The lovely French lady we met at Albi was very keen to share her knowledge of beautiful places with us, despite the fact that her husband was only interested in getting in to the space we were vacating. It seems to me that the ability to resist the sound of that big growling engine running behind you shows a certain strength of character. Undaunted she went back into the teeth of his disapproval to get her map and point out three places to us; Cordes sur Ciel, Cahors and St Cirq LaPopie.
“Magnifique!” she continued to call as we waved them goodbye and went on our way.
Cordes sur Ciel is a mediaeval city perched on a very steep hill. Motorhomes are instructed not to climb the hill but to park in the special Aire at the very bottom, even lower down than the main road. We had some difficulty finding it, mostly because we were diverted by the sight of a bunch of French motorhomes parked in a different car park. We’ve learned by now that French motorhomers rarely follow the rules and eventually we spotted the signs to the proper place to park. We’re glad we did. It was a wonderful spot with individual pitches between trees and lovely views in all directions.
We parked up and set off up the hill to find the city and we were not disappointed. Exhausted and sweaty but not disappointed. The streets of old Cordes are all cobbled and very narrow. The climb up is incredibly steep and it was unusually hot for November – around 28°. We were gasping for breath and dripping by the time we reached the top. We were also a little embarrassed to find a walking group for the elderly up there, chatting and laughing, completely relaxed and not a heavy breather in sight. It reminded me of something I once heard, that life is like climbing a mountain, you scramble and struggle your way up, wearing tough boots and carrying ropes and hooks, only to turn a corner and find a party of school kids in flip flops.
We took photos and scampered merrily towards Tourist Information only to find it closed, as were most of the shops and galleries in the place. We’ve noticed this about France. Sunday truly is a day of rest and businesses will close even on days when hoards of tourists are likely to be in town with money to spend. I admire that about them whilst at the same time being a little bit frustrated. We’ve become used to being able to shop in Britain at any time of the day and night. It isn’t like that here and I’m pretty certain that everyone’s wellbeing will be better for it.
On the way to Cordes we had stopped at a Patisserie – one of the few shops that open on Sundays and then only in the mornings – and bought a selection of outrageous savouries and cream cakes. Back at the van after the walk we flopped into our recliners with plates of goodies and cold beers. Wonderful!
As the afternoon wore on and the dogs woke up from their post walk nap we had to face the fact that Poppy needed a shower. She had gone from blonde to grey and frankly she wasn’t nice to be near. I had one of my good ideas at that point and with hindsight I have to admit that it wasn’t a great one. I decided to take her into the shower with me and wash her down in there. My plan was to strip off trousers and socks and get in wearing only a t-shirt and pants, the idea being that as she is so little it would only be my feet and hands that got wet. I forgot a crucial fact – dogs shake themselves when they’re wet. Another problem was the size of the shower cubicle. It’s amply big enough for one person but add a panicking small dog scampering around trying to avoid the shower and then shaking vigorously every time it hit her and you can visualise the scene. Thankfully once again Shirley didn’t get to the camera in time but I came out looking like I’d been in combat with an angry swan in the middle of a pond. Poppy sulked for the rest of the evening.
Somehow we managed to get the washroom back to some kind of order and dry a miserable pup without the benefit of a hairdryer and we all fell into bed exhausted.
Leaving the next morning we realized that we were a bit short on water and we had no more tokens to use in the machine. These token operated service points usually give 100 litres of water and very often that is more than is needed when filling up. In a situation like ours, where you don’t have a token and you need a bit of water, you can follow the previous motorhome onto the service point and collect the water they didn’t need. We’ve seen it done numerous times but so far have never tried it ourselves. We parked up behind a French man who was emptying and filling his tanks and waited for him to drive off. He was a careful kind of bloke who checked and double checked everything, wiping his hands meticulously after each job and going back to check that his various orifices were locked. We watched him carefully fill up his van with water and then locking his water tank and we waited – I was going to say patiently but in Shirley’s case that would be a lie. He didn’t move! Instead his wife opened the kitchen window and started handing out any available container, which he proceeded to fill with water. After about the tenth container was filled we realised the sad truth. He was going to use up his full quota of 100 litres even if it meant that his van was overloaded. He had the full range of bottles; fabric conditioner, laundry liquid, soft drinks bottles and an assortment of plastic bottles of various sizes. Every time we thought he was finished we saw his wife’s arm coming out of the window with yet another bottle. This, my friends, is the reverse of travelling with a little kindness but it was all going to work out for the best in the end.
The next stop on the French lady’s itinerary was Cahors. The town’s main attraction for me is that Enzo McLeod, the Scottish forensic detective in Peter May’s novels, lives there. According to our French friend it is a place not to be missed so we headed off there in good time on Monday morning.
Not only is the parking free but so is the water! We were able to fill our tanks to our heart’s content. After settling on to the last available parking spot we looked out of the window to see the man of the water bottle fame rolling up in his motorhome only to find that there was no room for him. Perhaps his heavy load had slowed him down. He’s ok though, just in case you’re concerned for him, there is a huge overflow car park 100 yards away where he can stay for free, it’s just that there is no water tap there.
As I write this we are still here; we are next to one of the many bridges that lead to the city centre. Cahors sits inside a big loop in the river Lot giving it the feel of a small island.
Yesterday, on our first walk into the city we went into Tourist Information to ask for a town map. it was a duller day and we were looking for something that took us inside out of the damp air. The assistant was enthusiastic and helpful, speaking excellent English.
We chose to go first to the Museum of the Resistance. It is a fascinating collection of information and artifacts explaining the role of the people of Cahors in the French Resistance. It’s a visit well worth making if you’re ever here, although you would need to be able to read some French to get the full benefit. We were left saddened and a bit traumatised by some of the things we’d seen but it’s important not to forget.
So this is one of the few times we’ve opted to stay in a place for the maximum allowed time – this is such a fascinating town and there’s something about the atmosphere that has us hooked.
This morning we walked into town to arrange to have our haircut. We picked a salon at random that looked quiet and not too posh. The stylist spoke a little English and gave us a double appointment for 3p.m.
Then back to the van for lunch – guess what – bread and Brie. I will miss this so much when we get home.
So, the haircuts are done. Here are the before and after photos…
A big thank you to Laure at Christian Coiffure in Cahors. Laure is lovely, friendly and kind and also a very good stylist. If you’re ever here and need a hair cut go and see her.