Sunday, November 1, 2020

In the Lot before lockdown, part two

French Village Diaries cycling in the Lot before lockdown
Cycling in the Lot

Day three, Sunday 1st November 2020  

Welcome to November, a month that has started with damp and drizzle and heavy skies; a far cry from the bright, sunny day we had yesterday and not a day to bother with drying the washing outside. It was a day to indulge in a hot bowl of spicy vegetable soup for lunch though, topped with deliciously melted grated cheese. Dinner tonight will stick with the comfort food theme; a roasted butternut squash risotto using my homemade pork bone broth.


I have started work on my Lockdown II Big Jobs List, hoping its existence will give us motivation and guidance when boredom or lethargy come calling in the coming weeks. Some jobs will need fair weather, like clearing the potager and mowing the lawns, others, like washing down and preparing woodwork for a repaint, could be started today while the rain fell steadily outside.


Ed is pretty good at keeping himself occupied, and between lockdown being announced on Wednesday evening and us arriving home on Friday, he’d rearranged his bedroom to give himself a work area and a relax zone. As well as bringing his TV back from Poitiers (yes, he really is that deprived that he’s never had a TV in his bedroom before now) he has taken possession of the rocking chair my Nan bought for me when he was a newborn. We’d only recently thought about getting rid of it as it’s had very little use for many years, so I’m secretly delighted he’s given it a new lease of life.


The cheery colours of autumn in the Lot seem a long way from the grey we can see outside the windows today, but the memories of our week away are still as vivid in my mind as the landscapes we cycled through.


In the Lot before lockdown part two


French Village Diaries cycling in the Lot before lockdown
Pont Valentré, Cahors, Lot

Wednesday is weekly market day in the town of Cahors and the destination for our first bike ride from St-Vincent-Rive-d’Olt where we were staying for three nights. Adrian had planned a forty-six-kilometre loop that climbed the hills directly behind the village, descended and climbed again, before dropping down to the Lot at the Pont Valentré, Cahors’ famous and beautiful turreted bridge. The weather was against us, but as markets only open in the mornings we either went or missed out. It had been almost seven weeks since I’ve done any serious cycling and to start ascending almost from the front door was tough on my legs. The cool, damp air, heavy with fine misty rain that clung to everything wasn’t much fun but seeing the bridge again for the first time in over five years, certainly made up for it. 


French Village Diaries cycling in the Lot before lockdown
Masked up at market, Cahors, Lot

A slow wander around market, where every other stall was selling big, fat cèpe mushrooms, we bought some local goat cheese and a bottle of wine, before stopping for a coffee and a croissant. Masks had to be worn around the outdoor market and names and contact numbers left in a notebook at the café bar. Understandable I know, but when every hand that arrives has to take hold of the same notebook and pen, it seemed a bit of a germ-risk to me.


French Village Diaries cycling in the Lot before lockdown
Cahors vineyards in Autumn

We returned along the Lot cycle route that mostly follows the meandering river Lot as it takes you through the Cahors vineyards. In my opinion, whatever the weather, autumn is the best time to see them. Even when the cloud descended as low as our noses and the rain on my glasses reduced my visibility, the colours were fantastic. Rose gold vineyards all around, broken only by the stone bothies or walnut trees; their colours a perfect complement to the vines.


French Village Diaries cycling in the Lot before lockdown
Autumn in the Cahors vineyards

In the afternoon when the sun made a brief appearance before it set, we managed to get a glimpse of just how much these vines glow in the sunlight. It was as mesmerising as staring into the flames of a flickering fire. Having added another twenty-eight kilometres to the forty-six-kilometre market run, an open boulangerie provided the perfect refuelling stop. There were sadly no flans, but a Portuguese custard tart and a walnut tartelette certainly didn’t disappoint.


A homecooked meal and a glass of Cahors Malbec wine rounded off a great day perfectly, and then President Macron made his address to the nation. While it had been obvious the virus was tightening its grip on France once more, stuck in our happy holiday bubble, I wasn’t expecting a nationwide lockdown, and especially one that would come into effect while we were still away.


French Village Diaries cycling in the Lot before lockdown

On the last day before lockdown came into force, and once we had dashed out for some last-minute essentials, we packed a picnic lunch and got out on the bikes for what is likely to be our last big ride this year. St-Cirq-Lapopie certainly proved to be a fitting finale for what has turned out to be an epic year on the bikes. Following the Lot valley from St-Géry to St-Cirq-Lapopie and on to Cajarc gave us a stunning sixty-eight-kilometre ride ablaze with autumn colours and wide horizons decorated with perched hilltop towns, chateaux and houses emerging from the rocks. 

French Village Diaries cycling in the Lot before lockdown
Cycling in the Lot

The rain of yesterday had gone and we even enjoyed some sun as we cycled along balcony roads with overhanging rocks and tunnels, twisting and turning, but always coming back to the river Lot. It was just what we needed to fill our minds and boost our senses before heading into another period of lockdown.


  1. Thank you for this. We go to Cajarc to stay on my late mum's house and go swimming at St Cirq-LaPopie most summers. We've missed the last three and were all (including the 3 teens) looking forward to going back this year. Your photos have really helped as we enter lockdown 2

    1. So pleased you enjoyed a trip down memory lane. It is such a beautiful area, we were so lucky to get a mini break when the Autumn colours were so spectacular. Stay safe ! It's a crazy world out there!


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