|Visitors enter the courtyard of Cénevières, a
medieval -to- Renaissance castle located across the river Lot from Latitude
Visiteurs devant la porte fortifiée du château de Cénevières situé de l'autre côté du Lot.
The Latitude Cultural Center is located in the department of the Lot, part of the historic province of Quercy. Aside from its rich history & dramatic landscapes, the Quercy is world-renowned for its gastronomy; its specialties include foie gras, breast of duck, lamb, small goat cheeses called "cabecous" or "Rocamadours," truffles, rhubarb jam, Quercy melons, Cahors red wine, "pastis" apple dessert, & walnut oil.
Latitude sits in a section of the Lot Valley that guidebook writer Karen Brown calls "the most stunning 51 kilometer stretch in France." She continues," The Lot Valley rivals the Dordogne and yet remains relatively undiscovered and less travelled.. Vistas are dramatic at every turn. . ."
The Lot, according to authors of guidebooks to France, is "a region to tour in," "fascinating," "well worth a month of anyone's time," and "a region to be roamed at a lazy pace in order to fully appreciate its character and charms."
In his Atlantic Monthly article about the Lot, "The Province of the Past" (January, 2001), Peter Davison writes that "In the Lot one can make imaginative journeys into the past on foot." He adds,"It's curious that the Lot today should look so harmonious and peaceful when it has suffered so many years of strife and intolerance [e.g., the 100 Years' War; the Religious Wars of the 16th century]. Perhaps it has exported everyone with a genetic tendency to be disagreeable . . . "[italics added] Comparing the Lot and Paris, Davison notes that " The Lot has so little in common with the more fevered society far to its north that after a fortnight I felt a severer culture shock on arrival in Paris than I had after my flight across the Atlantic."
Aside from being home to various "contrarian French
institutions"(e.g., surrealism, the Maquis), as Davison calls them, the
Lot is one of Europe's most beautiful -- & least-travelled--
river valleys. The green Michelin guide rates the Lot as a 2-star
valley (1="interesting"; 2 ="worth a detour", 3 ="worth the trip").
Very few (e.g., the Loire, the Dordogne) valleys rate 3 stars, and they
are seriously overcrowded,unlike the largely undiscovered Lot. In
addition, the Lot is home to 2 places that are "worth the trip,"
according to the Michelin: the caves of Pech-Merle and the
pilgrimage site, Rocamadour.
gauge train crossing
La Toulzanie-Cénevières bridge
Framed by limestone cliffs and a fairytale castle, Latitude sits at the edge of the river Lot, about 625 km southeast of Paris & 45 km east of Cahors, the departmental capital (pop.: about 20,000). Its home is La Toulzanie, an ancient hamlet with neolithic artifacts, a column from the Roman temple of Divona, & some dwellings dating from the Visigoth era & the Hundred Years War. Latitude's headquarters is a 14th century moulin (with turret and stone hearth) that once milled flour for the chateau of Cénevières across the river (see photo of mill and castle on right).
headquarters, the 14th century
moulin of La Toulzanie
(photo by Georges Couderc)
|Negative hand & animals, Pech-Merle cave painting)|
Encadrée de falaises calcaires et d'un château de conte de fée, Latitude est situé au bord de la rivière Lot à environ 625 km au sud de Paris et 45 km à l'est de Cahors, chef-lieu du département. Sa demeure est sur le lieu-dit de La Toulzanie, ancien hameau dont il reste une colonne d'un temple romain et quelques vestiges de constructions visigothes ou datant de la Guerre de Cent Ans. Bien qu'elle soit petite, les guides touristiques n'oublient pas de mentionner La Toulzanie comme "belle et intéressante" grâce à ces maisons semi-troglodytiques et à son cadre grandiose.
Past & future surround Latitude. Minutes away are internationally-recognized treasures: prehistoric cave paintings at Pech-Merle (see photo on left); St. Cirq Lapopie, one of France's most beautiful medieval villages, & the Renaissance chateau of Cénevières (see photo). Shepherds' dry stone huts ("cazelles" or "gariottes"), dolmen & castle ruins dot the countryside. Cahors (pop. about 20,000), famed for its vineyards and Pont Valentré (Europe's oldest fortified bridge), lies about 45 minutes away by bus or car; sections of the medieval city have been beautifully-restored. Two of France's most celebrated sites, the Padirac caverns & medieval Rocamadour, as well as Cordes, France's first fortified "New Town" (b. 1222), & the aerospace industries of Toulouse lie within a 100 km radius.
La grotte préhistorique de Pech-Merle et ses
peintures, St. Cirq Lapopie, un des plus beaux villages
médiévaux de France, et le château de Cénevières
sont à deux pas. Cahors, ses
célèbres vignobles et son Pont Valentré (le plus
vieux pont fortifié d'Europe) sont situés à 40
minutes en voiture ou en autocar. Deux des plus célèbres
sites de France, le gouffre de Padirac et Rocamadour,
ainsi que Cordes (la plus ancienne bastide de France,
fondée en 1222 et centre majeur pour les pèlerins de St.
Jacques de Compostelle) et Toulouse, gros centre d'aérospace, se
trouvent à un rayon de moins de 80 km.
De Paris: Le voyage de la Gare d'Austerlitz à Cahors dure à peu près 5 heures et demie. De Cahors: Un autocar au départ de la gare vous laisse à La Toulzanie en moins de 40 minutes. A proximité de la gare SNCF de Cahors il y a Avis, l' agence de location de voitures. Nous vous recommandons fortement d'adopter cette solution pour le séjour. De l'aeroport de Toulouse: Latitude est environ à 1.5 heures de voiture. De l'aéroport de Carcassonne:Latitude est environ à 3 heures de voiture.
It is highly recommended that you rent a car (or bike, if you're really "sportif") during your stay in the Lot. Bus transport is available from Cahors to Latitude & onward to Cajarc & Figeac, but the last bus runs about 7:15 p.m., before restaurants serve dinner. Lotois do not ride bikes after dark. There is only one taxi in these parts, andt it is prohibitively expensive (90 euros from the Cahors train station to Latitude --return [return is charged] in 2011, at night rates.) Walking or bicycling are not recommended after dark; there are no street lights outside of the villages.
Nous vous recommandons fortement la location d'une voiture pour le séjour. Il y a des autocars pour aller de Cahors à Latitude et des villes plus éloignées (comme Cajarc, Figeac), mais ils s'arrêtent de circuler en début de soirée-- bien avant l'heure du dîner. On peut marcher ou faire du V.T.T., mais pas après le coucher du soleil.
From Cahors, by car to Latitude: Go to Boulevard Gambetta, Cahors's main drag, going South. Just before the Louis Philippe bridge, there's a roundabout with a modern shiny stone fountain; go 3/4 way around the roundabout & continue along the river thru Cahors, passing Henri IV's 16th century residence on your left. You are on D653 . It will pass thru Laroque des Arcs & Lamagdeleine. At Vers, take a right turn onto D662 ( signposted "Vallées du Lot et du Célé") at the roundabout. Continue thru St. Géry & Bouziès Bas. Continue, passing the cut-off at Conduché for Cabrerets and Pech-Merle--do not take it. Stay on D662.Go thru the short tunnel (lights on). In a few minutes, look up to your right: on the other side of the river Lot, you'll see the medieval church in St. Cirq Lapopie rising from the escarpment.Do NOT cross the river. Continue on the D662 thru Tour de Faure ( (good bakery there) & then thru St. Martin Labouval. Slow down to 30 km in the middle of St. Martin Labouval : there are 2 "sleeping policemen" (speed bumps). St. Martin Labouval is just a minute or two away from Latitude; continue on the D662 & La Toulzanie will be signposted. On the river side, several hundred meters from the LA TOULZANIE sign, lies Latitude's mill. Three doors down from the mill is Latitude's salmon-colored house & tobacco hangar. There are blue gates and a road sign identifying Latitude. Register at the tobacco hangar, not the mill.
Notes: It is really an easy (& beautiful) drive to La
Toulzanie from Cahors. There are only several points where you can get
lost. But, heads up especially at Vers. And, a word to non-French
drivers: The French attitude toward food (slow and relaxed) does NOT
extend to their behavior behind the wheel.
Travel hints/ Tuyaux pour les voyageursHere are some frequently asked questions -- & answers based on our experience:
Q .Should I travel by plane, train, automobile, bus, bike, houseboat, foot, or a combination of the above?
A. That depends on your personality & pocketbook
Keep the following in mind.: Bicycling around La
Toulzanie is good because the path along the river is flat. If you want
to bike, consider bringing your own helmet.. About
6 buses pass by Latitude daily--but they stop
running about 7 p.m. Hiking is excellent in the Lot,
&, in June and July, it does stay light until about 9:30 p.m.
There are only one or two taxis nearby, and they tend to be
expensive, especially at night. Riding horses are
available at several nearby locations. All kinds of boats
--from canoes & kayaks to houseboats-- are available for
rental on the Lot. In nearby Bouziès, there is a boat with
hour-long tours by river.
Q. Where can I get more information about the Lot &
the Midi-Pyrénées (the Lot's administrative region)?
A. Here are a few resources. First, print. The green Michelin guide, in English or French, on the Dordogne,Quercy & Périgord (depending on the edition); poet W.S. Merwin's stories about the upland (or "causse"), The Lost Upland; a variety of guidebooks, such as Arthur & Barbara Eperson's Dordogne & Lot; & "Happy Valley," a warmhearted article about the Lot in Condé Nast Traveler magazine, February, 1999. Second, Websites, including
for events in the Lot & the region -- http://www.quercy-tourisme.com /
Check the keywords Quercy, Lot Valley, Rocamadour, St. Cirq Lapopie, & Cahors. For restaurants, check the red Michelin guide & the Gault-Millau. However, note that some small & very good restaurants are not rated in any of the big guides. Latitude's staff can offer suggestions about a range of restaurants.
Q. Should I buy Travellers' Cheques?
A. No. Use your credit card (Visa or Mastercard) for shopping at the supermarkets & many other purchase points (you get a better exchange rate) or your ATM card (Crédit Agricole, among other banks, have "distributeurs de billets" ("billeteries") in Cajarc, Limogne-en-Quercy, & Cahors; banks all over France take them).
Q. Can I use any ATM card in
A. Non! Be sure to ask your bank if your PIN will work in France. FOUR NUMBERS may be necessary!
Q. Aside from a notebook, casual clothes & a
bathing suit, what should I take with me for the trip?
A. Half the clothes & twice the money.
Q. What should I NOT expect to find in the Lot?
A. Bellhops, Brazilian or Burmese food, good Chinese cuisine, slow drivers (except farmers on tractors), English bookstores, stores open during the noon-2 lunch hour (except supermarkets such as Leclerc and Carrefour), reasonably-priced, fast photo print shops, women attired in short shorts, restaurants serving dinner before 7:30 p.m. (However, there is now a shop selling Brazilian coffee in Cahors and a major African music festival (Africajarc) in mid-July).