Enchanted lands and easy days
Meticulously restored medieval villages are scattered throughout France. Old streets with cobbled lanes, charming courtyards and beautifully restored houses, castles and cathedrals dating back to the early centuries never fail to amaze. And if I was to romanticise it (which I am) there’s always a sense of mystery and intrigue when we arrive at one.
Today however we stepped it up a notch, cycling through not just one, but three fairytale ‘Plus Beaux Villages’ (there are 156 of these in France and they are basically the nicest of the nicest). We drank coffees overlooking squares and beers in front of churches (is that bad?) as we took it easy today and just spent a morning hopping from St-Côme d’Olt to St-Geniez d’Olt via Ste-Eulalie-d’Olt (turns out that d’Olt means “by the Lot river” in old French.
The intervening landscape added to the day’s fairytale theme with the Lot river to one side of us, dancing in the sun’s early light, and a looming forest to the other, providing some welcome shade even in the early hours.
We even stumbled upon a neglected chapel with a romantic. Legend has it that the Chapelle del Dol is haunted by two young star-cross’d lovers. The Lord of Estaing’s daughter fell in love with her neighbour from over the river, but was forbidden from seeing him as her father wanted her to wed elsewhere. When the father found out they still sneakily got together at night, he had the bridge over the river sabotaged so that the young man died trying to cross it the next night. The daughter then died of grief and the chapel was built to commemorate where the bodies washed up - their cries still heard at night by the river’s fishermen.
It’s got to be said, it’s an original excuse for why such a cute little chapel exists in such an obscure location. But it’s probably bollocks.