We set off after breakfast today, bought some bread and fruit for our picnic and headed for the motorway towards Saint Pierre Toirac to look at a house, the old priory, that some friends are thinking of selling.
About 12.45 we arrived at Saint Pierre Toirac, a very very pretty village near the Lot.
We had been given a key, so we let ourselves in and explored the beautiful but cobweb-covered Priory. It did indeed have a stunning 14th century fireplace as our friends had said, and it was immediately obvious why an architect like Cedric would have fallen in love with the old building – we fell in love with it ourselves, you could feel the history around you and knew that you were touching beams and walls that had been touched and lived in for over 500 years.
I am one of those strange people who loves thinking that when you touch old things you are communicating in some way with the past because so many others have swept their hands over them before. Mmmm, too many novels…….
You could reach out from the first floor terrace outside the front door and almost touch the gorgeous 11th/13th century Romanesque church across the path. The church and the priory had both been under the Benedictine order at Cluny abbey, and despite the village now being much more sparsely inhabited, it must once have been an important place.
Oh, and for a practically deserted medieval village it has an amazing public loo tucked in to an ancient building just up from the church – spotless, complete with loo paper and functioning basin!
Back to the Priory – Cedric had had it rewired and replumbed so much of the essential work had been done, but it had no outside space except the terrace outside the front door and visiting it as we did in the height of summer we wondered how one would survive without a patch of grass and a tree to sit under.
It’s the kind of place you want to linger, along with the memories, and try to picture the monks superimposed on today’s scene. However, sadly we had to say goodbye to this beautiful piece of peace and find our next hotel in Capdenac Gare before our long journey tomorrow to Andorra.
On the way we stopped at yet another lovely picnic spot – I think I should create a list of these. This one was shady, peaceful and green with the river across some fields.
Samson the Skoda was purring silently as we munched our way through yet more of the tray of fantastic nectarines that we had bought in Les Billaux from a roadside stall for 6 euros.
We found the Hotel de la Diège eventually, surrounded by fields just outside Capdenac, but having had to tour all round the town on the way there we discovered that it has a railway story. The station was apparently enormous in the 19th century when there was a lot of coal and iron produced in the area, and was famous for its five railway lines by the river Lot. We drove up to Capdenac (as opposed to Capdenac Gare) and looked down from a cliff into the gorge on the Lot with a clear view of the five railway lines, although many of them are now overgrown.
It was easy to imagine the one hundred and thirty steam engines that used to be kept there though, and behind the station, facing the backs of some rather ordinary flats and on a piece of waste ground used by post office vans as overflow parking, there is still one steam engine kept on one piece of line under its own roof. It stands there upright and proud, ignoring all around it; it made me think of Ozymandias and his vast and trunkless legs of stone – “look on my works ye mighty and despair”.
Back at the hotel, the pool looked inviting but the water felt cold and we chose instead to sit in the warm sun beside a massive collection of cascading geraniums (gerania?) and read until supper.
We then ate well on the terrace beside the pool; everyone was served a first dish of vegetable soup, served in the old way with the tureen left on our table to serve ourselves as we wished, then we had a local dish called façou d’Aveyron, a kind of burger with cheese sauce, followed by the world’s most enormous ile flottante and the world’s most enormous slice of apple and pear slice…….
We also discovered another good wine, a dry white Gaillac from Chateau Clement Termes, and after all that we needed a brisk (well as brisk as you can manage after such Rabelaisian consumption….) stroll around the surrounding village before retiring to bed. But gosh, we really felt relaxed and truly on holiday. Aaaah, now we are ready for tomorrow.