Return to Cahors

Cahors - across river 3

The riverside town of Cahors

I do like Cahors, an ancient city and capital of the Lot Département. Why is it, then, that we visit so infrequently? It’s more appealing than our own Préfecture, Montauban, and it doesn’t take much longer to get there. The town centre is more vibrant, has an array of tempting shops and offers a variety of things to see and do. I suppose it is a question of habit.

The SF had an appointment with a specialist dentist in Cahors last week, booked three months in advance, so I went along for the ride. It was slightly unfortunate that it turned out to be one of the hottest days of the year, but at least the narrow streets of the old town provide some shade.

As ever, we parked in the park-and-ride east of the town, on the other side of the River Lot. As Wednesday is market day in Cahors, we knew we were onto a loser trying to park any closer. However, we eschewed the navette (free shuttle bus) in favour of walking along the river with a magnificent view of the town on the other side.

Cahors across river 1Cahors across river 2

The market

While the SF went to his appointment, at the rather inconvenient and very un-French time of 13h00, I refreshed my acquaintance with the old town.

I started in the market, which is held in the Place Jean-Jacques Chapou, dominated by the Cathédrale Saint-Etienne. It was still in full flow at lunchtime, with the ranks of the Cadurciens greatly swelled by tourists. The high buildings surrounding the square magnified the good-nature stallholders’ banter and the hum of busy market-goers.

Cahors - cathedral with market

The emphasis is on local produce, although the usual tourist-orientated stalls were there too. You can buy rounds of Rocamadour goat’s cheese, locally-cured charcuterie, crisp pastis (a regional apple pastry), fat Quercy melons, misshapen but delicious tomatoes and conserves made from almost every part of the duck or goose. And, of course, the black wine made from Malbec grapes, for which Cahors is famed.

Cahors also boasts a small covered market, containing about a dozen stalls. I lingered there for a while, people watching and furtively snapping scenes of interest.

Cahors - halle 1

Cahors - halle 3

The cathedral

The sun was getting pretty hot, so I was glad to duck into the relative coolness of the cathedral, with its twin domes and pretty cloisters. The present cathedral was built in the 12th century over an existing 7th-century church. The façade was renovated in the 14th century. It’s a pretty solid-looking edifice. Like many churches built at that time, it has a fortress-like appearance.

Cahors - cathedral domes

Twin domes of the cathedral

Cahors - cathedral cloister

Cathedral cloisters

One of the domes is ornamented with 14th-century paintings, showing the stoning of St Stephen (Saint-Etienne) and prophets riding on animals.

Cahors - cathedral ceiling

Cahors is on one of the pilgrimage Routes de Saint-Jacques de Compostelle. Periodically, you come across these brass scallop shells, the symbol of Saint-Jacques, set into the pavement, denoting the route.

Cahors - scallop

Behind the cathedral you find one of the secret gardens that the city council has established in recent years. They are linked by a marked trail that starts at le Pont Valentré over the Lot on the western side of the town. In late August, after some blisteringly hot and dry weather, there wasn’t much in flower here. Neither could I find the way in, which I suppose must be inside the cathedral. In any case, it was time to meet up with the SF for a late lunch.

Cahors - cathedral garden

Place François Mitterrand

Since Cahors is a popular tourist spot, a number of restaurants cater for late lunchers. This was just as well, since we didn’t sit down until 14h15 at one of the brasseries in the Place François Mitterrand.

Cahors - Place Mitterrand

This enormous square houses the theatre and the tourist office as well as sporting a statue of the 19th-century statesman Léon Gambetta, one of Cahors’ most famous sons. The main street that bisects the town is named after him.

Beneath the square is an underground car park. The remains of Roman buildings, which were discovered during the building of the car park, have been preserved down there.

After lunch, with the temperature nudging 35C, the thought of further wanderings was not appealing. In addition, le Musée de la Résistance is closed for refurbishment, as is the main Cahors museum. We waited a long time for a navette which never turned up before reluctantly slogging back to the park-and-ride under a blazing sun.

Before we went, I had nurtured plans to go up to Mont Saint-Cyr, which I understand affords wonderful views of the city. Reader, it was too hot. That’s for our next visit.

P.S. We moved into our house here in SW France 21 years ago today. We’ll be raising a few glasses to that memory, which seems like it happened yesterday…

Cahors - ornate window

Ornate window

You might also like:

Black Wine and Secret Gardens in Cahors
More of Cahors
Figeac: Medieval Gem

Copyright © 2018 Life on La Lune, all rights reserved

About nessafrance

We moved to an 18th-century farmhouse in SW France in 1997. I'm fascinated by French history, rural traditions and customs. I also write historical novels and short stories.
This entry was posted in History, Places and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to Return to Cahors

  1. Osyth says:

    It is a lovely place, Cahors. I had no idea that Gambetta was from there. Actually, I had no idea who Gambetta was, which given that one of the main squares in Grenoble is Place Gambetta is shameful of me. Anyhow, this was a lovely meander through a lovely place – one which every so often we toy with the idea of living close to. My husband is keen to make wine – need I say more 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • nessafrance says:

      I think there’s probably a Place or Rue or an Avenue Gambetta in every French town! (There’s said to be a rue Victor Hugo almost everywhere). I also wish we lived a bit closer to Cahors, since I find our own Préfecture, Montauban, a bit dreary. Gosh, making wine is quite an ambition! I find the Cahors wines a little tannic, although some of them aren’t. Fronton, which is a small area nearer to Toulouse, isn’t bad. But I wouldn’t suggest living around there.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Osyth says:

        We are making from juice here, we will then graduate to ordering fresh grapes and eventually want to have a few vines of our own. This explains why every conversation about potential houses starts with – ‘is there a south facing slope?’ We’ll only have a very few vines and we do know that it takes 7 years for red varieties to be useable and 5 for whites. It will just be a silly hobby but it’s harmless! I have had a couple of decent Cahors over the years but more by luck than judgement ….

        Liked by 1 person

      • nessafrance says:

        It sounds like a lovely idea. We’re not in a wine growing area, although several are not far away. At one time, though, we are told that much of our area was under vines. The farmers cultivated them for their own consumption.

        Liked by 1 person

      • nessafrance says:

        P.S. I will have a little surprise for you next week!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Osyth says:

        I like surprises …. will be breath-baited and wide eyed with excitement over here!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Faye Holt says:

    We visited Cahors a few years ago when our children were younger. They spent a happy few hours at the ‘beach’ that had been created by the river, complete with its own swimming area. Is it still there? I also remember a great boat trip down the river and sampling that famous black wine. A few headaches ensued!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • nessafrance says:

      I don’t know about the beach and swimming area, since we haven’t been there. I expect it is still there, though. I find the Cahors wine a little tannic for my taste, but there are a few varieties that are less heavy.

      Like

  3. I have always enjoyed my visits to Cahors but I have to say it’s a bit mediocre for menswear shopping. Oh well. How many linen shirts can one man own?

    Liked by 1 person

    • nessafrance says:

      Cahors is probably not great for clothes shopping generally, but then it has only 20,000 inhabitants compared to Montauban’s 60,000 or so. It does have more interesting shops, though, and the centre is far more vibrant than Montauban’s rather run-down centre. I’m only comparing them because I know both and they are in neighbouring départements. For atmosphere and setting, Cahors has the edge over Montauban every time as far as I’m concerned.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Jane Dunning says:

    I’ve stopped over in Cahors and Montauban and also preferred Cahors. I will check out the Musee de la Resistance when I next visit… Enjoyable piece btw…

    Liked by 1 person

    • nessafrance says:

      Montauban is a sprawling place. The very centre is okay, but the rest of it I can take or leave. I don’t know when the Cahors Resistance Museum reopens, so a good idea to check before visiting.

      Like

  5. Christine A says:

    Place Francois Mitterrand indeed! Seems like it was only yesterday when he was president.

    Liked by 1 person

    • nessafrance says:

      True. He died in Jan 1996, the year before we moved here. Chirac was president by the time we got here. Interestingly, depending on where you look, that square is described variously as Place F Mitterand or Place Gambetta. I suspect that at some point poor old Gambetta was elbowed aside to make way for Mitterrand. His statue is still there, though.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Fleur Kelly says:

    We desperately need a reliable dentist in Cahors having had a recent bad experience. Would you consider passing on your contact?
    I have been really enjoying your posts these last three years and meaning to make comments but only know spurred into action!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • nessafrance says:

      Hello, Fleur, and thank you for having followed my blog for a while. I will email you with details later on when I can pin down my husband to look them out. His consultation with the dentist in Cahors was a referral from our usual dentist in Villefranche-de-Rouergue, since it was a specialist issue. However, this dentist works in a dental practice and they might be able to take you on. Be warned, though: the waiting time is several months. My husband booked in May and has only just been for his appointment. Will be in touch soon via email.

      Like

    • nessafrance says:

      I’ve sent you an email with the details, Fleur. Good idea to check your Spam bin in case it gets diverted in there.

      Like

  7. Felicitations for your 21st anniversary! I had to smile over the first paragraph. Last Wednesday we slogged down to Montauban as we were looking for better clothes shopping options than those offered by either Brive or Cahors. Thoroughly enjoyed a successful trip. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    • nessafrance says:

      Thank you! I suppose it depends what you’re looking for in the shops. I’ve never tried to buy clothes in Cahors, but to be honest I’ve never found Montauban to be a particularly happy hunting ground in that regard, either. With one exception. I have found a very nice women’s clothes shop called Sym, part of a small chain, in the rue de la Résistance. Their clothes are not the cheapest but they are well made and they last. I find something there almost every time I go. Glad your trip was successful. I think Toulouse is probably the place to go, but that’s a major expedition for us.

      Liked by 2 people

Got a comment? Let's hear your views.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.