Tag Archives: Sauliac

Sauliac-sur-Cele, Lot, France

Down by the river

The Ancienne Grange at Sauliac-sur-Célé

Last summer before we’d hardly noticed the evenings were beginning to shorten we took a weeks holiday in the Célé valley, a little known tributary of the Lot river just up from Cahors in the centre of France.

Our intention was to explore the valley by canoe and foot, meander around some of the pretty villages along the way and make sure to visit the famous painted caves at Pech Merle. We left the hot and sulky city of Paris and took the slow train through the heart of France. The TGV has yet to penetrate these parts so we enjoyed our leisurely arrivals at Chateauroux, Limoges, Uzerche, Brives and eventually Cahors as we drew in on a hot and bright afternoon.

From here, and with some kerfuffle, we picked up our hired minibus and started our drive upstream following the course of the Lot, before bearing off at Conduché to follow the sinuous Célé past Cabrerets and onto Sauliac-sur-Célé where we spent some time trying to locate our gîte. Naturally, for such a tiny village, we drove around in several circles before finding our prize: the The Ancienne Grange at the Terrasses des Fargues.

 

We were met by our hosts Marian and Brian, and were quickly given the run down of the place and how it works. Somebody is supposed to pay attention during these things, but everyone is too excited to be finally here, slightly hot and bothered by the long day and the early start, and really, to be honest, keen to throw the luggage down, kick off their shoes and sit in the sun with a glass of something that says ‘now we are on holiday’. We can figure out how the oven and hob work later.

 

And here we are. Stop clattering about. Sit down. Look around. We are sat at a round table in a small garden in front of the house nestling below the track to the main house and divided by it by Lavenders and Gaura which are heavy with the drone of bees and aflight with numerous butterflies in myriad colours and shapes. Below us is the village road, and below that the valley road and just perceptible through the bank side trees glistens the Célé. We can glimpse a small bank with a tiny sandy beach and a wooden hut which we are told is a buvette. Across the river, almost hidden amongst the trees a Château of yellow stone, now falling into the sun’s shadow, is separated from us as the river turns away in a succession of small waves catching the last light.


 

Rising early and before the others were ready for breakfast I thought I’d go and explore Old Sauliac which lies behind us, higher above the road and tucked in below the cliffs. Before the road along the valley floor was even built a track meandered down the valley towards the major Lot valley and the original village was built alongside this.

This track is now known as the GR651 and is an offshoot of the famous GR51, known as the Way of St. James or the Camino de Santiago de Compostela: one of the many pilgrim routes that lead through France and over the Pyrenees to the cathedral at Santiago in northern Spain. The route now is a minor diversion off the main path across the Causse de Quercy, but still a relatively popular one. In times past the Priory at Marcilhac, further up the valley, was a major pilgrim destination, but it’s importance faded away as the fame, and holiness, of Rocamadour prevailed. The villages down the valley at Boussac, Espagnac, Marcilhac, Sauliac and Cabrerets still offer accommodation for walkers along this trail in gites d’etapes – above the door you can see the shell symbol of St. James.

This morning I stepped up to the track above our gites and turned left along the trail past the main house of Marian and Brian and turned the corner where the track went down. This seemed wrong so I hunted around and found another track leading up around the back of the other house until it broke onto a proper trail. I could sense that this was the main long-distance track. I could also see the tell-tale red/white flash painted on the rocks. I turned left again in the direction of Cabrerets. If I were a pilgrim that would be my destination for the day: perhaps a good stiff walk of 15 miles or so.

For me it was to be a gentle flat stroll for twenty minutes out and back along a path cut into the base of of the yellow limestone cliff; cut well enough and flat enough for a decent sized cart to be pulled along. On my right the cliff soared above me and to my left the cliff dropped away. On my right several caves, with doors, had been built into the cliff. On my left I was level with the tiled roof-tops of houses built into the cliff below me. Quite a few were still in use but several were merely ruins – walls grown over with ivy and trees growing through the floors. Newer houses, and indeed a new church, had been built closer to the valley floor when the new road had been built and most villagers had migrated down from the cliffs.

These houses were of necessity tight and constricted with tiny gardens cut into several terraces. It must have been a precarious existence. I followed the track around the cliff base until I came to a point where a gap in the trees below allowed a view across the valley. The river shone and glistened but what really surprised was the size of the Château. What could merely be glimpsed could now be seen as an extensive arrangement of towers, wings and outbuildings. What had it been built for and by whom. And who lives there now?


Our lodgings in Sauliac-sur-Cele, Lot, France

Our lodgings in Sauliac-sur-Cele, Lot, France

Returning from a day on the river and the converted barn that was our gites provided a welcome and cool oasis. After perhaps grabbing a beer from the fridge a lie down in the shade was welcome. Everyone else disappeared to their rooms. Outside all was silent. Nothing stirred. No breeze, Not even the drone of a summer aeroplane.


 

Some days on our return the swimming pool beckoned. A tiptoe downstairs and out the back door, a quick hobble across the stones in the back yard before reaching the smooth steps and the gate to the pool area. The hard turquoise reflected the glare of the afternoon sun. Some were already splayed on the loungers. Not brave enough to attack the cold water directly with a dive I edged my way warily down the smooth steps. I perhaps swam a length or two in leisurely strokes before sitting on the steps.

Nothing much was happening. The others dozed. Perhaps read. Nothing much needed to be said. Just a question of lingering here before deciding that perhaps it was time for a drink, or indeed perhaps it was time for someone to start thinking about dinner. It’s still silent. Not a bird can be heard. A faint buzzing from a Humming-bird Hawkmoth bothering the lavender if you listened carefully. And then a splash as someone else decided they were too hot. A few desultory slaps of water around the pool edges. “Ready for a drink?”


Before the day got started, which means before everyone is up, a couple of us decided to walk down to the river and give it an inspection. Let’s pretend we know something, act as water-bailiffs and nod sagely at the level of the river and suchlike.

So we walked down our lane to the village road, turned left down the hill underneath our place, until we came to the little track on the left which fell down the bank to the valley road. After ducking under a few trees we came to the road and skipped across it to the small park on the river bank. No-one is about at this time of the morning. It feels like the early morning mist has only just left but it’s still too early for any warmth to have crept into the day. The shack of the buvette is shuttered and empty. The river has fallen in the night and the shingle beach that is usually here is now beginning to be exposed. Usually I arrive at this beach by canoe, as I will later this afternoon, and it feels slightly incongruous to be here now at this time of day. The round concrete table and its three concrete benches remind me of many picnic lunches spent here over the years. Always the usual things spread over a check tablecloth: the breads, cheeses, charcuterie, salads and fruits. The sun beaming, the shade under the crab-apples, the happy voices and smiles, the river tinkling behind and the chinking of glasses. Ghosts and shadows in the shade.

 

I worry about the new buvette selling frites and cold beers, and coffee and ice-cream. Right here in the long grass on the bank above the beach is where, in the right month, I’ve glimpsed Blue Chafer beetles, dozens of them, clambering to the end of long grasses and shining like jewels in the sun. Tiny, half the size of your smallest fingernail and glinting metallic iridescent blue. It’s July now and I’m told these only appear in June. I really hope they still come. It’s seven years now.

 

And this reminds me of the Purple Emperor (in this case Apatura ilia, which is the Lesser PE), which I saw, for the only time, on this beach here at Sauliac. This was a barely credible eleven years ago now, and also in June. The Purple Emperors butterflies are notoriously difficult to see and photograph. Their lifetime as an adult is short, a matter of weeks, and their natural habitat is high in the canopy of trees, usually oak trees where they feed on the honeydew secreted by aphids. Sometimes they come to the ground to taste the minerals in the damp sand on the river bank, and this is how I came to see them here all those years ago. How you would have laughed to see me jumping up and down excitedly to witness them. How I ran around trying to show everyone how these brown and white butterflies would turn a beautiful flash of purple when they caught the light. It was hard to catch this purple on a photograph too and everyone was highly amused to see me crawling about trying to get a shot. I was supposed to be getting lunch ready but luckily Caroline was taking care of that and I could fool around to my hearts content.

And now, I wish it was always June when I arrive here. I will never see the Purple Emperor for the first time again. Their are many things to love about the Célé.


 

 

Our gîtes at Sauliac-sur-Célé was provided by Marian and Brian at the Ancienne Granges of La Terrasses des Fargues. We had a fabulous holiday here. The canoeing and hiking part of our holiday was provided by Green River Canoes with help from Steve, Didier and our selfless driver Jean-Marc, this too, naturally, was fabulous, not withstanding the occasional accidental wild-swimming. The brochure describing the canoe trip down the Cele is here.

Advertisements
Yoga & Canoe Poster

6 Day Yoga & Canoe Retreat

 

Célé, Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips

Spectacular cliffs on the Célé river, Lot France

Combined Yoga & Canoeing Vacation

New for the 2017 season we are introducing this tour which brings Yoga sessions to one of our favourite canoeing tours on the Célé river in the Lot region of the south of France.

It is a 5 Night, 6 Day tour which combines morning and early evening yoga sessions with gentle and relaxing paddling down the beautiful Célé river.

Our instructor, Elizabeth Reed is an Inner Axis yoga teacher, focusing on breath work and non-competitive movement to increase well being, strength, flexibility and relaxation. On this tour she concentrates on general well being; specific postures relating to issues identified by individual participants and postures for warming up and preparing for paddling. It is suitable for beginners or those with some experience of yoga.

Elizabeth is a fun and knowledgeable teacher who focuses on learning and enjoyment, with tips and techniques you can take away and use to benefit your health in a number of ways.

We will explore the little known Célé valley by both canoe and foot and visit its beautiful villages and see its wonderful wildflowers & butterflies & dragonflies. We will also visit the famous cave paintings at Pech Merle.

A brief description of the tour is given below but more details, including dates, prices, maps and photographs can be found on our Yoga & Canoe Retreat web page.

Riverside Yoga Position

A Riverside Yoga Position

Benefits of Inner Axis

In physical terms Inner Axis Yoga has positive effects on back ache, stiffness, blood pressure, diabetes,  and balance. It can further aid the digestive system, and your strength, flexibility, posture and gait. The concentration on controlled breathing aids asthma and other breathing related difficulties. In general it helps towards a leaner and more toned body.

From a mental and emotional point of view Inner Axis Yoga provides a calmer mind, with less anxiety, which is more resilient to stress and life issues. It overcomes a depressive and negative mind set which contributes towards better sleep and gives an improved ability to relax and focus. This in turn instills greater personal confidence.

In social and spiritual terms Inner Axis Yoga builds community spirit, dispels resentments and old patterns which prevent happiness, promotes being your best self in relationship to yourself and others, and fosters gratitude & enjoyment of life.

Lot, Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips

The Abbey in the village of St. Cirq Lapopie, Lot, France

Features of Inner Axis

Inner Axis is jargon free, taught in simple, clear and concise language and does not use Sanskrit terms.

Inner Axis teaches a variety of breathing exercises and correct breathing techniques, which are scientifically recognised to have a hugely beneficial impact on health and well being.

Inner Axis uses slow and safe yoga movements that are adaptable to your physical needs and condition whatever your age or your level of fitness. It uses props such as blocks, straps, bolsters etc to facilitate faster development.

The focus of Inner Axis is on healthy alignment and the explanation & reasoning behind the methods used.

Inner Axis uses mindfulness and inspiring visualisations.

Inner Axis is non-competitive and fosters an attitude of kindness to yourself and others.

Inner Axis is for everyone who desires inner health as well as physical health, no matter what religion or ideological beliefs they may hold.

Célé, Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips

On the ‘English Trail, in the Célé valley, Lot, France

Tour Includes

  • A Trail & River Guide whilst on the river & trail
  • A Fully Trained Yoga instructor
  • Full minibus support throughout, to transport us to & from the river and transfers to and from our departure point (local Railway Station or Local airport).
  • Includes all accommodation in a local farmhouse
  • Includes all breakfasts, lunches and evening meals
  • All necessary equipment for Canoeing the remote valley and stream of the Cele
  • An opportunity to hike along the route of the Way of St. James
  • Join your guides for a pre-breakfast walk
  • Visit the ancient cave paintings at Pech Merle
  • See the beautiful villages of Marcilhac, Espignac, Cabrerets and St. Cirq Lapopie
Célé, Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips

Family fun on the Célé river, Lot France

Tour Description

Everyday of the tour will be book-ended by a yoga session. The friends of the Célé organisation have arranged that the river is set aside for fishing before 11am and for canoeing thereafter. We will use these morning hours for our Yoga sessions, often by the riverside, and for short walks.

Yoga and canoeing through the gentle waters of the Célé are the perfect companions to bring the mind into the body, to refine our awareness and deepen mindfulness. This tour teaches you techniques that can be practiced and used in the hurly-burly of our everyday lives.

After our day on the river we will have time for another yoga session, or you may relax if you prefer. Our accommodation has a small swimming-pool but we can also wild-swim if we wish too. Evening strolls are also possible.

When we are on the river or trail you will be accompanied on the river by an experienced river guide who will make sure you see all the interesting places along the way. If necessary we can provide top-up/reminder paddling lessons if it’s a while since you paddled, or indeed if you have never paddled before.

The rivers are easy paddling and suitable for inexperienced paddlers. The emphasis on this trip is to enjoy the rich history and natural history of the region from the unique viewpoint of the river.

Cave paintings at Pech Merle, at Cabrerets on the Cele river, Lot, France

Cave paintings at Pech Merle, at Cabrerets on the Cele river, Lot, France

We shall enjoy lazy days meandering down the river and take our time to enjoy all that we see along the way and taking the time to visit many of them as we go. We will certainly visit the world famous caves at Pech Merle and see the ancient cave paintings.

Everyday we will stop for a fabulous picnic lunch and in the evenings we will enjoy a home-made dinner in the farmhouse where we are staying. We will take dinner out one evening too.

The Célé is a small winding stream that flows down a steep sided valley into the Lot. On the way it passes through several small and picturesque villages such as Espignac, Marciilhac, Sauliac and Cabrerets.

Along the same valley a long-distance trail winds its way. Sometimes besides the river but mostly up high along the valley’s edge. This is the GR651 which is a small deviation off the famous GR65 more commonly known as the ‘Way of St. James’ or the ‘Chemins de Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle’.

In an adjacent valley flows the Lot river with the famous cliff-hanging village of St. Cirq Lapopie.

We will explore the dramatic scenery as the river winds its way through a deep limestone valley stopping at pretty villages along the way. We will watch the birds along the riverbank: herons, kingfishers, wagtails, dippers and various hawks and admire the glittering colourful damselflies and dragonflies.

For those so inclined we will have a pre-breakfast walk and before we start canoeing each day we will have our yoga session. If we have the time and inclination we will also explore the trails along the causse above the valley and find dolmens left by ancient man. We will see plenty of colourful butterflies in the meadows and in the season plenty of wildflowers too, including some exotic orchids, like the Lizard and Bee Orchids.

The Célé valley is a quiet and largely undiscovered small valley and we shall probably have the river all to ourselves. If it is warm enough we can find some beautiful spots for wild swimming.

Our evenings will be spent discussing our day over a family style evening meal with plenty of opportunity to make the conversation flow.

Yoga & Canoe Poster

Célé, Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips

A Trip to the Célé in July 2015, Part 6

Célé, Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips

On a hike above Cabrerets and the Célé river, Lot, France

A Lazy Day by the River

Our last day in the Célé valley. And what to do? Not too much is the general consensus, certainly no stiff 20 mile hikes. How about a leisurely day hanging out by the river sitting in the sun and swimming?

So after breakfast we decide we’ll have a walk anyway and go and visit a local Dolmen (I’m confident we can find this one) and then a slow walk down the hill to the Célé valley and the village of Cabrerets. The bakery in the village is our target.

We set off around the back of the farmhouse at Métairie Basse and bushwacked our way until we came out onto an old shepherds trail on top of the Causse. The trail undulated a little bit as it wound its way through the scrubby woodland and through some old gates. Different paths seemed to break off in every direction but Leonardo and I had been this way earlier in the week and knew the way.

The trail stumbled down a rocky path and reached another cross-roads. Up the other side where the trail became more grassy. This is where we had chased some butterflies the other day. A few butterflies were about now, but we were ignoring all the Meadow Browns and Gatekeepers and looking our for the blues. We found a couple of different types too, including Tiuquoise Blues and Chalk-hill Blues.

Célé, Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips

The Bertaminis on a Dolmen on the Causse de Quercy above Cabrerets, Lot, France

Eventually we reached the large cross-roads on the very top of the causse. Tucked away in some undergrowth was the Dolment. A Stone Age burial site, perhaps 5,000 to 8,000 years old.

Célé, Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips

On a hike above Cabrerets and the Célé river, Lot, France

Our path from here swept in a huge downward arc and we dawdled on down. A group of young hikers passed us. They must have been camping in the wild somewhere. The boys ran off down the trail ahead of us and we meandered down until we came almost to the village. We could look down onto the river where we were paddling the other day, see the troglodyte buildings lodged into the cliff and the Devil’s Castle which looked quite small in the daylight.

As we approached the bridge we learnt something of the history of the village from the information board, and how the village was badly flooded a 100 years ago, and this bridge was built.

We walked through the village, past the Hotel de Grotte, where we have stayed in the past, and which is looking quite smart these days. Eventually we reached the bakery and cafe opposite the old flour mill and settled down for some coffee and cakes. A second breakfast.

Célé, Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips

Black-eyed sheep under the Chateau in Cabrerets, Lot, France

Whilst we were sitting underneath the Chateau enjoying the sunshine a flock of sheep were driven past us. Of course the shepherd had a Quad bike with which he was leading the sheep, but he did also have a sheepdog bringing up the rear. The local sheep have curious black eye patches. The Panda look.

Célé, Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips

Célé, Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips

Célé, Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips

Célé, Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips

Kids and dogs, mucking about at the ford on the Célé river, Lot, France

And then the rest of the day kind of disappeared. We drove back up to the picnic site at Sauliac and spent a couple of hours mucking about by the river and having lunch and then we went back up to the ford and mucked around there for a couple of hours too. A couple of local boys, with a dog, were playing around in the river as well and a lot of fun was had splashing around and throwing sticks. The adults of course just lazed around in the sun.

Célé, Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips

Looking across the Célé valley to Sauliac, Lot, France

Before we knew it the afternoon was wearing on and we hopped back into the minibus for the drive back up to the farmhouse and another flop by the pool. But before that we decided to jump out of the minibus at the top of the climb and admire the view over Sauliac and walk the last two kilometres back to the farm.

How did this happen? We’ve arrived at our last night in the Célé valley. Richard & Helen provided a lovely dinner as always and we had a splendid last evening with speeches (you’re kidding) and toasts (of course) and copious amounts of wine. A massive thanks all round to everyone for a lovely holiday.

Célé, Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips

Leonardo, Marco, Kate, Federico and Steve at the ford on the river Célé, Lot, France

Célé, Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips

A Trip to the Célé in July 2015, Part 2

Marcilhac to Cabrerets

After a hearty breakfast at Métairie Basse we made a prompt start to the day and drove back to the village of Marcilhac for a morning walk before our paddle. On the Célé they like to reserve the morning and evening for those that fish on the river and leave the between times for the canoeists.

We were dropped off at the trailhead high above the village on the causse, that is the limestone plateau. These days the plateau is forested although up until the 1950s it would have been grazed by sheep. Some of the old dry-stone walls and Cazelles (stone sheep shelters) remain.

So off we went in the bright early sunshine to traipse along the undulating trail. Not many insects were about at this time of day and certainly not many butterflies. We had taken a net in order to capture, identify, and release some specimens, but only the usual suspects were abroad.

Célé, Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips

Looking down on the Célé valley from above Marcilhac, Lot, France

Eventually we arrived at the mobile telecommunications tower on the cliff directly above Marcilhac. We admired the view and looked at the river below and where we would be canoeing. We then retraced our steps to a fork in the path and began the deep descent to the road far below. We stepped out at another viewpoint on the way and could see that our canoes were still tucked up on the grassy bank .

Steve was at the roadside as we tumbled out of the woods and soon we were down in the village getting ourselves prepared. We have the first chute to negotiate. Was everyone ready? The three canoes scooted over to the dam and picked out the correct entrance to the chute. Trying to paddle down a fish-ladder is not wise. I went first and got only mildly soaked as the canoe hit the wave at the bottom. I then turned around to watch the two boys come down. Awesome. Then the parents came down. A slight wobble, but disappointingly, no capsize!

Célé, Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips

Heading downstream on the Célé river, Lot France

Célé, Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips

Reflecting on life on the Cele river, Célé France

Off we set then under the bridge where we where nearly stopped by a group of horse-riders coming down to the water. After an hour of gentle paddling under the dappled light of the trees the river once again slowed down as we approached a second dam. It was another Flour Mill. As we approached the water was slow enough for large yellow water-lilies to grow.

Célé, Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips

Taking a chute on the Célé river, Lot France

Everyone decided to take the chute instead of the portage and after another soaking for the person in the bow we were on our way again. The river twisted here and there and we dodged from side to side trying to avoid running aground but also trying to avoid bumping into the bank as we took some sharp corners. As we approached a bridge I knew that we weren’t very far from the lunch spot at Sauliac. The place was set up for a fete or a fayre but not many people were around. Steve however did have our lunch all ready and we sat down in the shade to devour it.

Célé, Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips

Relaxing on the beach at Sauliac on the Célé river, Lot France

Célé, Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips

All three canoes set off from the beach at Sauliac on the Célé river, Lot, France

Célé, Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips

On the Célé river, Lot France

After a post-prandial swim we were again on our way with our next stop at the ford only an hour or so away. After gently idling down the river we stopped here briefly to check that it was safe to go over the drop. It was and we lined the boats to go over it in the the middle of the little wave, before sweeping left to avoid the shallows.

Célé, Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips

Taking a detour on the Célé river, Lot France

Célé, Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips

Spectacular cliffs on the Célé river, Lot France

Shortly afterwards we took a small detour around an island, from where we could see some strange sculptures pinned into the cliff,  and entered a small canyon where we had to make a sharp S bend and avoid some rocks. This section can be tricky when the water level is higher but today it was just a bit scratchy.

Célé, Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips

The overhanging cliffs on the Célé river, Lot France

And so on we drifted until we reached a place where it seemed the river ran directly into a wall. Right up until you reach it you wondered where the river goes and then it turns sharply right. And then about thirty minutes later it does the same all over again and you know you are coming into Cabrerets. As we approach the wall I see some cows cooling off in the water. In the past I’ve seen a whole herd bathing under these cliffs.

Célé, Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips

End of the day approaching Caberets on the Célé river, Lot France

We take the turn under the cliff and start the run into the village. We can see troglodyte buildings built into the cliff and then finally the Devils Castle, a ruined English Castle from the 11th Century looms above us. Right underneath it and before the bridge we manage to get ourselves up the river bank – the mud is black and slippery. Steve is here to meet us and before long we have packed our gear away in the minibus and tucked the canoes under a tree to retrieve tomorrow.

A short drive takes us back home to the farmhouse where we loll about for a bit before Leonardo & I decide to stroll off catching butterflies in our nets. In the end it turns out to be a two hour hike as we go out to the Dolmen. We manage to catch some, blues, Commom Blue and Chalkhill Blue, a fritillary of some kind and plenty of Meadow Browns and Gatekeepers. I make a idiotic fool of myself by hilariously chasing after a Clouded Yellow – which I do eventually catch. We arrive back at the farm all hot & bothered and just in time for dinner.