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Learning to Walk, Days 18-20, September 14-16, Espagnac St. Eulalie to Marcilhac sur Cele, to St. Cirq Lapopie, to Cabrerets

September 16, 2022

It’s been three days since I had wifi. I don’t imagine I will really be able to catch up but I’ll do my best. I should probably start with today and work back. So it’s September 16, and I’m pretty sure it’s Friday. It is very hard to keep track of days at this point.

Last night I stayed in St. Cirq Lapopie which has the official (by some government office or another) designation of “most beautiful village in France.” As such it is chock full of tourists. It is indeed beautiful. I said either in an earlier post or on Facebook that so many of these villages I have walked through make me think of Belle’s village in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast—well, this one probably takes the cake in that regard. It was nice to get up this morning and walk around before the village wakes up and have the streets virtually to myself—apart from the street cleaner and delivery folks and other workers getting ready for the day.

Back to yesterday for a moment—I had a very hard time planning my route on this Cele Valley variant—even looking at a guide book I could not really figure it out. So I have ended up backtracking and doing things out of order. Two nights ago I stayed in Marcilhac-sur-Cele, and realized before I got there that I had planned a 30 km day between Marcilhac and St. Cirq Lapopie, with lots of ups and downs, and there was no way I could do that. So I called La Malle Postal, which is a godsend, and they said they could pick me up when they got the luggage for the day at 8 am, and drop me off in Cabrerets (where I am staying tonight), and then I could walk the remaining 10-11 km to St. Cirq. Unfortunately, in the van I realized I had left my hiking poles behind. The driver told me she would pick them up later that afternoon and drop them off at the gite where I am staying this evening. It doesn’t open for another hour, and I really hope they are there! (Note—she just dropped my bag off, and waved my poles at me!!) I made it okay the last two days without them, but I will be glad to have them back to help with balance on all those rocky descents.

Yesterday started with the usual steep, rocky climb up to Pech Merle. Pech Merle is one of the cave sites where Neolithic drawings were found. I booked a tour in English months ago, which is tomorrow morning, which is the reason I am back in Cabrerets for the night instead of moving on. I am very excited about seeing the caves and drawings. I heard someone say they are the only cave drawings in France the public can still visit, but I don’t know if that’s true. I’m not going to take time to look that up now!

After passing Pech Merle it was primarily a lovely walk along a dirt road and paths, sometimes in the open, and sometimes through lovely woods. There was another long descent, but it was not as steep a grade as usual. The really tough part was the section before you get to the village of Bouzies where you have to walk along the road. Honestly, that was the scariest, most dangerous part of this walk so far. There are vehicles of all sizes speeding by, even though the sign says “watch out for walkers!!” And no shoulder to walk on. Sometimes there is a tiny bit of space between you and traffic, but most of the time there is a cliff on one side and a low wall between you and the drop into the river on the other. I hugged the cliff for much of the time. Finally you get to turn off the road, cross the river (on a one-lane bridge!), and then stumble into the church just past the river to give thanks that you survived the road-walking.

There is an alternative, which is not part of the official route. And should be. It is also a short cut. It involves scrambling up a steep embankment and crossing the river on a retired Eiffel railroad bridge, then scrambling down the steep embankment on the other side. Even without poles, those scrambles were not nearly as risky as walking on that road was. The guide book I’m depending on said that because of the scrambling up and down this short cut might not be for everyone, so I took that to mean me. But everyone I talked to at dinner last night, and on the FB group for this route said, “take the bridge!! You can absolutely do it. It is a fun experience and so much safer.” So that’s what I did this morning since I had to backtrack to Cabrerets. (Today I did yesterday’s walk in reverse.) And even with my fear of heights, it was a cool experience. Here are a couple of photos:

A highlight of yesterday and today, apart from St. Cirq Lapopie, was walking along the Chemin de halage, a tow path along the river (the Lot), carved out of the cliff. Ever since I first saw the photos of this I have been looking forward to this portion of the walk. Here are photos from yesterday and today:

And here are more photos from yesterday’s walk.

So much more to add, but it’s time to check in to the gite. I’ll hope for the chance to get on wifi again this evening and finish this, or add a part two.

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