“Cantal.”

Take it away, Wikipedia.

cantal

I didn’t plan on going there because of that (extremely appealing) description. That the opening paragraph contained “Cantalians”, “cheese”, “most sparsely populated and geographically isolated”, and “farthest removed from a major motorway” was sweet icing on the cake; that is, if the cake is a 6 hour drive from Paris next to grumpy Parisian on the eve of New Year’s Eve.

Cantal and its neighbouring departments certainly lived up to my expectations. The isolation got more excitingly apparent once we turned off the main roads and into a network of meandering hairpin tracks, blundering into nearly-deserted villages and towns along the way.

20161230_145447

The air felt different too – frostier, thicker, mistier. I had a lot of open-mouthed “WHAT IS THIS PLACE” moments.

20161231_120613

20161230_18025420161231_100431

I love the little village bars we stopped at periodically. My French holidays are usually spent in a more-or-less permanent state of inebriation.

20161231_11082320161231_121046

I’m sure I annoyed many French people by repeatedly (and to my mind, drolly) declaring, “Pain or Chocolate? I choose Chocolate!” despite having had it patiently explained to me many times.

20161231_12133620161231_12191320161231_123449

The “big view” of our time in Lot was Rocamadour, a little clifftop village that had a chapel with a rare Black Virgin, said to be dated to the 9th century. The place was an important pilgrimage site in medieval Christendom; these days it sees over a million tourists a year.

20161231_131808

Access was via the frightening Le Grand Escalier, which is basically a StairMaster to end all StairMasters.

20161231_133550

Kittens helped us on our way, though.

20161231_133915

20161231_144724

20161231_134538

Upon arrival: ancient skeletons battled amidst the remnants of bedraggled Christmas tinsel outside the Notre-Dame chapel. It felt very appropriate.

20161231_134919

20161231_135352

What I missed taking a photo of was the entirely bizarre collection of framed sports jerseys (football? rugby) that covered the wall next to this window.

(It was too dark for my phone camera; plus, there was a solemnly silent cluster of men carefully looking at each jersey with reverence.)

20161231_140429

20161231_140620

20161231_143738

Most of the village was shuttered for the holidays, which was quite nice in a way – although some hot wine would not have gone amiss.

20161231_143956

20161231_144915

Passing Saint-Céré, we seized the rapidly-dwindling light to drive up to what looked like a castle. (Or, a “thing”, which was how I pointed out potentially arresting buildings or sites we drove past. “That! Over there! Is that a thing?”)

In any case, this turned out to be the Chateau de Saint-Laurent-les-Tours, where a clandestine radio post for the French resistance apparently operated during WWII .

20161231_16002120161231_16111220161231_161404

On the way back to our little village digs, we came upon the saddest looking market in France. Although it had to be said, in its defense, that dusk was falling, and this was actually New Year’s Eve. It was a miracle people were working.

20161231_17143320161231_171538

Still, the market yielded enough for a New Year’s Dinner.

20161231_205454

20161231_214520

And from there, it was bad reality TV, too much carbs and wine, and as blissful a segue into 2017 as can be.

Advertisements

One thought on ““Cantal.”

  1. My home is Cantal ….. sparsely populated is the key to that statement! Glad you enjoyed Rocamadour – it is pretty gorgeous … I generally take visitors on a day trip whatever time of year. But if you want to find it open the only guarantee is le pâque – toussaint between times it’s a bit of a ghost town (which for those of us dropping in from Cantal and it’s sparce population is quite comfortable!). A belated Bon Année to you!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s