In a most desolate stony place…”
While I stroll, old verses can pop into my head: like Yeats’ lines about J. M. Synge looking about for the simplest, rockiest place he could find, in order to dwell there. Would this do?
I think that’s a pigeonnier. (UPDATE: I’m advised it’s a shepherd’s hut.) The country before the descent to Cahors is the stoniest I’ve seen. Fascinating, in its scrawny, scrabbly way.
Cahors, by contrast, is doubly a river town, being almost a peninsular within a big loop of the Lot. We were talking about variety on the French Camino.
Quercy’s capital, with its barbican, cathedral and medieval centre, is a good choice for a rest day.
Cahors has its share of historical characters. Leon Gambetta is from here, the turbulent Genoese-Jewish-French Prime Minister who once escaped from Paris to Tours in a hot air balloon. A fierce anti-royalist and anti-clericalist, he was also a product of small commerce and was a strict devotee of law. No supporter of barricades or rabble-rule, he only trained his cannon on Prussians.
The name of Clement Marot pops up on signs and buildings. He too was from Cahors, and has long been a favourite poet of mine. Back in the 1500’s, before French verse got all posh and slithery and lost its rhythm, Marot wrote ballads and rondeaux that fairly trip along. What went wrong after that?
The local who most left his mark on Cahors was Jean Duèze…but only after he changed his name to Pope John XXII. Complain all you like about Avignon popes, they could show you a good time. The high-living but capable John XXII was responsible for one of the loveliest constructions seen on the whole Camino. It’s of particular importance to pilgrims, and since it’s most often seen on departing Cahors, I’ll leave it to the next post.
Here’s a curiosity: a name one never expects to see on a monument. But he was praising the fighting spirit of Cahors in WWI…so what can you do?