Chief city of the Lot, Cahors lies in a meander of the river as it has for about 2000 years since the Romans founded it. That era was prosperous, although relatively few vestiges are visible (the underground car park contains a 55 m section of wall from the amphitheater). The medieval city, which timidly reformed after the upheaval of the Roman Empire’s fall, was much smaller, confined to the eastern side of the meander by ramparts, and centered on the cathedral with its two domes. From the mid-12th to the mid-14th C., a period of economic and demographic expansion resulted in the complete reconstruction of the city, within its walls: from this time, about 350 houses still remain visible, one of the reasons why Cahors has “Ville d’Art et d’Histoire” status.

The land outside the walls of Cahors was partly occupied by gardens supplying food to the inhabitants, but also by large monasteries and convents. This proved vital for essential 19th and 20th C. renovations and improvements, because these sites were re-appropriated to provide the space needed for large, modern constructions – thus sparing the old quarters from wholesale demolition. The Boulevard Gambetta, main street created in the 19th C., marks the dividing line between the old and the new. The city of Cahors is friendly and welcoming: wander around the narrow old streets – medieval houses, Baroque doorways, small fragments of sculpture and the Secret Gardens, based on a medieval theme, lie just waiting to be spotted. Then why not relax on a café terrace, watching the world go by.

Pont Valentré, Cahors

This magnificent 14th century fortified bridge was the third built for the city of Cahors (the others have disappeared), but it is on the opposite side of the meander from the medieval town. There were many reasons for this, including military ones: it became a key element of the defensive system protecting the town’s western flank. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage site, in context of the Santiago Pilgrim Ways, as many traversed it on their way to Spain.

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