Moving into south-central France  we enter the Cantal department and over the next week we slowly make our way across to The Lot region where we park just outside of the village of Gramat to get a final fix of the Tour de France for this year. 

Forteresse de Polignac.

But before that, we cross deep wooded valleys, fast-moving streams, and unspoiled towns and villages, in the rural Cantal department it’s an area with much to offer so if you are looking to explore France ‘off the beaten track then this is the place go. Whilst The Lot finds its eastern border in the foothills of the Massif Central it’s generally warmer, drier and less populated than neighbouring Dordogne to the west ( except when the Tour comes to town) and offers amazing landscape of limestone cliffs,  canyons, hilltop towns and vineyards.

View from Forteresse de Polignac.

On the outskirts of the medieval town of Puy en Valey, we spot the Forteresse de Polignac. Perched on a volcanic rock this fortress has presided over the village and plateau for almost 1,000 years. We take a walk to the top where the views are amazing and we spot our motorhome parked up below. 

Forteresse de Polignac.

It’s been another hot day so we sit outside chatting to Sian and Phil until the temperature drops

The town of Ferrières is located along the steep valley of the Alagnon, on one of the many roads to Santiago de Compostela. We decide to spend the night on a well-maintained municipal site on this road, and we are surprised how quiet the road is at night because during the day the lorries thunder past. 

At Ferrières-Saint-Mary we take the opportunity to catch up on our washing as the weather is good and at €2.50 a load it’s a bargain but with a little old French lady hogging the machine it’s battle of the washing baskets to see who gets to the machine the quickest to get the next load on. 
Cayrols

The village of Cayrols is tiny with just a handful of houses, one bar and a post office, however, it’s a quiet place to spend the night so we park up with two other vans. During the night we have heavy rain and a storm that goes on until the early hours sadly it doesn’t stop the temperature from rising the following day. 

Cayrols

Lacapelle-Marival

John cycles to Rochomadour whilst I walk to the nearby villages. 

Falling within the Causses du Quercy Regional Natural Park and southeast of Rocamadour is the small town of Gramat, so we stop at the aire to use the services before having a stroll into the town. 

Gramat filling up with water

Today it’s a quiet but pleasant place to explore with several interesting buildings and monuments of interest. With evidence showing a settlement here as far back as prehistoric times and various dolmen and burial mounds in the vicinity it certainly deserves a visit when in the area. 

The most important historic monument is the 16th-century clock tower, a substantial stone tower that stands above one of the original arched gateways into the centre of Gramat.
Gramat

Couzou is on the route for the next stage of the Tour de France. It’s a small village with no amenities and we planned to park here to watch the Tour however the locals aren’t politically friendly so we move on. 

Couzou before we moved on


John spots this whilst out cycling

Over the last week, we have moved on every day and with the temperature rising again we decide to find somewhere to park up for a few days. Just outside the village of Gramat, there’s a steady stream of motorhomes all ready parking up for Saturday’s time trial so we find a spot and join them. Parked by the side of the road during the day there’s a constant flow of traffic but come night time like all of these places it goes quiet. 

Chatting with out neigh Peter, Lorna, Sian and Phil

We are up early to put our flags out ready for today’s penultimate and possibly the most decisive stage of the Tour. The individual time trial starts in Lacapelle-Marival and ends in Rocamadour seeing the riders hurtle past us on the 40.7 kilometres long route. 

Flags out ready


The Tour brings out spectators from all walks of life and non more so than the two couples that set up opposite us. From falling off their chairs to chain-smoking, and one of them as the ability to clap, cheer and talk with a cigarette in her mouth they certainly entertained us for the afternoon 

The finishing place is magnificently set in a gorge high above the Alzou river and it’s hard to beat the setting of Rocamadour village. Built on three successive levels, Rocamadour is both a place of legend and history where old stone houses, majestic towers and with a castle that cascades off the cliff you can see why it’s classed as one of Frances most beautiful villages, a perfect spot for the Grand Final of Le Tour.

Not only is the village of Rochamdour one of France’s most important tourist destinations and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but it has also been a crucial pilgrimage site on the ‘Way of Saint James’ for hundreds of years.


Coordinates for Aires used in France 

Polignac

N 45° 4′ 10

E 3° 51′ 22

Ferrières-Saint-Mary

N 45° 10′ 42

E 3° 2′ 58

Cayrols

N 44° 49′ 48

E 2° 13′ 58

Gramat

N 44° 46′ 48

E 1° 43′ 42

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