Main cities and villages along the way
- Figeac (point of decision for variant routes)
- Montcuq (ask a French person to tell you the joke about this city’s name)
The trail winds along the Lot River, through the Lot Valley, one of the oldest wine regions in France. It’s beautiful and lush but also distinctly more modern than some of the earlier regions. Figeac and Cahors are big cities that might prove delightful if you need to shop or annoying if you still want to pretend you’re walking through the Medieval France. You’ll find yourself following the trail along more roads, and the markers appear less frequently. By this point, you’ll probably have met many of the other pilgrims along the way, and walking with these new friends can shorten the painful stretches along hot roads.
A typical route
This region is distinct for it’s enticing variations. I highly recommend doing a little research before ploughing through the most standard route. Rocamadour, for example is a two-or-three day detour, but it’s one that a lot of pilgrims choose to make.
Rocamadour. This holy site is one of the most visited in France. It’s overrun with tourists and lined with leather-handbag sellers and overpriced ice cream, yet I still recommend the trip. The city is built in three tiers on a cliff. The lowest tier belongs to the shops, restaurants and hotels. The topmost is a castle with accessible ramparts overlooking the whole valley. There’s a monastery offering cheap lodging behind it. The second tier, built into the cliff, supports a massive church with multiple chapels that hold mass in various languages throughout the day. Two nuns live on this level and also host pilgrims.
The stained glass window in the Chapelle de Saint-Jean is one of my favorites of the whole trip. The black statue of the Virgin Mary, though, is the draw for most visitors. Those praying at Rocamadour are said to receive miracles and revelations. I can say for my own experience that this was true.