Les Placelles - holiday gite apartment in SW France (Lot)
The Lot, in the Midi-Pyrenees region of SW France, borders the Dordogne and is an area of absolutely outstanding natural beauty. As well as miles of undulating forested hills, honey-coloured mediaeval bastide villages, majestic rivers and dramatic cliffs, it also has some of the oldest remaining traces of prehistoric civilisation and shares an interesting and very chequered history with Britain through the years (think Richard the Lionheart, for example!).
Les Placelles is named after its location just outside the village of St Projet and situated between the Causses du Quercy National Park and the Haute Bouriane. Midway between the valleys of the Lot and Dordogne rivers, it is a perfect base for exploring both the Perigord and the Lot.
Originally a traditional "fermette", the house bears the date 1863 over the entrance and is constructed from the local limestone with a clay tile roof. Water for the house and farm would have come from the "lavoir" which is still visible several metres further down the valley. Over the years what was once the shippen, or cow barn, was incorporated into the living accommodation and the traditional hayloft which was overhead is now the rental apartment.
At one time vines were grown on the slopes which now form the meadow and in places you can still see the remains of the stone terraces.
St Projet is a 5 minute walk away on the other side of the valley, hidden from view by the tall oaks of "La Garenne" where the annual Fete du Pain takes place. It's a pleasant shady spot to stroll or picnic.
Follow the valley for 3 km and you will find Le Vigan and its range of shops and amenities. With a fishing lake and tennis courts, the village, dominated by its abbey church with origins dating back to the 11th century, also has a bar and a choice of restaurants.
The famous pilgrims' trail, the Chemin de St Jacques de Compostelle (now a World Heritage Site) passes close by and the area is criss-crossed with trails and hidden paths for walkers, cyclists or horse-riders.
The ancient bastide town of Gourdon is 8 km away and offers a comprehensive range of shops, supermarkets, restaurants and leisure facilities, plus a twice-weekly market. Famous for its annual mediaeval fete, it is a town well worth exploring and has a fascinating old centre of mellow stone buildings and twisting alleys which entice you up to the remains of the castle ramparts and amazing panoramic views over the surrounding countryside.
Within easy reach you have a limitless choice of beautiful places to explore and activities for all ages. For the energetic there's cave-diving, kayaking, cycling, walking (with or without a pack-donkey!), horse-riding, hot air ballooning, swimming, golf or tennis. Hire a river boat or take a pleasure cruise at Beynac or Cahors.
Rocamadour, St Cirq-Lapopie, Figeac, Padirac, Sarlat, Souillac, Domme and Martel are just some of the beautiful, historical sites waiting to beguile you. Prehistoric caves, chateaux, gardens, parks, museums and churches abound and you'll even find safe swimming lakes and theme parks for the young at heart.
In summer the towns and villages are alive with colourful markets, fetes and festivals, concerts and lively street entertainment; in the cooler months the more serious business of gastronomy takes over and markets devoted to truffles, walnuts, chestnuts and foie gras take precedence. Whatever season you choose to visit, don't rush ... you'll want to stop and explore each charming village en route, pull over to admire the breath-taking views, or sample some tasty delight on offer at a fete or friendly, reasonably-priced restaurant ... and there are many more gastronomic delicacies in this bountiful area ... duck and goose confit, wild mushrooms, saffron, asparagus, melons, strawberries, cabecou (the local goats' cheese), succulent beef from neighbouring Limousin or herb-fed lamb from the Causses, the great black wines of Cahors... Bon appetit!