Friday, August 23, 2013

A Bicycle Tour in the Lot Valley of France - Part 3

This is the third part of my report on my May trip to the Lot Valley in France. For the first two parts, page down below this report.

On the fifth day of our stay at the Domaine du Haut Baran, we took the day off from bicycling to tour the religious site of Rocamadour (Wikipedia article) with William as our very well-informed guide. It features a basilica complex built into a cliffside and was the fourth most visited Christian pilgrimage site after the Holy Lands, the Vatican, and St Jacques de Compostelle in Spain.

On the way we toured a still-operating flour mill built in the thirteenth century by four generations of monks (see photos below). In the last photo, Neil and I are sitting in the kitchen fireplace used by the monks and that is still being used, on that day to cook a duck for dinner for the mill guide and his wife.

We started our visit to Rocamadour by lunching at a restaurant across the valley that gave us a spectacular view of the site.

Then we started our tour in the village at the base of the cliff (first photo below), and climbed the stairs (second photo) to the basilica level (third photo).

The first photo below shows the best-preserved of the religious murals that originally graced all the walls of the complex. We saw many religious icons that were the source of purported miracles, including the sword in the stone (second photo, chained to prevent theft), the black madonna statue (third photo), and the bell with a stationary clapper that only rang when a miracle was to occur (fourth photo).

Then we climbed up the rest of the hillside along a trail that passed by the stations of the cross (first photo below). Dinner that night was at a local restaurant run by a couple from New Zealand (second photo).

Our sixth day was our longest day of cycling, 36 miles. We started with a displacement via our support van (first photo below) to Assier. We cycled the rolling farmland (complete with cows and sheep, second and third photos) then rode downhill to the Cele River and followed the route of the pilgrims of St Jacques de Compostelle. We stopped at the church Espagnac-St Eulalie from the 12th century.

Then Rosalie (in the blue jacket below) outdid herself by laying out a gourmet picnic lunch spread at the roadside tables just past St Sulpice.

With very full tummies, we continued past the Troglodyte homes and the Musée du Insolite and finished our ride in the town of Cabarets. We toured the Grotte de Pech Merle caves there with their prehistoric paintings of hunting scenes including woolly mammoths, then returned to Haut Baran via Cahors and a short photo op at the Pont Valentré (Devil's Bridge--second photo below). We celebrated our week with a scrumptious dinner of pork loin stuffed with prunes. The next day we were driven back to the Toulous airport by Paul, vowing to return soon!

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