Speaking of our last trip I will tell you that in the second half of September we travel through several cities of France in our car. It was almost 5000 km!
Day 1 - Carcassonne
Once we arrived at Carcassonne we go to the hotel. We started from the Narbonne Gate which is marked by two huge towers for its defense. This was the main gateway to the citadel. From the restoration that took place in this door a drawbridge was added to it that did not exist in its origins. After passing the door on the right is the tourist office.
From this floor, we access the gallery with its wooden machicolations in the upper part of the castle wall and then the north wall that is of Gallo-Roman origin and which is very well preserved. After visiting several rooms we go to the west wall from where we get good views of the new city, the church of Saint-Gimer, and the roofs of the Cite.
Once we have visited the castle we return to the parking lot to park the car in a nearby street since the paid parking is quite expensive. We took advantage of this moment after parking to go around the outside of the City. Later we went back inside the I went for a quiet walk with fewer tourists.
We dined in one of the many restaurants in the citadel to try the typical dish of the area, the cassoulet. This dish was presented in a clay pot and was composed mainly of white beans and duck confit. In the end we declined to ask for it because of the heat it was making and that it looked good.
Along the different stores of the citadel we can find it in vacuum packed jars for those who want to take it to try it at home. About the city I have to say that personally if I return I will try to return in a time that there is not so much influx of tourists. When we went at the beginning of the afternoon we almost could not walk through the streets.
We really enjoyed the visit at the dinner time. The walk through its narrow and cobbled streets allowed us to see better the Aude gate, the large and small well. We then go through the lizas (space between the two walls). This walk that we made between the Aude and the Narbonne gate through the lizas took us a little more than 10 minutes walking with tranquility. We return to the hotel.
Day 2 - Albi
The day dawns very cloudy but it does not rain at the moment. After leaving the hotel we have breakfast at the Patisserie. Although next to the hotel there were a couple of places to have breakfast but they were closed for the time it was. We finished the breakfast and before leaving the city we take a last walk to the old pedestrian bridge. From there we get good views of the Cite and the citadel of Carcassonne.
After the visit we went to Albi. It is something more than 100 km that took almost 2 hours because we have to go through the center of several towns and respect the speed limits. There were some interesting towns along the way like Najac or Belcastel.
Albi is located in the Tarn Department. Our first visit is the tourist office that is located near the Albi Cathedral to get us a map of the city. We begin the visit to Albi next to the tourist office starting with Cathedral Basilica of Saint Cecilia. This brick cathedral they say is the largest in the world and in which it took no less than two centuries to finish it.
In addition to its huge structure is the bell tower that is almost 80 meters high. Its peculiar form for a church is because this tower also served as a defensive fortress of the city. Once inside the cathedral we follow the itinerary in the audio guide guiding us through the numbered plane that are given so as not to get lost.
We also visited the exterior of the Berbie palace, the former episcopal palace where the influential bishops of Albi resided. It now houses the Toulouse Lautrec museum as well as its gardens from which we can get good views of its old bridge over the Tarn river. There is a path that goes round.
Both buildings together with the four neighborhoods of medieval origin that surround them constitute the episcopal city. Touring the city we see that the cathedral and other buildings are built with the typical red brick of the region. It was because the clay was extracted from the river Tarn, since it was much cheaper and very easy to obtain for its proximity to the city to make most of the buildings and infrastructure of it.
Once visited the cathedral which is worth a visit and the surroundings of the Berbie Palace we go through the Rue Sainte-Cecile to the Saint-Salvi Collegiate Church. It was built in different materials, stone for the oldest part and red brick when it was imposed in the Gothic period.
During our tour we could see in addition to the above, its old bridge. It is one of the oldest in France. Earlier citizens to move from one bank to another had to pay a toll. We also see several houses with timber frame in its commercial streets in the Saint-Salvi neighborhood.
Our visit to the city was not very pleasant because of the wind and because it did not stop raining. We went to the car parked in a street next to the Place du Vigan after a 6 minutes walk from the cathedral. Once visited the city we took course to Cordes-Sur-Ciel that is 27 km to the north of Albi.
Cordes-Sur-Ciel in the southwest of France is built on a very steep natural promontory and surrounded by fortifications with their respective gates. Iit was formerly called Cordes. To travel this magnificent town that we loved we parked the car in the parking near Les Tuileries as it is free.
Going through a road in a steep slope we arrive to one of the tourism offices. This is located next to the Place de la Bouteillerie. In the tourist office we get a basic map of the town. Our route starts right next to the same tourist office following the Grand rue de l'horloge.
In this ascending and cobbled street we find a chapel and a half-timbered house on the corner with the Rue Saint-Louis. Following the street at the end of the same is the Porte de l'Horloge an old entrance door that was part of the fourth wall.
After passing this gate, the street becomes steeper. It leads us to the barbican that was part of the third wall and the port of Vainqueur that belonged to the second wall. This door formerly had a moat and a drawbridge. We go inside the fortress itself, but to follow an established route we turn around.
We descend a few meters around the Porte du Vainqueur to cross a stone arch to take a path called Les Lices. We enter the village for modest doors located in the north of the city called Les Portanels. Along the route of this magnificent village we find a multitude of artisans.
Also during our walk through Cordes we find palaces built by prosperous merchants and nobles. We see La Maison du Grand Veneur, which is the most popular Gothic house. On the second floor there are several sculptures representing animals and people in hunting scenes. We also see La Maison Fompeyrouse that houses the other Cordes tourist office.
We pass by a covered market located in the center of town, where a well is also located. In this town there are also a few museums. Next to the covered market there are several restaurants where to eat or drink a coffee. We stop for a snack. There is also a large terrace with panoramic views over the valley at the place de la Bride just opposite the Maison Prunet where the sugar and chocolate museum is located.
Also along its streets we find souvenir shops with typical products of the area such as oils, cosmetics, and dyes. These products are expensive since the elaboration of them are slow and expensive. It must be said that the shops are not out of place.
If not on the contrary, they make the town a very pleasant place that transports us in a certain way to the middle age. Once visited the town and that we have liked so much we take course to our next destination, and that is none other than Conques. The journey take us about an hour and a half on roads of all kinds.
Conques is a small village on the side of a mountain located in the Aveyron department. It is part of the set of the most beautiful villages of France. It is famous for being a great center of Way of St. James to Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage thanks to the Abbey of Sainte Foy.
But before entering the town itself, about 500 meters before reaching the junction to get to Conques, we have an access to the right to go to the Bancarel viewpoint. Following this road we continue on foot the last 200 meters. From here, it is a natural viewpoint. We take some good pictures of the town, as the view from here is spectacular.
After a few minutes enjoying the scenery and after taking some pictures we headed to the rural house that is 7 km from Conques. About 10 minutes by car, in this rural house we will stay tonight. The quality of the rooms of the accommodation in the town of Conques did not correspond with the price they asked.
We chose after seeing the reviews of this house and the price. We left our luggage and prepared for dinner in Conques and visit the abbey at night. We enjoy while we are sitting inside the abbey of organ music accompanied by the play of lights on the walls. The windows of the abbey gives it a special touch. The priest who played the organ was really a virtuoso of the instrument, and was really worth listening to.
After the organ concert, we walk through the town. It's 10:30 at night. There is fog and it's a little cold. After a while we return to the car that is parked at the entrance of the town. It's 11:15 at night and while I enjoy a bath in the wonderful bathtub of the rural house I think the day started badly due to the wind and the rain at Albi.
We were lucky as it was getting better as it was happening, first in Cordes-Sur-Ciel and later in Conques. It's time to rest.
Day 3 - Rocamadour
We return to Conques in the morning although the visit is not as spectacular as the night before. It is 9:10 in the morning and the parking is almost full. Yet the town still has that medieval air given by its cobbled streets that still preserve their original layout dating from the Middle Ages. Except the section that caused the opening of the local road that runs through the town, one will not tire of walking through its streets.
During our tour, apart from the abbey, we found some houses from the late Middle Ages and other half-timbered houses, all with slate roofs. We have also been able to discover the sources that are distributed throughout the town. Some are from the Roman era like the Chateau d'Humieres. We see two public ovens that are outside the town to prevent fires.
There is a building that served as a chestnut dryer since this fruit was fundamental in the diet of its inhabitants in the middle age. This building has two levels, one for drying and the other for its conservation. As an old fortified town we found three of the four entrance doors that it had.
The Abbey Church of Saint Foy is famous for its tympanum. There are also remains of a Romanesque cloister on one side of the abbey. After touring the town I can say that the visit will not leave you indifferent. After the visit we left towards Figeac that will take us about 1 hour.
Figeac is famous for being the place where Champollion was born, the famous Egyptologist who deciphered the hieroglyphic writing thanks to the Rosetta Stone of this town. The most interesting is in the Plaza de las Escrituras, a square adjoining the Plaza Champollion.
Here on the ground there is a very enlarged replica of the Rosetta Stone in black granite. In the adjacent square is the Champollion museum that gives its name to the square where there is an exhibition of the history of the world's writings. In the same place is the oldest house in the town right in front of the museum.
Other buildings that stand out are the St. Saviour's church located on the bank of the river Le Cele. This church was part of an old Benedictine monastery. The nave was altered over the centuries. Nowadays it combines Romanesque and Gothic styles. The vault was rebuilt in the seventeenth century.
There is a baptismal font of the thirteenth century in one of the chapels. The Notre-Dame du Puy in Romanesque style was rebuilt many times. From here there is a panoramic view of the roofs of Figeac that I personally think is not worth much. Mint is another medieval house, where is the tourist office.
To discover the city we get a map in the tourist office because it has numbered the important buildings of the town to not miss any. The numbers also appear on the facades of the different buildings not to be lost. From here we leave for Saint-Cirq-Lapopie that we do in 1 hour 30 minutes as we stop on the way to eat in one of the picnic areas that one can find on the edge of French roads.
Saint-Cirq-Lapopie is a medieval town that is considered the pearl of the Lot valley. It is located on top of a cliff about 100 meters above the river Lot. The first thing we do is leave the car in the parking lot closest to the town. Saint-Cirq-Lapopie has a lot of charm once again due to its cobbled streets.
In this town we took the opportunity to see a wooden toy store that we loved in la Peyroliere. There is no lack of other shops, restaurants and cafes to enjoy a good day. The tourist office is at the center of village at the foot of the rock of La Popie where we get a map to be guided through the town.
We access through its most commercial street where the tourist office is located. From here we go across a street down to the Pelissaria which is the best preserved of the town. As we go down the street we go to other streets or squares to discover the Gothic church of Saint-Cirq, the Maisons Daura medieval house, and other houses.
Almost next to the Maisons Daura down in a house on the corner we find the only wooden craftsman left in the village. The visit to the town does not take us more than two hours. So the visit ended after having a coffee and filling our bottles with fresh water in a village fountain.
From Saint-Cirq-Lapopie we approach Bouzies (10 minutes by car) to take a small route along the road of Sirga called Le Chemin de Halage. This type of roads were made on the banks of the rivers in the adjoining lands and that the owners of them must leave for public use.
This route initially starts at the water port of Saint Cirq Lapopie, but according to the guides are around 15 or 10 km roundtrip. What interests us is to see the path that runs at the foot of the cliff. Once the car is parked in the Bouzies car park, we take from here the easy path in the direction of Saint Cirq Lapopie to the Ganil lock.
This road was used by the horses that pulled the barges loaded with goods in the direction to Bordeaux and allow them to go upstream of the river. Before reaching the lock we see the wall sculpted by an artist named Daniel Monnier with representations related to the river. Once the route is finished we can see that from one side of the parking lot in high season there are barges in the direction of Saint-Cirq-Lapopie.
It's 7 o'clock in the evening. So we take the car and go to Rocamadour that take us about an hour to do it. Here the GPS has come to our rescue. On the road to Rocamadour there are winding sections. Even so the route is quite beautiful as it runs in its entirety through the Causses du Quercy Natural Regional Park. Along the route at the junctions and edges of the road, we buy the famous Rocamadour goat cheese and duck foie.
It is just after 8 in the evening when we arrived at L'Hospitalet located almost 1 km from Rocamadour. The receptionist of the hotel was about to leave because at night in the hotel that we chose there is no one in reception. After check in and dinner we walked to Rocamadour around L'Hospitalet.
Rocamadour is one of the four routes of the Camino de Santiago that run through France. This city sanctuary is one of the most sacred sites in France and a place of pilgrimage. We take the street that starts at the back of the hotel. It is a downhill road at the beginning that goes up as we approach the village of Rocamadour.
This road leaves us right at the Figuier Gate in 10 minutes, the door that gives way to the Rue Roland le Preux. Following this street we see the access to the elevator that is closed to go up to the religious city. We continue walking and arrive at the second fortified gate called the Salmon gate, which is the best preserved and gives access to the Rue de la Couronnerie.
The two streets joined by this last door look like a single street. It is late but it is very lively with the multitude of shops and restaurants that there are. Near the end of the street and before reaching the fortified gate of Hugon, we see the great monumental staircase with its 216 steps.
Earlier some pilgrims climbed on their knees. These stairs goes to the heart of Rocamadour, the esplanade where they are grouped protected by rocks of the cliff seven ancient chapels and churches. We did not go at that time since there is almost no illumination.
Along our night tour through the town we have been able to observe some of the eight doors that are preserved. They gave the entry to the different neighborhoods and whose function was to control the flow of pilgrims who came to worship the Black Madonna.
It is little more than 10 o'clock at night. Only the last diners in the interior of a restaurant are left in the street. It is impossible to take anything because in the few places that remain open they are preparing to close. So we decided to take the return route that really gives a bit of tiredness, due to the steep slope it has.
Once we arrive at the top and before going to sleep we go to the viewpoint of L'Hospitalet to see the views of Rocamadour at night. After 10 minutes we decided to go to the room to rest since in the morning we have to get up early to go to the Padirac Cave. We want to be among the first ones and not be in the long queues that are usually formed at the entrance of the cave.