Cahors: Meanderings through France – 15
A summer city-break in Cahors
The Lot River goes through southwest France from the Massif Central Mountain to the Garonne River, forming lazy meanders on its way. Ages ago a Gallic tribe created a village in one of these meanders. Through time it grew successfully becoming a major trading centre and is now a large town known as Cahors.
The beautiful landscape, the cultural and architectural heritage, the vineyards, the mild climate are some of the good reasons why you would want to come to Cahors. It’s only a one hour and half flight from London to Brive or Toulouse where you can rent a car that will take you to Cahors within one hour.
The summer season started last weekend in Cahors by the opening of “Juin Jardins” (June Gardens): visual artists, landscape architects, gardeners have turned 25 private and town gardens into open air museums mixing trees, flowers, aromatic herbs and lawns with modern art creations. You can follow a guided tour or get a map at the Tourist Information Office where all these gardens are located. Among all the artists Veronika Antonelli offers a very special performance. This young lyric soprano singer has chosen to leave the theatre stages to sing in outdoor spots such as a canyon in Arizona, high up in a hot-air balloon or in historic monuments, trying to bring them to life with her voice. Hearing her sing in almost total darkness late at night in a garden at the foot of the cathedral Saint Etienne is almost a mystical experience.
Even if you won’t be able to be in Cahors in June to see those gardens it still deserves a visit. You cannot go to Cahors and miss to see the Valentré Bridge. Built during the 14th century it is one of the most beautiful fortified medieval bridge still standing. With its 3 square towers, its 6 arches it looks absolutely magnificent. It is a great memory for the pilgrims going to Santiago de Compostella and for the mere tourists. A great show of floodlighting brings the bridge to life during the summer nights from July 27th till August 17th.
It’s a real pleasure to go through the stalls of the market taking place every Saturday morning on the Chapou Square. Heaps of fruits and vegetables, loads of delicatessen from local producers will make you feel hungry! To get away from the crowded market go to the cathedral standing next to the market. Built during the 12th century it’s a rare example of Romanic style cathedral with 2 domes. One of them is decorated with beautiful 14th century frescoes describing Saint Etienne’s life. By contrast the newly set stained-glass windows designed by a modern artist in 2013 look more complex but give a very good lighting to the frescoes. Next to the cathedral the cloister in Flamboyant Gothic style looks like a 3 dimensions stone lace.
Of course Cahors is also well known for its wine. Made exclusively with the Malbec grape variety it is renowned for its very dark colour, almost black, and its strong aromas. One good way to know more about this wine or to discover different producers is to go to Villa Cahors Malbec. It is a wine tasting place located in the city centre where more than 100 different wines can be tasted. Each week the owners make a new selection of 3 wines and for 5 euros you will be able to taste those 3 wines without having to go to the vineyards. They don’t sell any wine there but will be happy to give you the address of a wine merchant where you will be able to buy the wines you enjoyed.
If you can’t bring back bottles of wine with you on the plane back to UK why not have some more wine along with a delicious meal at “Le Marché” a trendy restaurant next to the cathedral where chef Hervé Bourg offers a new way to cook traditional recipes. A very tasty experience!
“L’O à la Bouche” located on the François Mitterand Square opposite the Tourist Information Office, offers a sophisticated cooking for a good value in an elegant atmosphere. Its wine cellar is amazing.
As very often in France food, wine and culture are gathered in the same place as a concentrate of the French way of life. Enjoy!
Text and photos © Annick Dournes and Frederic de Poligny
About Annick Dournes & Frederic De Poligny
|Annick Dournes and Frederic de Poligny are two French tourism journalists who travel the world for many years. They will share with you their very favourite experiences of worldwide travels. Those about France, their native country, will be found on a regular basis in their chronicle “Meanderings through France”. Web|