Amanda on May 13th, 2008
Tournon d'Agenais

Tournon d'Agenais

First of May, First of May, Flowers Strive to Bloom Today
They certainly did in Tournon on Thursday. This ancient and beautiful bastide village was overflowing with flowers and plants of every conceivable variety. The sun shone, heat radiated from the old stones and delicious fragrances permeated the alleyways.
This is a famous annual festival in Tournon, attracting visitors from far and wide. As it is a true bastide, with only one winding road into the village – lined with parked cars – and one narrow winding road round, a one-way system had to be devised. Gendarmes were much in evidence, waving their arms, smiling benevolently and occasionally directing wayward cars, there seemed to be a remarkable number for the purpose and most were standing around chatting and smiling at the visitors, but they were there if really needed and that was the main thing. Meanwhile at the foot of the hill a park and ride shuttle bus was doing a sterling job of hoisting hundreds of old biddies to the top and the day’s delights. Read More »

Tournon d’Agenais Flower Festival from French Life

Amanda on March 12th, 2008
Helen Martin

Helen Martin

In days long gone by most good guidebooks were essentially travel books. Charming, personal and full of odd little facts known only to the author. To a great extent these honourable tomes have been swept away on the tide of serial guides. They tell you where to lay your weary head, how much you should budget to do so, where to eat, drink and be merry and a great deal about the history and architecture of your chosen destination into the bargain. Invaluable stuff, and nobody should attempt a new region without one. But if you want to scratch just a little deeper, really get under the skin of the area you intend to visit, then what?

If your area happens to the Lot you need look no further, Helen Martin supplies it all. Lot, Travels Through a Limestone Landscape is a vast volume of impeccably researched fact and delicious personal preference. She doesn’t tell you where to eat and sleep, eschewing the role of conventional guide in favour of friend and mentor. Read More »

Book Review – Lot by Helen Martin from French Life

Amanda on March 12th, 2006
Cahors Wine

Cahors Wine

Revered by Tsars, Popes and Princes
Why black? Principally because it is almost black, just hold a bottle up to the light and you’ll see into its deliciously inky depths. Cahors wines are reputedly the darkest in the world; they are also some of the strongest and richest and will keep for years.

Cahors has a fascinating but somewhat turbulent history; the vineyards were amongst the first planted in France by the Roman Emperors, more than two thousand years ago and they were an immediate hit. However as the Empire grew it became abundantly clear that production of wheat would need to be stepped up in order to feed the growing masses. France was to be the breadbasket of the Roman Empire and the vines, splendid though they were, would have to go. In the third century one of the more discerning Emperors, Probus, decided that enough was enough and the time had come to reinstate this delicious nectar. He is still a much-celebrated figure in winemaking circles today and one of the distinguished Chateaux of the region has a rather delicious wine named Prince Probus in his honour. Read More »

Cahors Wine – The Black Wine from French Life

Amanda on August 23rd, 2005

Historic gateway to the South of France

Pont Valentre

Pont Valentre

Cahors is strategically situated in a loop of the curvaceous river Lot, surrounded by hills. To the north the roads lead straight to Paris, to the south straight to Toulouse and on to the passes of the Pyrenees and the bustling ports of the Mediterranean. To the west, following the line of the river, lies the great wine producing city and port of Bordeaux. To the east, the wild and beautiful Causses and the foothills of the Massif Central.

It was in this advantageous spot that the ancient tribe of the Cadurci decided to settle in about 800BC. Many scholars maintain that it was from these first settlers that Cahors and the Quercy take their names. Others argue that Quercy comes from the Latin Quercus, meaning oak, a reference to the oak forests that romp across the landscape. Either way, both Cahors and the Quercy itself are ancient settlements. Read More »

Cahors – Capital of the Quercy from French Life

Amanda on June 13th, 2005
Albas Wine Festival

Albas Wine Festival

Largest Cahors wine festival in one tiny village
Albas is a charming little village, built entirely of the local stone and wedged precariously into a rocky cleft on the left bank of the river. The population is normally pretty stable at around 500 – that’s if you include all the surrounding farms and hamlets – but on one particular day each May it swells to over six thousand. It’s the day of the annual fête du vin and the whole village bows in worship of the grape and gives itself up to the pleasures of the table. The thought of six thousand inebriated people crammed into little Albas was arresting, to say the least; surely they’d be falling into the river? I decided I’d better go along – purely in the course of duty – to see what it was all about and what measures had been taken to prevent a watery end. Read More »

Albas Wine Festival 2005 from French Life