops were open - we purchased a couple of Ham and cheese baguettes, stowing them for later

We're getting slick at pannier packing now - the process whittled down to less than 10 minutes compared to the half-hour or so that used to take. We're up on the second floor so today we'd be hauling our bags down to the basement garage via the lift - a Shindlers Lift - As the lift arrives and the door opens there is a small man standing in the middle, the lift isn't particularly big and I see it will be a squeeze. Gary shuffles in carrying his five bags, helmet and water bottles, "Sorry about this" he offers. There is a look of alarm on the face of the little man already in there as he is engulfed - he makes no attempt to move as Gary clatters into the space, bags scraping the sides and bumping into the man - There's a moment of chaos as a couple of Gary's bags slip from his arm, his water bottles crash to the floor and spin around, he lifts his leg to break the fall of his helmet as that too spirals downwards. "We'll get the next one" he concedes, kicking his bottles back out into the corridor and dragging his bags.

Cafe stop
We finally get out and onto the road. Today we'll be in the Lot Region. The GPS navigates us through some main roads for a couple of miles and then we're onto the Voie Verte - a good smooth surface, winding along a tree lined valley, innocent of traffic or life of any kind. It's a grey, cloudy day and despite us being further South than ever, not particularly warm. We see a few sleepy villages and half a dozen houses before coming off the track and rejoining normal roads. There are some climbs, not too bad though and we arrive at a small village with a bar/restaurant. Another place hidden out in the wilds, difficult to understand how it could be sustained as a viable business? We sit outside under an awning as drizzly rain begins to fall. A couple of coffees, a couple of beers, a couple of glasses of pastis. The resturant area has only one person in there, the tables are immaculate with linen tablecloths and neatly folded napkins. Gary thinks they are laughing at us for some reason? - I'm not sure they are but try to listen for any clues in the conversation. We set off again and within two hundred metres are faced with another duck hill - this one is specially canard - 16/17/18% and long too. It's a relief when we finally get to the top. Maybe that's what they were laughing at I think. They knew we'd got that coming.

Lot to do!
In the afternoon we are directed down another unpaved road - this one is little more than a bumpy grass track - thankfully it's short; it eventually joins up with a busy main road to take us to Cahors - we stand at the roadside for a minute - it's narrow and there are a lot of lorries - we decide to stay on the vague grass path running parallel - this is tough though, the track rises and falls like a rollercoaster. Finally we find a quiet paved road and detour through another small village onto further quiet roads that will take us to our destination.

Cahors is a city on the Lot river in the Occitanie region. Founded in Roman times it is known for its deep red wine and the Pont Valentre, a medieval bridge with three towers. The old-town has many half-timbered houses, narrow alleyways and an imposing Cathedral and boulevards lined with plane trees. We drop down to river level and locate our accommodation for this evening - a small hotel not far from the famous bridge.

The Cathedral St Etienne
Our bikes are stored in the adjacent garage, we unload and tramp up to our room for the usual unpacking ritual, during the daily washing we've developed a particularly useful sock drying technique - making use of the always available hairdryer, simply slip the sock over the end, a quick blast on full power and we're good to go!

After a shower, change of clothes and we're out. There's some sun now and the bridge and the riverside path look particularly beautiful, illuminated by the late afternoon sun.

We wander round the old-town, lots of pavement bars and restaurants and everywhere seems busy. There's a shop that appears to sell just brushes: all manner of implements utilising hair and bristles, can't imagine why or how there's enough demand to support such an enterprise? We find a restaurant for supper - it's evening now, getting dark and definitely cool. I nip back to the hotel for an extra layer and we sit out with the usual beers and pastis. Gary orders a flammekueches - translates as 'flame-cake' it's an Alsation/Mossellan dish - essentially like a pizza. I opt for a simple caesar salad. We of course order a bottle of Cahors to wash it down.
Sock dryer in action

We walk back to the hotel in the dark, making another visit to the river and the bridge which is illuminated by a lighting system that cycles through different colours, yellow, blue, pink. It's impressive and there are lots of people taking in the view. And then we were done - it's bedtime - we're way down South now and the feeling is that our journey is edging towards its end.

Cahors bridge at night

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