Moissac lies low on the Tarn River, and was hit worse than any place by the catastrophic flood of 1930. Its situation is more evident as one leaves the town to head west. (There is a high road, but your correspondent knows nothing of optional high roads.)
Yes, I took the road that leads along the canal, presumably part of the system that connects Bordeaux and the Atlantic to the Mediterranean.
And the day passed in mild weather, with pleasant encounters – such as an aged pilgrim who had been camped out along the canal, who excitedly told me of a new track to Lourdes.
Some people were out-dawdling even me:
How far they seem, the limestone Causses, the Aveyron. Yet they’re only a short drive away.
We are entering country more likely to be called Tarn, though it’s hard to know, since old names and modern political boundaries seldom correspond. If the Counts of Toulouse were more likely to hold sway east of Moissac in medieval times, the regions we’re heading toward were more likely attached to the Armagnac, then to the Kingdom of Navarre. Till everything was just French. Of course, I simplify.
Normans, cathars, English, catholics, protestants, royalists, revolutionaries – all the old clashes and divisions afflicted the stronghold which is today’s destination.
Auvillar copped most of history’s problems because, like other fortified high towns, it was too strategic to be ignored by serious invasion. It’s officially one of France’s most beautiful villages, popular with the French themselves for a weekend jaunt; famed for its church, its circular open-air hall and the clock tower which straddles the street where pilgrims depart to the west.
Quite a sharp little climb when one approaches from the Moissac side.
As the old pilgrim indicated to me earlier on, we’re not that far from Lourdes.
In Auvillar, I was to stay in the B&B of Josiane Falc, and I here mention it because it was a model accommodation of the inexpensive kind.