On the road west, and a bit south – toward Spain! Well, that’s how you feel at the start of a day, with the Aubrac, the Aveyron and Quercy behind.
Lingering at an ornate little church at Castet-Arrouy, I encountered some Swiss with whom I would never actually travel but often socialise. A large group, some quite elderly, all with a love of the chemin. Highly organised, but in the nicest way.
A scrubby oak forest: with a porcupine or two it could be Tuscany.
Lectoure is on a high spur, and has been inhabited forever. As well as prehistoric findings, works on the cathedral foundations uncovered much devotional material related to the cults of Cybèle and Mithra.
Gauls held it, and Romans took it. It was even a capital of Armagnac. Count Jean V, who schemed his way to power there, subsequently began to scheme against the king of France himself. In the end, he fell and Lectoure fell with him. After a thorough massacre it was reborn as a French possession…only to get chopped up again in the wars of religion.
Incidentally, the same turbulent schemer, Jean V, at one point forced his chapelain to marry him with his sister. They had three children, before Jean moved on to another, more respectable union. Interesting character, but I wouldn’t want my sister to marry a guy like that.
Wait…let me re-phrase!
Lectoure is my favourite kind of stop-over: the charm of a village, the buzz of a town. Curiously, it’s one of the few areas which doesn’t have an important cheese of its own, according to the local crèmerie. (Later I did discover a small cheese producer on the trail.)
A stroll through this old and elegant ex-capital is rewarding.
The spectacular tower of the cathedral Saint-Gervais-Saint-Protais was once one of the highest in France, with an extra storey and flèche. It was actually lopped before the revolution, some say because the metal flèche attracted lightning to the cellar and smashed the bishop’s bottles. Probably just a piece of anti-clerical gossip…but a merry piece.
As to the Little Tuscany nick-name, how’s this view of the bastion, now converted to a promenade?
Veronique at the Halte Pèlerine in rue Sainte-Claire is a wonderful hostess. The nicest thing about this sociable gîte is the large garden, all furnished for the comfort of pilgrims. Good for a dawdle.