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Cultural Travel

Loving the Lot in France

Its Other Pleasures Are as Satisfying as Its Cuisine

The pleasures of southwest France are as satisfying and substantial as the region’s cuisine du terroir. But the region was often overlooked by tourists who raced through the Loire on the way to the sunny beaches of Spain.

Lately though the bashful Southwest has found its way into the limelight. Beynac’s background is picture perfect in Chocolat. The area’s cuisine is the current darling of Paris. Its lack of pretension is precisely the reason for its popularity, reports Adam Gopnik in Paris to the Moon (Random House). Travel writers Dana Facoras and Michael Pauls have written the region’s quintessential guidebook Dordogne & the Lot (Cadogan Guides), from their residence in Praysac.

Day Trips

Chateau de Mercués sits prominently on a hilltop just north of Cahors. Turn south on D72 to Caillac to begin your wine tour. Enjoy the excellent wine and scenery of Chateau La Grezette. The Avignon pope transplanted vines from here that became the famous Chateauneuf du Pape.

Follow the river west through lovely Luzech and visit the many nearby wineries. Chateaux Caix, the summer home of the Queen of Denmark, is a perfect picnic spot. Turn north for an art stop at tiny Les Arques, and see the cubist sculpture at Musée Zadkine.

Cuisine du Terroir

Fine food at reasonable prices can be found at the local farm restaurants or ferme auberges, sprinkled throughout the province like cepes on omelettes.

Start your day with that breakfast of champions, initially consumed by locals to ward off black plague—a bowl of onion and garlic soup, scooped up with peasant bread and washed down with black wine.

Start dinner with a fenelon, a cocktail of walnut liquor, cassis, and red wine. Duck and geese dominate the menu, from the starter pate, rillettes, or salad of geziers (gizzards), to the main course of magrets or confit. Side dishes include pommes de terre sardalaise—sliced potatoes in goose fat—or a salad of dandelion leaves and walnuts topped with gizzards.

People here are happy with their Lot. A visit to southwest France is a pleasure you will repeat.

For More Info

Accommodations: For affordable group stays in a local hamlet with a pool and charming Dutch owners, go to one the Les Noyers gites. The elegant 1920s Grand Hotel Terminus or budget Hotel de la Paix are both in Cahors.

Fine Food: Le Gindreau in Saint Medard is a gourmet haven. La Baladine, just off the market in Cahors, has incredible crepes. La Recreation offers fine dining in a former school house in tiny Les Arques.

Highlights: Off Place du General du Gaulle sits the Musee du La Resistance, where Monsieur Lopez leads a heart-rending tour of Cahors’ role as headquarters of the Resistance. You’ll appreciate his tribute to his American liberators of the concentration camp at Matthusessen, where he was imprisoned for five years along with the priest featured in Renoir’s film Au Revoir Les Enfants.