Although we felt we travelled a long way from 30,000 odd years ago, when we saw St-Cirq-Lapopie perched on the cliff across the other side of the river, we felt we were still in some other age, long past. Even when we climbed to the top of the hill, (there is no room for cars or parking in the tiny lanes and streets so it is definitely a climb) and walked through the little town, the feeling of fairytale simply became stronger. St-Cirq Lapopie is deservedly one of Les Plus Beaux Villages de France.
The village of Saint-Cirq Lapopie is perched on a cliff 100 m (330 ft) above the river and is one of the major beauty spots of the Lot valley.
During the Middle Ages Saint-Cirq Lapopie was governed by the Lapopie dynasty, under the Viscount of Quercy. It still has buldings that date from this time. The watch towers and positioning of the town 100 metres above the river all being reminders of a less secure time in its history.
In those times tradesmen turned boxwood, worked with metal to make goblets and wine casks, and tanned hides, and merchants bought and sold. During the early part of the 20th century, painters came to live and work here. Henri Martin, a Post-Impressionist stayed for a time, and was followed by Surrealists and the French poet André Breton.
I wonder what it would really be like to live in a place like this? Does everyone know everyone because they are so close together? Are most of the residents recent arrivals, or do people live here whose families have lived here for generations? Certainly a number of artists and a notable writer have moved here. Is the appearance just a veneer now, and underneath are all the hastles and stress of 20th century living – the leaking roofs, lichen on the path that makes it slippery, having to travel to do the grocery shopping – to, dare we say, a supermarket? I didn’t want the illusion to fade just yet so I didn’t ask…
Down on the river below the town, locks and towpaths, weirs and watermills are still reminders of a time when the river was the main transport route. These days you’re more likely to see kayakers enjoying a scenic paddle.
What an amazing day! Very tired, we meandered off towards home. No wonder we got lost several times! The weather began lifting, and we realised we were running late for a wonderful Indonesian dinner back at the farm with Dinny and Ben’s badminton friends!
We eventually reached home, sun shining for the end of the day. We shared had a lovely meal and evening back in the ‘present’, with people from Indonesia, Nederlands, Canada, and the UK who had ended up in this very special part of the world. Our cherry tart from the morning market and the other goodies would just have to wait for tomorrow.
Heather, Tina and Sharon