After a week in Burgundy, swimming in its near-miraculous wines, we loaded up our Jeep Renegade (we neither get to select the rental cars nor name them) for the longish drive to the region called Le Lot and the town of Cahors. (You don't pronounced the "h", you don't pronounce the "s".) Hitting a couple of traffic jams (bouchons) stretched out the trip by an hour and a half, so it wasn't until after six that we arrived at our rental apartment, looking directly onto the Lot River, with a view of the city's historic bridge.
Cahors is typical of a number of other French towns in that it seems to have been founded by a Celtic people – in this case, the Cadurci, in the pre-Roman era, maybe 200 or 300 BCE? Anyhow, the Romans came, saw, conquered, and stayed, starting around 5O BCE
Like our Provençal town of Vaison-la-Romaine, ancient Cahors was an important Roman city with all the accoutrements of classical life. Today there are, we were told, some ancient vestiges, though we didn't stumble onto any, but there is a fairly substantial medieval part of the town with houses going back to the 15th, 14th, even the 13th century.
Cahors is nicely situated in a hairpin turn of the river Lot – it's about a 15-minute walk from one arm of the hairpin across to the other.
We quickly discovered that we weren't fans of the regional wines, made largely from the Malbec grape. They are rustic, even rough. We raised our eyebrows in mild surprise when we learned that there is actually an appellation for these wines, and that winemakers are only allowed to use Malbec with the addition of up to 30% of Merlot, or something like that. At the covered market, though, we bought another, non-appellation wine that was 50% Malbec and 50% some other grape (whose name we didn't catch) to soften it. Much better, and good with our roast chicken Sunday lunch.
Prehistory of Le Lot
The valley of the river Lot, and the entire region named for it, has been home to humans since… well, just about since we were sapiens. But, there are Neanderthal traces going back much farther, to 200,000 years, even some hints at 350,000 years.
We spent a day visiting nearby Pech Merle Prehistory Centre where there are caverns filled with paintings dating back 25,000 years. The caves themselves simply feel ancient with stalagmites and -tites in weird and wondrous shapes. But, it's always an awesome (by that we mean, "awe inspiring") experience to see artwork completed by our very ancient ancestors. The most remarkable was a handprint in red outline, probably made by a female artist around 20,000 years ago. "This is me," it says. "I was here."
à la prochaine,
– Diane & Mark
photographs copyright Mark Craft