As part of the Lot department, Cahors is the historic capital of the Quercy region. Located along the banks of the Lot River, it developed rapidly in the Middle Ages thanks to the trade and export of the famous wines of the region. You can’t miss the symbol of the city, the Valentré bridge, fortified bridge built in the 14th century today inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List. Lose yourself in the pretty streets of the historic center, visit the Romanesque and Gothic Cathedral of Saint-Étienne built in the 12th century, and of course, enjoy the local gastronomy (truffles, foie gras and Cahors wines). Cahors is located on the Compostelle road.
Elected in 2012 as French’s favourite village, the medieval village of Saint-Cirq Lapopie is also part of the ranking of the most beautiful villages of France. Perched on a cliff of 100 meters overlooking the Lot, Saint-Cirq and its 220 inhabitants (only 35 in the winter !!!) has a fortified Gothic Church, 13 historical monuments, and its typical houses with flat tiled steep roofs, the oldest of which were built in the 12th century. The surrealist ambassador, writer André Breton is one of the inhabitants. Saint-Cirq is today the landmark of a multitude of artists who practice their art year-round.
Reopened to navigation for several years now, the Lot is a beautiful river that runs through the Cahors region. I had the chance to do a nice cruise during my visit in the region. Go to the village of Bouziès and rent a barge, traditional flat-bottomed boat, to wander on the river. But the Lot offers a multitude of other outdoor activities: swimming, hiking in the vineyards along the river, cycling, canyoning, canoeing, and so on!
Les vins de Cahors
Long-nicknamed black wines because of the color of the king varietal of the region that is Malbec, wines of Cahors enjoy a rise of notoriety today. Rightfully! While the region was massively producing and exporting wine to the port of Bordeaux at a time when wines were not quite produced in Bordeaux yet, the vineyard gradually declined but never disappeared, although it was hardly affected by the phylloxera crisis in the 19th century. Far from the tannic and alcoholic Malbec, as Cahors wines are sometimes described, I discovered a multitude of terroirs and wines of a great class. Crosses by the Lot river and its meanders, the vineyards of Cahors offer various varied profiles between the valley, close to the river, and the Causses which are the most distant vineyards of the Lot.
I can not recommend enough to spend at least a day visiting vineyards if you are passing through the region. During my stay, I visited two vineyards: Château Saint-Sernin and Clos Triguedina. Located in Parnac, Chateau Saint-Sernin is a friendly vineyard located not far from the Lot, a very pleasant place to come with your family and have a picnic in the vineyards. Located in Vire-sur-Lot, the Clos Triguedina was a real favourite with its wines of remarkable quality, its century-old vines and its brand new building (a pretty architectural signature at the foot of the vineyard). Here are other vineyards that I particularly recommend, having had the chance to taste their wines: Chateau de Mercuès, Chateau du Cèdre, Chateau Lagrezette, Mas del Périé and Domaine Cosse-Maisonneuve.
If you don’t have enough time to visit a vineyard, I have the ideal solution for you: L’Espace Lounge Cahors Malbec located in Cahors city center. Managed by the Interprofessional Union of Cahors Wines, this tasting area offers you the widest selection of the best wines of the appellation. An ideal place to discover the history of the wines of the region and enjoy one or more glasses of Malbec! Open from Monday to Saturday, tastings without appointment. Many activities are regularly organized such as oenology courses, conferences, meetings of producers, etc.
Where to Sleep
Château de Mercuès : Located in the heart of Quercy, the Château de Mercuès is a 4-star hotel and member of the prestigious network of luxury Relais & Châteaux hotels worldwide. The Castle, which was built in the 13th century by the Counts-Bishops of Cahors on a rocky promontory to defend the surroundings of the city of Cahors, offers today a breathtaking view of the Lot Valley and the Cahors vineyards. With a Michelin-starred restaurant, beautiful gardens, a superb swimming pool, a spa and luxurious and comfortable rooms, it’s certainly the most beautiful place to stay in the region. An experience you can’t skip! My big regret is to have stayed only one night! The château also houses a winery where the excellent wines of Château de Mercuès are produced, which I also had the chance to taste with owner Bertrand-Gabriel Vigouroux!
Domaine de l’Isle Basse : Located in Fontanes, just a ten minute drive from Cahors, the Isle Basse estate is a charming bed & breakfast run by two Belgians, Bart and Christophe. It took them two years to renovate this old 18th century farm and the result live up to the work provided. This charming guest house offers 4 beautifully decorated rooms combining modern furniture with the old charm of the building. Outdoor pool, sauna and jacuzzi in the countryside, but especially the warm welcome of Bart and Christophe. Dinner and breakfast were also impeccable! A real favourite!
Hôtel-Spa Le Saint-Cirq : Located right in front of the medieval village of Saint-Cirq Lapopie, this hotel surrounded by vineyards offers a breathtaking view of one of French’s favourite villages of the. Outdoor and indoor pool, as well as a year-round spa make up a successful mix for this small hotel charm. The view from my hotel room was absolutely beautiful. Big plus also for the quality of the breakfast, which puts forward all the best products of the region!
Hostellerie Le Vert : Run by a friendly Belgian couple, Eva and Bernard Philippe, the Hostellerie Le Vert is located in the small village of Mauroux. This former 17th century wine estate has 6 peaceful rooms. Outdoor pool, beautiful outdoor terrace, and inventive and tasty cuisine featuring regional gastronomy!
L’Auberge Lou Bourdié : I couldn’t miss mentioning the cooking of Monique Valette !!! Monique is an autodidact who has learned to cook with her grandmother, and believe me it’s reflected in the dishes. It’s simple, getting from the church parking lot to the hostel was easy, just follow the scent of freshly-made stuffed tomatoes that filled the restaurant’s surroundings. Lou Bourdié, located in the small Lot village of Bach, is above all an inn like we rarely see nowadays! Everything is homemade, the dishes are generous, it smells and it tastes the authenticity of recipes of yesteryear. I recommend the place to anyone who loves real food. I hope to have the opportunity to return very soon!
L’Ô à la Bouche : What a memorable lunch at L’Ô à La Bouche restaurant, overlooking the central square of Cahors. Enjoying the good weather, I ate on the terrace and really loved the creative cuisine of chef Jean-François Dive. I was struck by the beauty of the dishes that were served to us. A real show for the eyes, a real treat for the palate!
Restaurant Le Duèze : By far the most beautiful gastronomic experience of my stay in Cahors. The restaurant of the Château de Mercuès did not usurp his star! The cooking of chef Julien Poisot is absolutely remarkable with creativity and precision! The chef is a great expert of herbs, condiments and vegetables that you and I do not know – or have forgotten – about. I liked th risk-taking approach and rediscovering surprising flavors, sometimes unusual, but always succulent! A great meal, of course, but also outstanding service and outstanding food and wine pairings! Gourmets, if there is only one table that you must do during your stay in the Lot, this is it! Le Duèze