Skip to main content

River Cruising Page 2

A pamphlet I picked up in a tourism office in Cahors, the big city” of the Lot Valley, refers to the area as la France profonde (“deep France”). The phrase is in fact the title of a book by a French academic, Michel Dion, and refers to the culture and traditions of village life in rural France—the “real” France as it was. The pamphlet doesn’t elaborate further, but this
  • Author:
  • Updated:
    Original:

The nearest town by boat from the east side of Cahors is Laroque-des-Arcs (population 500), a trip of less than 3 miles, and there we tied up to the quay, where there was a colorful Sunday plant and flower market. Next stop: Vers, 6 miles to the east.

Vers offers a long quay but it was chockablock when we arrived, so we dangled off the end and—no wind, no tide, no rude boaters—had no problems. There are spotless toilettes and showers as well as laundry sinks, and the only charge, a couple of euros, is for the shower. The town is delightful, and very walkable. It has its own small river (the Vers), and a sign at the river’s edge reminds fishermen that it’s catch-and-release only. There is also a ptanque court (if “court” is what it’s called), which was in use every time we passed by. We wandered around the town looking for treasures and came up with a wine store, a boulangerie, and a well-stocked small market. We missed the 11th-century church, Notre Dame des Velles, but there are many times in the course of a boating expedition when acquiring food and drink is the top priority, even when you’re just four days into it.

In the past few days we had moved through mostly agrarian scenery, with steep hills and villages and castles that could be seen from and were reflected in the river. Now we were entering a more dramatic locale, punctuated by high, steep limestone cliffs. St-Cirq-Lapopie was built on top of these cliffs, some 330 feet about the river, sometime before 1198, when Richard the Lionhearted tried to seize it. Our second goal was to visit Pech Merle, the painted cave whose wall art may date back 25,000 years. The most convenient access is through Bouzis, where we were lucky to find space at the quay, again with no charge.

On our first day in Bouzis, we biked up to Saint-Cirq-Lapopie. The route looks quite benign at the bottom, where we stayed on the towpath along the river. (It’s more than a little bumpy and was decorated with the droppings of an enormous animal, perhaps a cave bear, I thought.) The entire trip is 3 to 4 miles, including the towpath and the road up to Saint-Cirq, and there were times when it called for a bit of walking. However, the minute we caught sight of the village, we were awed and astonished—a quick fix for biking woes. My recollection is that we investigated every road in the village, stopping only for a cold drink in one of the inns.

The next day, feeling in need of stretching my legs again, I suggested that we walk to Pech Merle to see prehistoric wall paintings. We crossed a bridge over the Lot, took the road to Conduch, a nearby town, and followed the D41 highway, which runs alongside the Cl River, to the town of Cabrerets—all up, 3 to 4 miles to get to the village church, behind which a hot and rocky pedestrian path leads to Pech Merle. This was the day of my personal mea culpa: I failed to call for a reservation for a visit to the cave, even though I knew that entry is limited and it is essential to call ahead. And it was. We missed the only remaining tour for that day, and that was that. The best thing about the day was that a kind Pech Merle employee offered us a ride back to Bouzis.

It was hard to believe that the end was already in sight, and we were heading back to Cahors, specifically to have a farewell dinner that didn’t include leftover duck, which had already appeared as itself, in omelets and in a salad. Fortunately, Nikki had made friends with a shopkeeper on our first pass through Cahors, and we stopped by and asked for (and received) a restaurant recommendation. It was thoroughly satisfactory.

We had just one more day on the boat, and we thought we should use it wisely—for instance, by heading downstream one last time to pay a call at the Maison du Chateau Armandire, a vineyard that produces mostly Malbecs. Visitors are welcome there, and in addition to a tasting, we picked up some valuable information from the proprietor, Bernard Bouyssou. He gave us contact information for the agent who distributes his wines in the U.S., and a call to the agent when we got home gave us a list of where we could buy the Armandire wines. We’ve been enjoying them ever since.

Related

20220815

VIDEO: Small but Mighty

This summer has been a great one for sailors everywhere, but in particular for the 87 sailors participating in the Tiwal Cup on France's Gulf of Morbihan. In addition to some great sailing, the event saw a new record on the books--fastest ever assembly of the inflatable dinghy. ...read more

00-LEAD-210918_11HR_AZIMUT48HRS_AMO_00411

11th Hour Racing Team's Green Mission

“I’ll admit, it’s still hard to watch the boat leave the dock sometimes,” says former Volvo Ocean Race sailor Mark Towill. Since meeting during a Transpac campaign over 15 years ago, he and his teammate Charlie Enright have sailed thousands of miles together aboard two Volvo ...read more

D61_JKELAGOPIAN-3

Boat Review: Dufour 61

Dufour, long one of France’s most well-respected builders, has been producing sailboats in La Rochelle since the dawn of fiberglass boatbuilding. Having recently merged with another La Rochelle-based builder, Fountaine Pajot, Dufour has now joined other European mass-production ...read more

m138123_14_00_210609_TORE02_SE_2152_2504-2048x

The Ocean Race to be “Climate Positive”

The 2023 Ocean Race intends to be one of the world’s first climate positive sporting events, offsetting more greenhouse gasses than are produced. The two-fold effort means cutting emissions by 75 percent and investing in ocean projects that sequester carbon and restore ocean ...read more

01-LEAD-Ancients-3-2048x

Cruising Lake Superior

Almost anywhere a sailor drops the hook someone else has been there before. We are hardly ever the first. That remote Maine harbor without a soul in sight: there’s a lobster trap. The south coast of Newfoundland: the crumbling remains of a fisherman’s cabin lie hidden among the ...read more

01-LEAD-Tablet-Holder-4

Fabricating a Tablet Holder

During the pandemic, I was stuck aboard Guiding Light, a Lagoon 410, in St. Lucia for over a month. During that time, as I worked on the boat, I started by doing a spring cleaning in my spares locker and finding some parts and material that I forgot I had. As soon as I saw them, ...read more

00-LEAD-AdobeStock_486335954

A Catamaran for a New Era

Anacortes, Washington, is an unassuming sea-salty town near the San Juan Islands of Puget Sound, and the Betts Boats yard is easy for a passerby to miss. But within Betts’ facilities, the dawn of an era in Pacific Northwest production boatbuilding could be breaking with the ...read more

X5_plus_slide-01

Boat Review: Xquisite X5 Plus

The Xquisite X5 Plus is a major update of the boat that SAIL awarded Best Large Multihull and Best Systems titles in 2017. The changes were not just cosmetic, but genuine improvements to an already fine boat, making it lighter, faster and less dependent on fuel. The builder’s ...read more