Picturesque Towns & Villages
Cahors is a large and quintessentially French medieval town, with many arcade houses of bricks and timber frames, surrounded on three sides by the meandering river Lot. The Pont Valentré bridge over the Lot is one of the finest examples of medieval architecture and along with Cahors cathedral are UNESCO world heritage sites.
Now world famous for the wonderful wines from this area the town is a bustling, thriving centre of commerce, full of attractions. Markets are held on on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Agen, the county town of Lot-et-Garonne, dates back to Roman times and has been of great importance as a trading centre since then. Although much of the town is modern, Agen's setting on the banks of the River Garonne offers delightful riverside walks and there are well preserved medieval houses and interesting churches, including the Romanesque church of St Caprais. Masterpieces by Goya and treasures from the Gallo-Roman period can be viewed in the town including a statue discovered in a field beside the Garonne.
Place des Laiters nearby plays host to relaxing cafés, interesting shops and find bargains in the outdoor Wednesday market. A Saturday morning market is held in the public gardens of Le Gravier near a footbridge across the river. You can hire canoes and take cruises by the hour or day on the Canal Lateral which flows parallel to the Garonne.
Figeac's history goes back well over a thousand years. By the 13th-14th century, Figeac was a thriving centre of trade and commerce, whose rich merchants were to be found all over Europe and around the Mediterranean. This led to the construction of some of the most ornately-decorated private houses in the Lot, many of which still remain.
A stroll around the old town is a delight and an education. The World Scripture Museum is a must; dedicated to the world's major writing systems, this museum is the house in which Jean-François Champollion, who cracked the lost code of Egyptian hieroglyphics in the early 19th century, was born.
Lauzerte is an historic bastide or fortified village and can trace its origins back to the signing of the village charter in 1241 by the Count of Toulouse.
As a stronghold, Lauzerte governed the surrounding area up until the 18th century. Perched above the valleys and hills of Quercy Blanc, it is on the "via Podiensis", one of the pilgrimage routes to Santiago de Compostela. It was an established stopping off point on the pilgrim trail to Santiago de Compostela, with many modern travellers following the same route to this day.
Many traces of its historical and religious past still remain intact: The main square and its cobblestones, stone-built or half-timbered houses, and the pilgrim's garden to name but a few.
Loubressac is 15km north-east of Gramat, towards the northern border of the Lot department and is classified as one of the 'most beautiful villages of France'. It is one of those rare villages that are still able to evoke another time and place, and should not be missed if you are in the region. It is a magical village to explore and enjoy, and although small the trip is highly recommended.
The village itself has a nice chateau and a 12th century fortified church in the village centre, and many lovely medieval buildings made of the local white-honey coloured stone, with fine rooves in old tiles and decorative balconies, facing onto the narrow streets and the central square. Another highlight of the village is the fantastic views in almost all directions, across the valleys of the Dordogne, the Cere and the Bave rivers, and to various distant chateaux. It is best to visit on a clear day if possible.
Moissac, is to be found 40km east of Agen, is on the pilgrim route to Santiago de Compostela. One of the main attractions in Moissac is the Abbey of Saint Peter with its world famous porchway and cloisters, untouched by the flooding of 1930 which destroyed most of the town. This incredible cloister later acted as a model for hundreds of churches elsewhere, and is reputed to be the most beautiful of its kind, in the world. There are 76 marble columns and a myriad of fine carvings around a pretty courtyard garden. The old pictures exhibited suggest that the garden was once an ornate and tropical in appearance, although it is now simply lawned.
There is an open square lined with cafes just in front of the abbey entrance in Moissac where you can enjoy a drink and meander around the many, interesting and varied shops.
Located 30km north of Villeneuve-sur-Lot, the perfectly preserved bastide town of Monflanquin is positioned on a conical hilltop between the Lot and Dordogne rivers. In this wonderfully scenic location, you can explore Monflanquin's narrow streets and alleys with their ancient buildings and Gothic houses and relax with a traditional meal in the cafes and restaurants of the Places des Arcades.
Visit Monflanquin's Musee des Bastides to learn more about these fascinating fortified 'bastide' settlements built during the Middle Ages. These 'new towns' were planned around a central market square, with land and privileges given to locals who were prepared to live in and defend the town. If you pay a visit on one of Monflanquin's 'medieval days4' in summer you will be treated all sorts of festivities, such as falconry and exhibitions, with everyone in medieval clothes.
This pretty Medieval village with its steep narrow streets and documented history dating back to the middle ages was a strong hold for Richard the Lionheart affording as it does, commanding views of the region.
A place of pilgrimage with an impressive basilica "Notre Dame de Peyragude" overlooking the Lot River, Penne d' Agenais features craft shops and good restaurants and picturesque rivers and lakes for those who enjoy fishing.
Nearby is the museum du Foie Gras – a museum with a modern twist, detailing the heritage and history of the finest local produce. Foie gras, cèpe mushrooms, garbure soup and preserved meat confits etc. Visitors are invited to taste the famous "Laguilhon" products.
47140 Penne d'Agenais
Puy-L'Evêque is a pretty village in the Lot Valley to the east of Fumel. It is a quiet town although busier during the summer. The town sits on a steep slope above the river, with narrow lanes winding between the houses. There are small courtyards interspersing these houses, many of which will have a curiosity in place, a small fountain here, an interesting plant there, a traditional raised balcony or something unusual to catch the eye.
After enjoying an amble around the back streets of the town a short walk across the bridge brings you to a particularly camera friendly spot from where you can really capture the essence of the place.
Rocamadour seems to seriously challenge the laws of gravity, it clings to the steep rocky cliffs at a dizzying height. Down from the castle, it's a sheer drop of some 150 metres with at the bottom the river Alzou. The Regional Nature Park of the Causses du Quercy surrounds Rocamadour, an exceptional natural environment with limestone rock plateaus, gorges, sources, rivers re-emerging in emerald green lakes, gnarly oak woods and dolmens, old mills and picturesque little bridges.
The basilica of Saint-Sauveur and the crypt of Saint-Amadour, both on UNESCO's World Heritage List, can be admired by visitors once the 216 steps of the Pilgrim's Stairs have been climbed. But the jewel of the sanctuary is kept in the Chapel of Miracles, one of eight chapels built against the rocks. It is the Black Madonna, which has been worshipped here for over a thousand years.
The village of Saint-Cirq Lapopie is perched on a cliff over 300 feet above the river Lot and is one of the major beauty spots of the Lot valley, having been officially designated as one of France's most beautiful villages.
Below the fortress, the village streets lead down to fortified gates. Many historic houses have stone or half-timbered fronts going back to the 13th-16th centuries. The houses are narrow and have steep tiled roofs. Beneath the Saint-Cirq Lapopie cliff there are watermills, weirs, harbours, locks and towpath.
Many painters came to live and work in Saint-Cirq Lapopie. First the Post-Impressionist Henri Martin, then the Surrealists with the poet André Breton, who said he would not want to live anywhere else.
46330 Saint-Cirq Lapopie
Toulouse in the Midi-Pyrénnées region, called the "pink city" and the "city of violets", is also a city of water, along the Garonne and the canal du Midi. Its historical monuments, its pilgrimage sites and its river banks are all contribute to its richness.
In the 4th century BC, a Celtic people came to the last ford of the Garonne River before the ocean and founded a city. It was called Tolosa by the Romans, and in the 5th century it became the capital of the Visigoth kingdom. It extended its commercial and political influence to the whole south of France before becoming the capital of aeronautics after the industrial revolution.
Toulouse and its region are home to many high-tech aeronautics and aerospace industries. There are many prestigious schools specializing in aeronautics, engineering and scientific institutes.
The pretty bastide town of Tournon d'Agenais appears, perched on a craggy outcrop surrounded by ramparts through which spiral paths lead up to the central market place.
With its Moon Clock, the ancient house of the Agen bishops, half timbered houses and calm public gardens, Tournon d Agenais is a truly relaxing and peaceful location with views over the Boudouyssou valley and the Quercy Blanc.
Your camera will never tire of this delightful area.
Villeneuve Sur Lot & Pujols
The ancient bastide town of Villeneuve-sur-Lot has thus far, escaped the ravages of tourism. The central hub of the town features the original town square with good local, non touristy shops and is found between two old gateways - the Porte de Paris and the Porte de Pujols.
On Wednesday evenings throughout July and August music festivals are held at the riverside.
An ancient 13th century bridge provides attractive views along the river valley and a short, but steep walk will bring you to the nearby hilltop town of Pujols, another camera friendly village with cobbled streets and lovely views.
Centre de Préhistoire du Pech Merle
(Pech Merle Cave & Centre of Prehistory)
The Pech Merle cave has been called "an art gallery in a place of nature" and it's easy to see why. Not only is the Pech Merle cave extremely large, spanning over two kilometers, but on the walls the millions of years of the cave's evolution are visible including primitive art.
Visitors can see the third part of the galleries with seven large halls that open the way to discover the exuberant and fabulous riches of subterranean scenes.
Centre de Préhistoire du Pech Merle - 46330 Cabrerets
La Foret des Singes(The Monkey Forest)
Come and see the 150 Barbary Apes who live within the 20 hectares of grounds of "The Monkey Forest".
A magical moment, a unique encounter ! An exciting walk amongst more than 150 free roaming Barbary Macaques. No bars, no cages to hinder your view.
Direct contact with this amazing species, guides are there to answer all your questions and will tell you all about the monkeys' way of life throughout the day. You can get surprisingly close to the animals and observe them very easily.
La Forêt des Singes - 46500 Rocamadour
Gouffre de Padirac(Padirac Cave)
Discovered in 1889, this incredible cave system containing an underground river, gorge and a huge cavern is the most visited cave system in the whole of France and the number one tourist attraction of the Midi-Pyrenees region. The cave's navigable river, 103m below ground level, is reached through a 75m-deep, 33m-wide chasm via a lift or a staircase.
Once in the system you are taken by a boat along 1km of subterranean waterways, through the galleries and on to the large cavern. At the edge of the main cavern you leave the boat and begin the walking tour into the heart of the cathedral-like space that is the 94 meter high 'Grand Dome'. The river flows below you and a majestic rock enclosed space opens up above you, with wonderful stalactite formations, a truly magnificent sight.
Gouffre de Padirac - 46500 Padirac
La Grotte Prehistorique des Merveilles(The Prehistoric Cave of Wonders)
Discovered in 1920 at Rocamadour in the Lot and became a listed monument in 1925. It features many wonderful cave paintings dating back 25,000 years. This natural cave, located on the plateau of Rocamadour, in the canyon of Alzou, in the heart of the Regional Park of Quercy.
Located next to the Tourist Office of l'Hospitalet (top of Rocamadour, near the castle), the "La Grotte Préhistorique des Merveilles" features seven large galleries that allow you to discover the exuberant and fabulous riches of subterranean prehistoric paintings.
Grotte des Merveilles - 46500 Rocamadour
Le Parc Animaux & Nature de Gramat(The Animal & Nature Park of Gramat)
"Le Parc Animaux & Nature de Gramat" is located in the heart of the "Causses du Quercy Regional Natural Park" between Rocamadour and Padirac.
Open all year round, you can discover over 1000 wild and domestic animals from all over the world. It will take at least 2 hours to walk around and explore the 40 acres of the park. A highly educational and fun family visit learning to appreciate and protect your own heritage, its fauna and flora.
The park is involved in the conservation of many European species that have existed for centuries but which unfortunately are disappearing over time.
Parc Animaux & Nature - 46500 Gramat
Préhisto-Dino Parc(Prehistory Dinosaur Park)
A new era is starting at the prehistoric park in Lacave near Rocamadour!
At this prehistoric adventure park, the largest of its kind in Europe, you can see a succession of vivid reconstructions and a soundscape inspired by reality, you will explore the fascinating world of Dinosaurs. From the emergence of life in the oceans through the first reptiles and the first birds, prepare yourself for a real step back in time.
Préhisto-Dino Parc - 46200 Lacave
Rocher des Aigles (The Eagles Rock - Eagle Sanctuary)
At Rocher des Aigles (Eagles' Rock), vultures, condor, eagles, falcons, hawks, cockatoos and other birds of the parrot family fly completely free for more than an hour over the Rocamadour canyon, high above your head, several times a day. A truly inspiring sight a great for some wonderful photos!
They have live demonstrations of all the birds two or three times a day (depending on time of the year). All the birds in the santuary are available to see throughout the day. The sancuary has several species originating from different continents and bred in captivity, to raise awareness of the problems linked to the destruction of tropical and equatorial rain forests.
Rocher des Aigles - 46500 Rocamadour
Chateau de Mercues
Lauded in the major national and international guides, the refined cuisine of Château de Mercuès is a tribute to the delicious regional Quercy gastronomy featuring saffron, duck, lamb and black truffle famous all over the world.
When Georges Vigouroux, winemaker in Cahors, acquired the Château de Mercuès in 1983, not only did he decide to turn it into one of the finest castles/hotels in France, but he also turned it into a prestigious wine estate with creating a 32 hectares vineyard and an underground winery and ageing cellar under the castle terrace.
Inside the castle, take a stroll down the immense staircases to the underground cellar and you will live a unique wine-tasting experience.
The history of Château Lagrézette goes back to the 12th century. At that time, the site was a medieval fortress.
In 1982 the Chateau Lagrézette was classified as a historical monument and today it stands proud and magnificent amid its vines: a domaine of 90 hectares that gives the château wines their nobility.
A visit is strongly recommended, especially for the wine lovers amongst you. Open daily from 10h to 18h.
Château de Cayx
Situated at the heart of the wine district of Cahors, the Château de Cayx is listed as far back as the 15th Century. An ancient fort constructed to control the traffic on the Lot River.
Perched on the slope of a hill, the Château de Cayx overlooks a curve of the Lot River, as well as the small village of Caïx, situated within the district of Luzech.
The vineyard is mainly planted with Malbec, but also includes Merlot and Tannat, which are traditionally used for Cahors wines.
The shop at the Château de Cayx is open to the public Monday to Saturday, from 9.00 am to noon and from 2.00 pm to 6.00 pm. Visits of the winery and tasting with reservation only.
46140 Caix - Tel: 06 75 88 39 49