17: Cahors to Lascabannes

A first day in Quercy Blanc

 

DIDIER HEUMANN, MILENA DELLA PIAZZA, ANDREAS PAPASAVVAS

 

 

We divided the course into several sections to make it easier to see. For each section, the maps show the course, the slopes found on the course, and the state of the roads. The courses were drawn on the “Wikilocs” platform. Today, it is no longer necessary to walk around with detailed maps in your pocket or bag. If you have a mobile phone or tablet, you can easily follow routes live.

For this stage, here is the link:

https://fr.wikiloc.com/itineraires-randonnee/de-cahors-a-lascabannes-par-le-nouvau-gr65-53871606

It is obviously not the case for all pilgrims to be comfortable with reading GPS and routes on a laptop, and there are still many places in France without an Internet connection. Therefore, you will find soon a book on Amazon that deals with this course.

If you only want to consult lodging of the stage, go directly to the bottom of the page.

White Quercy (Quercy Blanc) is a kind of low-altitude plateau, hollowed out of small dales where small rivers flow, hardly wider than large streams, on the border of Lot and Tarn et Garonne Rivers. Leaving from Cahors, it is above all still a country of causse, where the undergrowth abounds, with only embryos of cultures. Further on, you will be done with the causses and you will gradually enter a country of agricultural crops. Beyond Cahors, the Santiago track will gradually leave behind the foothills of the Causse du Quercy for Quercy Blanc. White Quercy is located on the dividing line between the watersheds of the Lot and the Garonne. It extends between the departments of Lot and Tarn-et-Garonne.

In contact with the causses, White Quercy can be recognized above all by the whiteness of the ground and the walls of its houses. The ground is predominantly limestone, in color almost white, hence its name. The landscapes of White Quercy are structured by the superposition of various layers of limestone and marl, white as chalk, on a plateau interspersed with spurs and large dales, where the alluvial soil is rich. But sometimes geology has also shaped red clays rich in iron.

Today you are still walking in the Lot department. The route heads south. Attention here! This is a stage where there are not many accommodations. Reserve in advance. Also, be careful here, the GR has been modified recently. In recent years, beyond La Rosière, the route continued straight on to Les Mathieux, where you could stay. Today, the track is no longer there. At La Rosière, it follows another route, and as a result, the entire climb to Labaside-Marnhac has been turned upside down. It has now become almost a strange tick to modify GR path. Why is that?

A large network of small parallel streams, with many ramifications, irrigates the whole of White Quercy. The physical aspect of the country is reminiscent of the Causses plateaus, lower in the south of France, but the landscapes are more open and the buildings more present. Today, natural spaces are still mainly in the form of hay meadows, large undergrowth covered with pubescent oaks that crown the plateaus. The feeling is that you haven’t really left the causses yet, and that breeding still surpasses farming, at least in the first part of the trip. You will find tomorrow that as you descend downstream the proportions reverse between the agricultural hillsides and the wooded hills. Some pilgrims who dislike monotonous lengths will say that, beyond Labastide-Mahhac, this is not, let’s put it that way, an exceptional stage.

Difficulty of the course: Today, slope variations are very reasonable (+493 meters /-439 meters). Of course, the route begins with a demanding climb above Cahors to the Croix de Magne. Then, the slope calms down, on a succession of ups and downs that you’ll cross without problem, with however a climb, sometimes tough on the causse towards Labastide-Marnhac. Then, it’s easy for the rest of the step.

 

This is a stage where dirt and pebble roads gain the upper hand over the paved road, which is also worth noting:

  • Paved roads: 6.7 km
  • Dirt roads: 16.7 km

Sometimes, for reasons of logistics or housing possibilities, these stages mix routes operated on different days, having passed several times on Via Podiensis. From then on, the skies, the rain, or the seasons can vary. But, generally this is not the case, and in fact this does not change the description of the course.

It is very difficult to specify with certainty the incline of the slopes, whatever the system you use.

For “real slopes”, reread the mileage manual on the home page.

Section 1: A severe climb above Cahors to the Croix de Magne.

 

 

General overview of the difficulties of the route: a severe climb to the Croix de Magne after having crossed the Lot on the Pont Valentré.

 

If you spent the night in the center of Cahors, where the accommodation is located, you must reach the Valentré Bridge over the river.
“There are two things in a building: its use and its beauty. Its use belongs to the owner, its beauty to everyone ”(Victor Hugo, 1825). Some even go so far as to claim that bridges were built to allow pilgrims to cross waterways.

Today, the Lot River flows peacefully and majestically. At the end of the Valentré Bridge, GR path will climb in twenty minutes to the top of one of the steep hills that surround the city.

You will never get tired of this wonder…

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For an appetizer, it’s pretty tough, first on big concrete stairs, sealed in the middle of the boulders, then hewn into the rock.

On the stairs, the slope is constant, of course steep…

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On your way up, you’ll gradually see the majestic Valentré Bridge disappear, which illustrates the power that the city must have possessed in the Middle Ages, with its seven arches, its three pointed towers, its crenellated parapets.

 

At the top of the stairs, the slope softens over the shales. Oaks grow here, but also chestnut, ash and pine trees.
Higher up, the pathway becomes stonier, slightly along the ledge where you can see the Lot River below. Here, sometimes also green oaks grow, which is quite rare on the French Way of St.James.
Here, you’ll discover one of the many bridges which pass halfway up to avoid Cahors, which is in a loop of Lot River. At the top of the ridge, the landscape opens up to a larger moorland in less abundant vegetation. Here the ground is almost sand.
GR path then arrives at the top of the ridge, 150 meters from the Magne Cross.
The passage to the Magne Cross is worth the detour, something pilgrims do not always do, haunted by the idea of not respecting their walking schedule. The view over Cahors, surrounded in the blue loop of Lot River, is magnificent. Valentré Bridge is nothing more than a dwarf thrown over the river, the domes of the cathedral, small bowls over the roofs of the city.
Unfortunately, on Santiago track, the beautiful often quickly gives way to the mundane. A small asphalt road descends past small villas, often without much character, twisting from Magne Cross to a crossroads.
Further afield, you’ll cross a series of small roads in the countryside …
… before sloping down resolutely, still on the paved road, on the other side of the ridge, along D820 departmental road. When you arrive in Cahors by road, you quickly understand that Cahors is at the bottom of a valley and that you have to go down there.
The road then descends for a long time. A strip of land and grass allows walking on the small road that is not very busy, which is not the case on the large departmental road.
At the bottom of the descent, GR path crosses the departmental road in a tunnel.
Beyond the tunnel, a paved road climbs towards La Rosière at a localiy known as Sous Arbouis.

Section 2: In the countryside and oak undergrowth.

 

 

General overview of the difficulties of the route: without difficulty, except for a few slopes on La Rosière side.

 

For a good kilometer, the landscape hardly changes. The road slopes up very gently along the meadows, in the middle of common and green oak groves. You only see meadows, no cultivated fields.
The road climbs until you find a house by the side of the road.
The Camino de Santiago sometimes takes pity on the soles of the feet of its followers. So, instead of following the paved road, it offers a short walk on the side of the hill, towards La Rosière. But it’s not that generous! The slope is sometimes tough on the wide stony pathway.
You can scan the hedges to find a tree here that is not an oak. Apart from the bushes, rare Montpellier maples and hornbeam bushes, it is almost futile as an exercise. As you walk through central France, you can easily see that the oak tree has taken over and is unwilling to leave its throne to other species. Only chestnut trees, maples, ash trees, and beeches, sometimes compete.
At the top of the climb, a paved road flattens to La Rosière village.

You are here in front of a modification of GR path. Formerly, GR path left the village, straight for Les Mathieux. Only the mention of the gîte on the old GR remains. Now the GR65 turns here at a right angle. Actually, it was the GR of yesteryear, which has found back its original vocation.

 

The road slopes up in recent housing estates at the top of the village. And always these beautiful crosses in the crossroads, all different, but all similar with the wishes posted by the pilgrims on the way.
Beyond a short stop, probably temporary and improvised, the road climbs up to the last subdivisions before the undergrowth.
At the end of the road, a very stony lane plunges very steeply into the bushes and hardwoods.
On the same tough slope, it comes out of the woods and crosses the meadows.
The pathway slopes down and the more you descend the less steep the slope becomes. All around, beyond the meadows, there are only thick deciduous forests. At the bottom of the descent, the path joins a road that comes from La Rosière.
Further down, the small road joins the large departmental road D653, which runs from Cahors to Montcuq.
GR path then runs along the departmental road for a short time. Here, the Bartassec stream, which flows in the valley, was swallowed up by the road.

 

Section 3: Uphill towards the Labastide-Marnhac plateau.

 

 

General overview of the difficulties of the route: you still take nearly 170 meters of vertical drop over 3 kilometers, often with steep slopes.

 

Crossing the departmental road is no problem, as the traffic is not frenetic on the axis. A lane then runs over the small plain.
Further afield, GR path enters the road which leads to Labastide-Marnhac. But be careful here, it immediately leaves the road to climb into the causse, on your right. Pay attention here, as the path is not sharply marked here. If you go straight, you will only have the choice to follow the paved for a long time, which is not your intention, right?
Quickly, the causse is back with its rough vegetation. The slope is steep and the pebbles roll under the foot.
In this wild and mercilessly beautiful nature, holm oaks and common oaks have melted. Soon there are only small downy oaks, the only ones that grow on this barren soil. There are also, but more rarely, chestnut trees and Montpellier maples.
Above, only beautiful ruins of a past activity remain, but which still bear the imprint of a page in the history of the region. What the hell could they keep here in this hostile nature?
Thank you to the organizers for passing the GR through this part of the causse which is more beautiful, wilder than where the track has passed in recent years. Seeing the color that the limestone takes on here, you understand why you are traveling in White Quercy.
A little higher, the causse opens and the pathway will even slope down a little. Very toughly, to make you believe that you have reached the top of the hill. But, this is just an illusion.
Because immediately the pathway climbs again. In front of you, at the same height, stands out Labastide-Marnhac behind the oaks.
You think you got there. Absolutely not, because the pathway will slope down again into a dale.
So, a last effort, far from people, in these landscapes where silence and harmony reign, in this indomitable and eternal nature which makes fun of passing hikers that you are.
The pathway then leaves this extraordinary causse and a paved road heads to the Granges, the recent housing estates at the top of the village.
Further afield, it reaches the road that climbs up the valley, near a picnic spot.
Throughout this region, the villages are not big villages, and they are often quite far apart. Here, stone and lime with their bright colors, white or grayish, sign the identity of the villages. In the village you can find food and accommodation.

GR path leaves Labastide-Marnhac, where you can even see vines. On these flat lands, the grands crus should not be legion. Here, the iron crosses, where pilgrims continue to pour out their wishes in the form of small stones, gradually replace the stone crosses that can be seen on the Camino de Santiago before Cahors.

 

Leaving Labastide-Marnhac, GR path passes through a roundabout from which D7 departmental road leaves.

 

Section 4: Almost flat on the causse.

 

 

General overview of the difficulties of the route : course without any difficulty.

 

GR path does not stay on D7 departmental road. It sets off again on a wide dirt road that runs between the countryside and the undergrowth.
But, here it is, here it is no longer the majesty of the causse of earlier. The pathway flattens in the middle of clumps of oaks that you will give up counting, and fields of grain. Soon there is only barley, oats and triticale left here. Noble wheat does not grow on this ungrateful land.
The landscape becomes quite monotonous so to speak, and the pilgrim often starts daydreaming along the way, hoping for a surprise that might emerge from this uniformity of green. Will he then pay attention, along the way, to a deviation that allows to reach Lhospitalet, where you also find accommodation? It should be noted that accommodation is so scarce on the stage. In front of you stands a gentle hill.
The wide dirt road runs mainly through the countryside, where meadows dominate the fields. You bathe in the melancholy of the hay meadows, with the nakedness of the croups, where only a few oaks with trembling foliage remain and sometimes the Montpellier maples which dare to point their noses.
The wide dirt road descends very slightly towards Aygues Mortes brook, which can hardly be seen in dry weather. In this arid land, there is hardly a place to soak your feet.
Then the pathway hesitates between the groves and the clearings, grazes a tumulus perhaps erected by pilgrims, glides under the refreshing shade of the large oaks. A beautiful house, nestled under the trees, perhaps closed for eternity, still exudes an old-fashioned charm.
Further afield, the pilgrim, after a long period of dull walk, finds again the majesty of the plateau and the trees.
Shortly after, the pathway approaches Trigodina. Here you are 8 kilometers to Lascabannes.
At the place called Trigodina, in a beautiful and pleasant white stone farmhouse, accommodation and a small bar are available.
Beyond Labastide Marnhac, the causse is not the most beautiful in the region. So here, beyond Trigodina, you will have to get used to it, follow a flattening road along meadows and fields of cereals.
The straight dirt road goes on forever until you reach the Fabre farm. For some pilgrims, the hedges that line the road and some rare meadows, all this will seem interminable to them.

 

Section 5: Return to the nudity of the causse.

 

 

General overview of the difficulties of the route: course without any difficulty.

 

From here, departure for a causse without limits. There are no rocks or mountain chains to be seen there, but few objects capable of inspiring astonishment. The trees are lower, and the undergrowth overgrown with dense shrubs along the dirt road, warmer in the sun. Yet men must come here from time to time to cultivate a seemingly barren land.
It is still so flat, the landscapes pass, follow one another, identical to the previous ones. The dirt road often gets lost in endless straight lines. From this gloomy causse, so clear of all obstacles in its isolation on the plateau, the horizon stretches out, solitary, to the vault of the sky, at the very end of the limit of the gaze. On the way, there are only localities, but no house, no human presence.
Sometimes more stones on the path, sometimes a puddle left over from the old rains. Who’s the water for here? To irrigate the oaks, or the maples and the maple trees of Montpelier which also grow a little here.
We will not be able to blame the pilgrims who were fatally bored on this causse. It’s like the track that crosses the Spanish Meseta, where for hundreds of kilometers nothing happens except the accumulated kilometers. It’s all about your personal viewpoint, your ability to assimilate and find pleasure in hollow spaces. Here, too, the track seems to lead nowhere.
Very rarely, the pathway narrows in the oak trees before widening again. Where are the sheep, the cows that we met before on the first stages of the Santiago track, in Aubrac and elsewhere? What would they eat here? A little dry grass or junipers? There are no farms here. The keeper of the Trigodina lodge told us that there was only one farmer left over the causses and that he was collecting hay from the others.
Then suddenly, the physiognomy of the landscape changes. Not the trees, which are always the same. But, the ground becomes a little more uneven and the undergrowth more present. So, the organizers of the track created a small lane parallel to the dirt road, to give you the illusion of a drastic change.
So, you can play leapfrog between the forest lane and the dirt road, so white it looks like sand.
A little further, in this wild and unspoiled nature, here is a small sign of men. What the pilgrims will remember here, for the most part, is that they have 5 kilometers left to reach Lascabannes. Fewer will be those who will regret leaving the causse so soon!
And this little game of hide and seek along the steppe, from one undergrowth to another, from the dirt road to the small lane continues. Let’s go! To silence negative people, we will say that the causse is again magically wild here.
Further on, the causse opens onto the meadows. So, people here planted some kind of unlikely airport. You don’t have to queue here at the gate to catch your flight.
Here GR path has finished walking you from the small forest lane to the dirt road. Now, this is the dirt road again, wide and straight across the width of the causse.
Shortly after, a sign announces Lascabannes within 4 kilometers. We’re not gone get through this, right? some negative people will say.

 

Section 6: Almost at the end of the Causses du Quercy.

 

 

General overview of the difficulties of the route: course without any difficulty.

However, it is not a sign that changes a landscape that hardly moves. The wide dirt road flattens again, on long straight lines, through oak groves, where you can also see some pines. The ground is white, the pebbles also for the majority. You are in White Quercy.
A little further on, here is a vague sign of the presence of humans in the form of a cabin on the hill. But, everything remains stripped on the long dirt road that runs, long, monotonous, apparently endless and without surprises.
Then suddenly something quivers. A large park, a picnic area, even a dwelling house. Would you get closer to Lascabannes?
Absolutely not. The long dirt road continues its unchanging course, along the undergrowth or the meadows.
The ground is sand, chalk. What do you want to grow here, if not oak?
Soon you are close to your goal, right? Lascabannes is less than two kilometers away and Baffalie almost within gun range.
Then, the causse opens up a little on the meadows.
Further on, the topology of the place finally changes. The dirt road begins to descend towards the open plain below.
The pathway passes soon to Baffalie, with its solid stone houses, near humans, so to speak.
You are reaching your goal. GR path slopes down towards the plain, in the middle of meadows and a few rare crops.
At the bottom of the descent, the pathway winds through the meadows along a hedge where flows a stream.
Soon, the grassy path joins a small road that leads to Lascabannes.
You’ll come across a mansion nestled in a beautiful park by the side of the road. But, this is not where you will be spending the night.
The paved road runs along the walls of the beautiful house, then crosses the Verdanson, the small stream that flows in the dale.
Lascabannes is a beautiful, quiet village, with its charming and uniform white stone houses, with less than 200 inhabitants. It has been a stopover village for pilgrims to Santiago since the Middle Ages.
The church is above the village in a large park. The presbytery, annexed to the Church of Saint George, is now used as a gîte and a small grocery store. As the accommodation possibilities are not numerous, many pilgrims continue the track to Montcuq, 11 kilometers further on, or before, at Clos de Gamel, or even in Escayrac, off the path, at the nuns.

Lodging