This is a perfect cycling area – quiet lanes, not really too many steep gradients, beautiful villages with refreshments and also a good network of VTT tracks. The tourist information offices have lots of free leaflets and maps – try the ones in Puy L’Eveque and Duravel. There is a particularly good set of routes produced by The Lot tourist board – http://www.tourisme-lot.comOver coffee and croissants I pour over the 1 in 25,000 map as I want to explore tracks alongside a large loop in The Lot to the east near Grezels. Choosing an off-road bike for practicality I planned quiet lanes over towards the area I was to explore. Memories of cycling through this area on a journey on the Camino to Santiago de Compostela several years ago came flooding back. On that occasion I spent a night in Cahors and cycled alongside The Lot somewhere, tasting the dark red wine of the area for the first time. I remember how the French people heartily welcomed a lone cyclist and how considerate car drivers were as opposed to the UK.
Soon I was on a well-signed cycle route through steepish hills amongst the vines and on down towards The Lot. Here I left the road to follow a grassy track alongside the river passing an old mill on a side stream. At a slipway there were plaques showing the heights of ‘recent’ floods, March 1912 appeared the worst. I’ve seen The Lot in flood and it’s a frightening sight.As I cycled along a green lane by the river I came across the newish tourist passenger boat sailing by, operating from Puy L’Eveque it seems a fairly tame trip. Much better to hire a canoe from the same people and explore yourself. A little further upstream is one of the canoe launching sites I’ve used in the past below a new weir and lock. I once found it surprisingly hard work getting back to Puy with my young Grandson against a strong headwind, kept getting blown back up the river whenever I stopped paddling for a rest.
I pedalled along happily, pleased with my chosen route alongside the river. Even better was my arrival in previously unvisited Pescadoires which turned out to be a delightful hamlet just above the river. In the village square by the 11th-century church [with its series of Gargoyles] I had a potted history of the place from a lady out of one of the adjacent houses. She also proudly told me she lived next door to an English family who fly in for short breaks – such is the nature of modern travel. I wonder how many English own houses in the area and how this has affected traditional community life and the prices for the locals. My French wasn’t good enough to delve into those issues.Road cycling took me through Lagardelle as the clock struck 12 – mad dogs and Englishmen…. and on to Grezels. The restaurant La Terrace here had an interesting 18euro lunchtime menu, would return. Again in the village, some of the buildings displayed faded old signs from the recent past. These rural places must have been much more vibrant 50years ago.
Happy with my morning’s cycle I returned home the same way I’d come, this being the soft option rather than a longer loop over steep hills. Next time! and in any case, I was ready for lunch. The afternoon temperature rose to 34C in the shade, they were harvesting the rapeseed in the adjacent field so the Kites were flying in. As a bonus in the evening we were visited by a deer and her fawn.