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  • Day19

    To Market We Go

    October 2 in France ⋅ ⛅ 13 °C

    Our guide Mary wasn’t feeling well so she rested for the day, and we had an alternative bus driver as Jerome was having a day off - he lives close to Cahors. After breakfast, we headed off to the Saturday markets in the centre of Cahors to pick up supplies for our picnic lunch. It was already buzzing with locals, but not many tourists.

    The produce was a feast for the eyes. We bought cheese - Brie, Cantale and Comte - all delicious. We bought baguettes, figs, olives, raspberries and plums - quite the feast! We also visited the covered market which sold fish, meat, cheese, charcuterie and fruit and veg also.
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  • Day18

    Cahors

    October 1 in France ⋅ ☁️ 20 °C

    We arrived in Cahors early enough to explore the city centre. Our hotel, the Diovola Great Western Plus was fabulous and we had views of the beautiful bridge and river. Cahors is a much larger city, but is beautifully maintained and quite picturesque. It is naturally protected on three sides by a bend in the river, and used to have a wall on the other side, parts of which you can still see. The bridge is in great shape and is considered the second most beautiful bridge in France. After exploring the bridge, we headed to the city centre where we stopped for coffee in their large square, before heading off to wander through the narrow laneways of the old city.

    Cahors is a lovely city with nice flat terrain. We walked across to the other side of the city centre to where the river had bent back around, walked along this part of the river for a bit, then slowly wound our way back through the narrow streets to our hotel. No dinner tonight as we were so full from the generous meal at Madame Murat’s.
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    Traveler

    Beautiful shot

    Traveler

    Thanks I was trying to be a bit artistic

    Traveler

    Picture perfect

    Traveler

    How are you all going with the Covid business? Are you and Ian holding up well? It certainly looks like you are. You both look so well and happy

     
  • Day18

    Afternoon delight

    October 1 in France ⋅ ☁️ 19 °C

    After lunch finally wound up, we headed back to Mary’s village. It was a great afternoon and it was very pleasant to walk through the forests and surrounding area. I even spotted what we think was a weasel in one of the fields. Back at Mary’s lovely house we were able to chill for a bit after touring her small village, and hearing about a tragic event towards the end of WW2 when the Nazis were retreating but slaughtered a number of men, women and children from the village. There is a moving monument outside the church that lists all the families. It has been a delightful day. We have walked through some wonderful landscapes, our bellies have been filled with traditional delicious French fare served by Sylvia and her team and, after an aperitif at Mary’s of Truffle wine, we are off to Cahors.Read more

  • Day17

    Madame Murats, Pomarède

    September 30 in France ⋅ ⛅ 12 °C

    Following our morning walk we had built up an appetite, which is just as well, as our next stop was Madame Murat’s restaurant for lunch, located in a village next door to Mary’s. This restaurant has been run by six generations of women. It is currently run by Sylvie and her husband Phillipe. Madam Murat is still with us but isn’t mobile enough to come to the restaurant anymore. Mary wrote a book about the history of this restaurant and the family called “Lunch at Madame Murat’s”, and also did a television series to celebrate their 100 years anniversary.

    Mary was welcomed most warmly by the family and we had a wonderful time. We arrived at noon and the place was soon full of predominantly locals. The restaurant traditionally served workers who, in France, used to get 2 hours for lunch. The food is hearty and delicious.

    For our lunch we started with vegetable soup, then some charcuterie, followed by roast pork served with frites and peas with lardons - it was all delicious. Then there was a cheese course. The cheese used to be presented on a large board and would be passed from table to table. That tradition has stopped because when Mary brought in a group (of Australians) a number of years ago, they assumed this large platter of cheese was just for them and wrapped the cheese up and put it in their bags! Can you believe it - poor Mary was mortified. So now each table gets smaller pieces of cheese. We were served Cantale (a local regional cheese), Camembert and a Catalan Thome. They were all delicious. Then we had dessert. There were several to choose from:- A pear and chocolate gateaux, apple pie, crème brûlée, pannacotta with berries and ice-cream, and everyone was very happy with their choice. We finished off the meal with a shot of Eau de Vie (plum flavour) which is a bit like rocket fuel!

    After lunch we walked through the forest back to Mary’s place (to walk off our lunch!) and then we were off to Cahors.
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    Traveler

    Love the pics - especially us all together outside, at the end.

     
  • Day17

    Montcléra to Frayssinet-le-Gélat

    September 30 in France ⋅ ⛅ 10 °C

    We left the beautiful village of Rocamadour, which was shrouded in fog and quite magical, and drove through the French countryside to arrive at the village of Montcléra for our first walk of the day. The fog cleared and the walk was delightful, through forests and farmland. The walk took about 2 hours with us arriving in the picturesque village of Frayssinet -Le-Gélat, that Mary calls her second home. The village is lovely, full of character and very well kept. We popped into Mary’s house for a quick refresh before Jerome picked us up for the short trip to Madame Murat’s for lunch.Read more

    Traveler

    Looks so inviting - that was a lovely woodland walk.

     
  • Day16

    J’adore Rocamadour

    September 29 in France ⋅ 🌧 13 °C

    We left Limogne-en-Quercy, travelling the picturesque back roads towards Rocamadour. The weather continues to change on a regular basis and we experienced pouring rain through to blue skies and sunshine. Before driving to our hotel, Jerome stopped outside the city near a viewing platform so that we could get our first view of this beautiful town perched high on a cliff. For about 1,000 years this town has been an important pilgrimage destination as it was built on the site of a shrine to Madonna. The “healing” powers associated with this have drawn pilgrims, and the town flourished as a result.

    We arrived at our fabulous hotel after Jerome skilfully manoeuvred the bus through one of the four narrow town gates. (Ed - centimetre perfect!) We check in and then meet Mary and the rest of the group to climb the Great Staircase up the side of the cliff, visit the Sanctuary - made up of 8 chapels including the Chapelle Notre Dame - and the “Vierge Noir” statue which is carved from the wood of a walnut tree in the 12th century. Above this, the 9th century iron bell is said to ring on its own when somewhere in the world the Virgin performs a miracle. Many recorded miracles are linked to sailors in peril at sea, hence there are boats hanging from the ceiling. Next to the chapel against the cliffs lies the Basilique Saint-Sauveur, built in the Romanesque-Gothic style, and the medieval city is also home to the crypt of Saint-Amadour, just below the basilica. As an act of penance in previous times, pilgrims would do the 216 step climb to the Sanctuary on their knees. We climbed the steps but using our feet!

    We also visited the 12 stations of the cross that are part of a lovely shady walk from the Sanctuary up the cliff to the castle. This was built to defend the village’s Sanctuary in the Middle Ages and sits at the top of the village in an extraordinary balancing act. We climbed up onto the castle ramparts which afforded us breathtaking views over the village and the Alzou Valley. Even though we didn’t do a walk today we ended up doing more than 10,000 steps visiting this site.
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    Traveler

    Looks a bit Harry Potterish

    Traveler

    Yes it was a bit like that - the whole place is just gorgeous and quite magical. When we woke the next morning the whole village was shrouded in mist.

    Traveler

    well done

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  • Day16

    Limogne-en-Quercy

    September 29 in France ⋅ 🌧 12 °C

    After the visit to the truffle farm, we headed back into town to have lunch at a cafe as the weather was not conducive to the picnic which had been the plan. Instead, we had kebabs, chips and a glass of red wine in a café playing reggae music, which went down a treat. We also did a little wander around the town and got our passports stamped at the local church. We then jumped back in the bus and set off for Rocamadour. Jerome took smaller roads which meant we were treated to a wonderful scenic drive through some beautiful villages. The French countryside is just so beautiful and even though they have had a very hot summer there has been some rain which is turning the countryside a lovely green.Read more

    Traveler

    I loved this impromptu moment for lunch. It was such a cute little village and this little cafe probably rocks the hood in the evenings!

    Traveler

    noice

     
  • Day16

    Leaving Conques in search of truffles.

    September 29 in France ⋅ 🌧 11 °C

    We left the delightful town of Conques and settled in for a 90 minute drive to Limogne-en-Quercy. We arrived a little early, so walked around the town and found a place for a coffee. The resident dog - a French bulldog- was extremely friendly, wanting lots of attention.

    We then headed a bit out of town to the Truffle farm to meet Marie-France and her trusty dog Caline (a 4 year old beagle). Marie-France has about 1,000 trees on her farm. They were planted by her grandparents and, on average, only 10% of trees will yield truffles in any given year. It can take up to 15 years before you see any results and there are many other factors that come into play such as the weather, especially rain and heat, the health of the trees and just plain luck! The largest truffle Marie-France has ever found was around 300 grams and it was the last truffle ever produced by that tree (its swan song). Strangely, she didn’t sell it, and keeps it in a jar to show the tourists.

    There are many rules and regulations that need to be followed regarding the growing and selling of truffles. Marie-France also informed us that they pay tax on the number of trees they have not the size of their yield, which seemed unfair to us, but she replied that is how it is.

    Selling truffles is done at an open air marketplace during the truffle season - the best are the ‘winter’ truffles found between December and March. You have your truffles in a basket and a buyer will approach you with a written offer which you can accept or reject so, again, chance and luck play into it. Once you have agreed on a price you cannot then take a better price if one is offered. Marie-France said she did do that as a 15 year old selling truffles for the first time, and was allowed to get away with it, but was warned it would not be acceptable going forward.

    At the end of the market, you take your basket of truffles and your slip of paper to the buyers car where the exchange of truffles for cash takes place. The best truffles are black or black and grey, followed by the brown and grey ones. Marie-France said there are truffles that don’t cut the mustard and are sold at a cheaper price to be used as ingredients in other products such as pâté or saucisson.

    Marie-France did mention that Australia is producing some very good quality truffles, and that China produces a lot of truffles but their taste, perfume and general quality is inferior. Marie-France told us the best way to use truffles is freshly sliced or grated and added to the meal at the last minute. She also told us to place eggs in a container with some slices of truffle and leave them for 24 hours so that the flavour will be absorbed by the eggs and then make omelettes, these are known as a poor man’s omelette.

    The last part of the time with Marie-France was a live demonstration of Caline finding truffles. It was amazing how well she did at finding them. All dogs must be trained to become truffle hunters and many breeds of dog are successful. Years ago they used pigs for the role of truffle hunter but they became too large and difficult to manage and also, unlike dogs, love truffles so you had to be quick to take the truffle from the pig before they ate it!

    Following the demonstration we got to sample truffles on fresh bread with butter and also on warm toasted bread with cheese. We also drank a glass of truffle wine, which was delicious.

    After the visit concluded we headed back into town to have lunch at a cafe before heading off along the smaller roads to Rocamadour.
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    Traveler

    Yum truffle flavours! The orchards are so picturesque as well.

    Traveler

    what a clever doggy

     
  • Day15

    Conques

    September 28 in France ⋅ 🌧 14 °C

    We arrived in Conques, a beautiful and wonderfully preserved medieval town, to find the road Jerome would normally take to drop us off near the hotel blocked by an automatic gate. Following some intense discussion with the gate guard, we were turned away and instructed to drive around to the other side of Conques to enter. Here we were also faced with a gate blocking the way, with only local cars allowed to enter. Jerome tried calling our hotel but it was closed till 3.30pm - only the French would leave reception unstaffed for 2 hours! He then rang the Tourism office who advised him to take a ticket to open the gate and drive to the hotel and wait for it to reopen.

    Conques is a beautiful city that dates back to before the 9th century, but acquired notoriety in the 9th century when a monk transferred (borrowed) the remains of Sainte Foy from Agen to Conques. Sainte Foy (or Faith) is a saint who is said to have been a young girl of twelve from Agen in Aquitane. The story goes that she was arrested by the Romans for refusing to worship their Roman pagans, and was then executed. First they tried to burn her but legend says she was extinguished by a miraculous rain shower. In the end she was beheaded along with a number of other Christians who refused to renounce their faith.

    As we had 90 minutes to kill, and it was pouring rain, we decided to find a bar and have a coffee and/or a beer. We also used this time to set up a group WhatsApp for L’Equipe d’Australie so that we could share photos, and it seems to be working (as long as I remember to share!)

    Finally, the hotel reopened and we made a dash inside in the pouring rain. Once we had checked into our room, which was very nice indeed, with views of the church, we headed out for a bit of a wander. We found some lovely shops where several purchases were made!

    Then it was time to meet up with our local guide, Anne, who gave us the history of Conques and the Saint Faith Abbey, which is quite an imposing structure. It also has a wonderfully maintained tympanum, it depicts Christ presiding over judgement of the souls of the deceased. Archangel Michael and a demon weigh the souls of the dead on a scale. The righteous go to Christ’s right, while the dammed go to the left where they are eaten by a Leviathan and excreted into Hell. (Ed - Mind you, the right side looked like more fun.) The tortures of Hell are vividly depicted, e.g. a poacher is roasted by the very rabbit he poached. The tympanum also provides an example of cloister wit, e.g. a bishop who governed the area of Conques but was not well liked by the monks is depicted as being caught in one of the nets of Hell. There was so much contained in the tympanum and it was so well preserved.

    We were then taken inside for a tour around the interior - it is quite stark, but the size and scale is grand. The windows are quite modern. They were created by the French artist Pierre Soulages in 1986 - he designed and created 104 windows for the Abbey, using a specially developed glass formed of different pieces melded together. They look white but can take on different colours, depending on the light outside.

    Following the tour of the Abbey we visited Saint-Foy’s treasure. This was a collection housed in the cloister area. The Treasure is one of the five greatest medieval goldsmith’s works of art in Europe, and the only French one to display so many elements from the Middle Ages. All the pieces are very ornate, made of gold or silver and covered in gemstones.

    After the tour we had a bit of free time before meeting up for dinner at Le Charlemagne. Dinner was fabulous, although I ordered the pork and it came with Aligot, which was very nice, but too soon to eat it again as it is very rich. Following dinner, Bronwyn, Ian and I went back to the Abbey to hear one of the monks play a few tunes on the organ. There was quite a crowd there (mainly pilgrims). The acoustics were wonderful and we stayed to hear about four songs.
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    Traveler

    A beautiful sojourn back in time… thankfully the hotel was from the medieval ages though!

     
  • Day15

    Saint-Côme-d’Olt to Conques

    September 28 in France ⋅ 🌧 13 °C

    After breakfast, stripping our beds and collecting the picnic lunch provided by the convent, we headed off in the bus for Espeyrac to begin our walk to Conques. The walk is about 10 kms in two stages and should take about 3.5 hours.

    Jerome our driver dropped us off just as the rain started - luckily the showers only passed through and soon we had sunshine, which stayed with us for the first part of our walk. We met many pilgrims on the way, including, Thomas, a German guy from Lake Constance who has been walking for 39 days and hopes to reach Santiago de Compostela in another 2 months. (Ed - All up about 2,500 kms!)

    We stopped for a picnic lunch at the lovely small village of Senergues and then commenced the afternoon walk towards Conques. During the walk we experienced pouring rain, cold winds, mud and, at times, some sunshine. We met Jerome at a lovely little village called St Marcel, located a few kms outside of Conques, as he thought the last bit was too steep and slippery on such a wet day. He drove us the last bit into the village.
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    Traveler

    Whilst we had wind and rain to contend with… the investment in waterproof hiking gear paid off big time. My dorky rain pants a winner! But next time I’ll buy a raincoat for my backpack. I didn’t end up taking backpack just put stuff in my pockets.

    Traveler

    We even did a dance to a few tunes on this section of the walk. It’s great to be “silly” at times…

     

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