We live in Grézels, a small village at the bottom of a meander of the river Lot. The village has about 250 inhabitants and is seven kilometres from both Prayssac and Puy L’Evêque which each have something over 2,200 inhabitants. Here is a link to our village on the map. The village no longer has shops so one has to visit Prayssac or Puy-l’Évêque for shopping. For those wanting a larger selection the small city of Cahors is about 35 minutes drive away.
Grézels lies where St Matre stream joins the larger river Lot and has a history related to river trade which dwindled after the advent of the railways. Some of the houses date back to the 15th century with some having even older parts. The small Church of Saint-Hilaire has a beautiful organ which was restored by Alain Leclère in 1983, and is listed as a historic monument.
The history of Grézels and its development is linked to to our local castle, Chateau de la Coste. This was originally part of a network of towers monitoring the western entrance to the episcopal lands from Puy-l’Évêque to Cahors. Built in the 14th and 15th centuries it was given to the Guiscard family, who were descendants of a Norman family of adventurers – the Hauteville family – for services rendered during the Crusade against the Albigensians. The tower was damaged during the Hundred Years’ War after which it was restored in the 14th century but, since the Guiscards were Catholics, the Protestants of Henry of Navarre (later Henry IV) looted it. It was completely transformed in the 17th century. The military tower was added to and it now has both square and round towers with walls bounding a large internal courtyard. Today it is privately owned. During the summer season there are guided tours with local expert Jean Delmon, you need to check the timetable but it is usually Wednesday and Sunday afternoons.
Administratively Grézels, the village, is in the commune of Grézels which is part of the canton of Puy L’Evêque, this in turn is part of the department the Lot. Departments may be thought of as equivalent to English counties. Until the beginning of 2016 the Lot department resided in the Midi-Pyrénées, which is still often referred to and may be found in many address finders on the internet; this was one of the regions created in the late 20th century with the capital of Toulouse, it had 11 departments and was entirely land-locked being sandwiched in the middle of the very south of France between Acquitaine and Languedoc-Roussillon. Nowadays the Lot is part of the largest region in France known as Occitanie which encompasses the area of the Midi-Pyrénées, plus Languedoc-Roussillon and it is therefore bordered by the Mediterranean on it’s eastern side. This new region refers back to a historic connection with the area known as Occitania where the language of Occitan was spoken, it also incorporates the French Catalan area on the Franco-Spanish border. The capital has continued to be Toulouse and region has the incorporated the powerful image of the Occitan cross into its coat of arms which can be seen all over the region on signs and tourist attractions.
Puy-l’Évêque is a small medieval town dating from the 12th century, it is about seven kilometres from Grézels. If you park in the car park at the top in front of the Marie there are lovely views over the Lot valley. From the car park it is easy to stroll into the medieval part of the town and to visit the hanging gardens and the river, where you can hire a canoe or go on a river cruise.
In 1228 during the Albigensian Crusade the Bishop of Cahors, William of Cardaillac, took possession of the town and gave it the present name of Puy l’Evêque, ‘Bishop’s hill-top’. The 13th-century tower, the last remnant of the bishop’s residence, rises above the tile roofs of the village, entirely built of the local honey-coloured stone. The parish church, with 13th-century origins, is dedicated to Saint-Sauveur. During the French Revolution the town took the name of Puy Libre “Free Puy” after demolishing the Bishop’s Palace.
The town has enough basic shops for everyday needs, including a small supermarket; if you want more choice then Prayssac offers more variety. There is a choice of restaurants, bakeries and cafés. Numerous events occur throughout the year such as wine festivals, concerts and fetes where excellent local food, wines and hospitality can be enjoyed. This is the real France.
There is a bus connection from Cahors to Puy-l’Évêque so if you wanted to ditch the car, you could, but the bus service is infrequent so check the schedules carefully.
Prayssac is ideally located in the heart of the tourist Quercy region, on the banks of the Lot river. A small town of some 2,500 inhabitants, it is located in the heart of the Lot valley halfway between Cahors and Fumel. It has a vibrant market on Friday mornings, it has good shopping facilities and a cinema, the central church is well worth a visit.
There is an active community here catering for all ages and tastes with music, festivals, vide-greniers and brocantes (car boot and antiques). There are a number of restaurants and it is surrounded by vineyards of the Cahors AOC wine.
About the Lot River
The Lot is a large river which runs for over 480 kilometres in the south of France. It’s original name in Occitan was the Òlt and you will see many references to this name in the local wines and produce. It rises in the Cévennes mountains and flows westwards into the Garonne near Aiguillon. Historically the river has been the centre of trade and manufacturing since before the Middle Ages, traditional gabarres were flat-bottomed barges that plied their trade the length of the navigable river. There have been several periods where navigability has been improved and this continues today – improvements to promotes leisure use have been made over the last forty years and now there are over 75 weirs and locks as well as canal connections and by-passes.
It is possible to hire canoes and there are many river cruises available. Many people also enjoy ‘wild’ swimming.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][/vc_column][/vc_row]