Day 22: Vers to Cahors

Saturday, 29 June 2002
Distance 22 km
Map 57 of the TOP 100 blue series (now superseded)

It was only a short walk to Cahors so we started late at 8 o’clock. Not wanting to go right up to the GR36 on the escarpment, we tried to find a way beside the river, although we had no map to guide us.

Walking in France: Asparagus farm

Asparagus farm

The first thing we did after crossing the bridge was walk right around a field of corn and back to the bridge. Our second attempt was better – through Béars and off on a local road. A couple of kilometres further on, we turned down an even smaller road and soon got to the first houses of Arcambal, where we hoped to find a cafe.

Here the GR36 came down from the causse and we followed it, but we should have known better, as GRs are notorious for skirting round villages. Before we realised, the village was behind us and we never found out what comforts it had to offer.

We passed under the high, half-built bridge of the new autoroute and through another patch of shoulder-high nettles, then along a river path overhung by trees, emerging at last into a clearing dotted with little wooden huts, water barrels and stooping figures.

It was Saturday morning at the allotments and people were busily tending their crops, both vegetables and flowers. A few minutes further on we arrived at the camping ground, although the town of Cahors was barely in sight on the horizon.

When I asked the woman on the desk whether this was the closest camping area to town, she tartly suggested we go and stay with the nuns if this was too far out. Then she asked for our créanciales so she could stamp it, and brightened visibly when I said we did not have one.

It was still only midday, so when we had freshened ourselves up with showers, lunch and a nap, we set off to see the sights of Cahors. The day was hot but it was good to walk in sandals without packs.

Walking in France: First view of Cahors

First view of Cahors

We traipsed along the river bank amongst rows of lettuces, seemingly for miles until we could cross into the town, which occupies a rocky spine hemmed in on three sides by a loop of the river.

The cathedral is elderly and ramshackle, but all the more appealing for that, with its two great domes and its tall facade. In the main street we sank into cafe chairs for our first (and last) coffee of the day.

We were feeling a bit tired and decided to go back to our tent for a rest, intending to come back later for dinner, but as we endlessly retraced our steps through the market gardens, the urge to return vanished, especially as we knew we had to come this way again in the morning.

In what was probably our lowest gastronomical point, we bought a can of cassoulet and spooned it cold from plastic bowls, sitting on the ground. However we had the enjoyment of sharing a bottle of Cahors red with our Belgian friend while we ate. By 9 o’clock we were tucked up asleep.