Tuesday, 19 July 2011

French Holiday - Part 2. Rocamadour


Its transfer day and we leave around 7:00 for the long drive to Rocamadour - via Concarneau, L'Orient, Nantes, Niot, Limoges, etc. The non-motorway section is surprisingly slow and tedious it must be said. We reach Rocamadour itself in late afternoon and it is surprisingly busy. It is considered to be very much one of France's leading tourist sites. We shall just have to go early.

This part of the holiday is the most luxurious. The last time we stayed at Le Vielles Tours was in October 2009 when we only stayed about 12 hours, but had a fantastic meal and thought the entire set up was really nice. Yet it is actually about the same price as the place we have been staying.

So our first gourmet meal starts with a hor d'ourve of gazpacho soup, then for me it is "Foie gras de canard mi-cuit a l'orange et pain d'epice" (Duck "Foie gras" cooked with orange and gingerbread) and Linda it's "Tatin de tomates et basilic a l'huile d'olive" (upside down tomato and basil tart), then a main course for me of "Foie de veau au vinaigre de framboise, pates fraiches, legumes de saison" (calves liver with raspberry vinegar and fresh pasta) and "Ravioles et queues de langoustines, aux noisettes torrefiees" (Ravioli and scampi tails with roasted hazelnuts) for Linda. Then "Fromage de chevre au miel" (local goat's cheese with honey) and a dessert of "Craquant de chocolat blanc et fraises au basilic" (Crunchy white chocolate pastry with strawberry and basil) for me and a "Palet Framboise chocolat" (Raspberry and chocolate shortbread) for Linda. Washed down with a bottle of Lagrazette Cahors wine. An excellent first meal.


One negative of the hotel is that we can only get internet in the main reception area. So while Linda gets ready, I sit in the reception downloading The Apprentice final. After a leisurely breakfast, we are off to Cahors for the day.

On the way down, we came across a wine co-op that I had visited a couple of years ago. This is one of my absolute favourite places that we've come across on our travels and I make the most of this visit, trying half a dozen wines and buying about 50 bottles.

After parking near the famous bridge, we accidentally stumble on a shop specifically for the Chateau LaGrazette, the Cahor wine we had last night. We paid E25 for our wine last night and I was hoping to get a half case for around E80. No such luck. Single bottles are E20 each, but we buy two anyway - the most we have paid for wine in France since we paid E30 for a bottle in St Emilion.

The famous bridge in Cahor.

The market in the centre of Cahors wasn't on today - a shame as Linda would have probably liked to have seen that. My main memory of attending a Cahors market is when I was here with Emma in 2008 and was trying to take some video footage and Emma kept coming up and saying loudly into the microphone how boring my video was going to be!

As usual we visited the cathedral. There was a really unusual version of The Annunciation on the wall at the far end - not a very good photo though
I love monastic cloisters and Cahors is as good as any.

Down by the river on the other side of town there was a heron fishing on the weir.

And a shoal of quite large chub just under the bank from where we were standing - the biggest was probably over 5lbs. The biggest was rising to food coming off the weir.

Our room was in this block (http://www.vieillestours-rocamadour.com/)

Gourmet meal number two has some of yesterday's choices but a little variety. For me, a starter of "Salade de salicornes et coquillages au jus de citron et huile d'olive" (Samphire and shellfish salad with lemon juice and olive oil) followed by "Carre d'agneau du Quercy a la moutarde et au romarin, pommes paillasson" (Rack of roasted Quercy lamb with mustard and rosewary, potatoes and vegetables), the cheese course and, for dessert, "Mouse aux agrumes, biscuit pain de Genes, coulis de fruits rouge" (Citrus fruit mousse, sponge cake and red berry coulis). For Linda, "Tartare de saumon, aux epices et aromates" (salmon tartar with herbs and spices), "Filiet de pagre au fenouil" (fillet of pagra with fennel), cheese, then "Tartare de mangues, parfait glace pistache" (Mango tartar, with pistachio ice cream). A different bottle of Cahor red tonight.

We are both surprised by Tom's victory in The Apprentice. I would have backed Susie.


An early start to beat the crowds in Rocamadour. Though it is hugely touristy, it is extremely impressive. We do the traditional walk from the valley floor to the chateau on the top.

Then onto Padirac where we had hoped to visit the caves, but here we did encounter huge crowds and we rapidly retreated, intending to try again tomorrow.

On the way back to the hotel, we passed a foie gras farm and stopped to admire the ducks and geese who, at this stage at least, seemed quite happy.

Back at the hotel, I am able to watch a bit of the Tour de France and read some of the biography of John Dee that I brought with me. Tonight's meal is, for me, a repeat on Monday.


To Padirac early and a short time spent queuing in the rain. Emma rand about the arrangements for tomorrow and did not seem that bothered about us being out in the rain! Apparently it was raining in London too.

The caves were brilliant. A long descent and walk through the early sections followed by a boat ride for a couple of hundred metres and then a guided tour. We are now both hooked on visiting caves and have a couple ear-marked at our next location.

About to descend.
Afterwards we travelled down to the town of Figeac - yet another unspoilt French town. Back at the hotel, I am pleased to see Contador crack in the Tour de France. Our last gourmet meal is a "best of" whatever we've eaten for the past three nights with another bottle of LaGrazette. Excellent stuff.

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