Tag Archives: St. Cirq Lapopie

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


Guest Blog: Day 5: Célé: Caves & Chutes

Day 2 on the Célé: Down to Cabrerets

Today dawned early for those of us who decided to follow Steve on a 1 ½ hour hike at 6:30 am.  We hiked 4 miles as the sun rose and found an ancient dolmen where chieftains would have been buried with their worldly goods thousands and thousands of years ago.  We checked out the beautiful fields around us, the wildflowers and orchids that Steve loves to find (found several monkey orchids here along with a sleeping butterfly)!  Nearing the inn, we also found a shrew in the middle of the road – had never seen one!  He was dead…..

a1 Today we are out at 6-30 AM for a 4 mi hike

An early morning walk on the Causses above the Célé river

After breakfast of wonderful breads, yogurt, fruit and coffee, we are off at 9am to visit the caves at Pech Merle, near the Lot River.  We had a guided tour through this ancient cave containing stalactites, stalagmites, 70 different representations of animals from spotted horses, bison, mammoths, aurochs, horses, etc.   Paintings were done in black or red using coal or a magnesium oxide and spots were made by blowing the paint from their mouths.  We found ancient footsteps preserved in the calcium carbonate along with pearls made from the cascading waters.  It was a moist environment in the cave and all of us found it difficult to breathe – we are assuming from low oxygen levels.  As fascinating as it was, it was nice to be out in the fresh air after an hour!


The famous spotted horse cave painting at Pech Merle

Next we drove through another old village near the river – these villages are alive with bright spring flowers against the backdrops of yellow limestone and sometimes crumbling structures of old abbeys, churches etc.  Most of the houses seem well preserved, although many are still shuttered for the season.  Getting to the river at Marcilhac, we are ready for our paddle down to Cabrerets after a stop for coffee and a Danish.  I was teamed with Annie for the morning paddle – Marlee, Annie and I have been switching off to paddle with Steve.

c27 Another delicous picnic prepared by George-Steve!

Another delicious picnic prepared by George/Steve at Sauliac-sur-Célé!

We paddled to a beautiful spot along the river – “George, our driver, shopper, picnic maker, always seems to find a great spot with a picnic table and such for a wonderful lunch spread.  Marlee and I have the afternoon paddle together.

d30 We have some very wet and cold paddlers!

After a small accident (and wild swimming) a tow is in order!

There have been a couple of water chutes that some have gone through – I skipped the first one – those in the bow of the boat got VERY wet!  Marlee and Steve did the second one – and I have it all recorded!  We had an unfortunate incident near the end of the paddle – Patty and Paul managed to dunk in the river – got tangled up in a big overhanging branch along the bank.  All was well and retrieved – but not sure how Paul’s camera fared….

d37 Having a great time - smile Steve!!

Steve, Annie and Marlee at St. Cirq Lapopie

On the way home, we stopped at beautiful old village called St Cirq Lapopie that Steve sometimes stays in and walked the cobble-stoned streets – wish we had been able to spend more time there!  Patty and Paul were waiting in the van staying warm.

e43 Beautiful flowers

Flowers and rooftops at St. Cirq Lapopie

We returned to the inn around 6pm– it has been a long day!  Dinner is at 7:30, again beginning with an aperitif before of walnut wine (homemade of course!).  A young couple has joined us – they are from Germany and are hiking for 5 days – approximately 12-15 miles a day with a donkey carrying their belongings.  They will stay in hostels along the way.  Another rousing dinner of a traditional English pork stew and baked apples & ice cream for dessert.  Bed felt wonderful at 10:30!

Green River Canoes Back Book Cover

Details of this tour can be found here: Green River Canoes 12 Days 3 Rivers

Lot, Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips

A Trip to the Célé in July 2015, Part 4

A Paddle on the Lot river

Today we are going to paddle on the big river. After breakfast we bundled into the minibus and trundled down the hill and then down the valley to the Kalapca canoe place to meet Didier. He arrived and we followed him as he drove the canoes up the Lot valley. We drove up the winding main road which crosses the now sadly defunct Quercy Railway. We crossed the river at St. Martin-Lebouval, drove beneath the Château de Cénevières and on beneath the ramparts of Calvignac until we returned to the river at Larnagol. We unloaded the boats and were ready to launch.

Lot, Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips

Getting ready for departure at Larnagol on the Lot river, Lot, France

The river is fat and wide and we have plenty of room. In my hand I have a roughly drawn map of the 5 weirs we have to get past with instructions of which side of the river the chute is on, or in one case where we have to portage.

Lot, Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips

At Larnagol on the Lot river, Lot, France

After briefly admiring Larnagol we wave farewell to Steve and begin our long day on the river by curving around the bend, noticing the canal coming in on the right and then seeing Calvignac high on its rocky perch in the distance.

Lot, Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips

Paddling the Lot river, Lot, France

Lot, Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips

Paddling the Lot river, Lot, France

Before long we find ourselves back underneath the Château de Cénevières and approaching the first weir. It looks ominous as you cannot see the chute until you are quite close. I wait for a while for everyone to catch up and then slither down. Everyone follows without mishap and we are on our way to the next bend.

Lot, Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips

Passing Mouylac on the Lot river, Lot, France

Lot, Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips

Passing Mouylac on the Lot river, Lot, France

We pass the strange architecture of the houses in Mouylac. Some are carved into the cliff and one is perched right in the water. Around the bend we come to the road bridge and the railway bridge at St. Martin-Lebouval and then a long stretch of river before we reach our next weir. The three boats get stretched out at one point and the other boats look faraway. I wonder if the boys are getting tired, but I need not worry. Soon they catch up and we are slipping down the next chute.

Lot, Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips

Going under the bridge at St. Martin-lebouval, Lot, France

Lot, Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips

On the chute at Cregols on the Lot river, Lot, France

Before very long we are thinking of lunch, which is just as well as we are approaching Crégols. Steve is there at the beginning of the village but the take-outs are on wobbly floating platforms and in any case have nowhere suitable for a picnic. Instead I suggest the island just ahead which I’m hoping he can reach with the picnic things.

We pull up at the portage place and drag our canoes aside in case anyone else comes down the river behind us. We then clamber through the woods and up a path to find that Steve has found a suitable picnic table. Excellent. We settle down for the usual fare.

Lot, Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips

Paddlng on the Lot river near Cregols, Lot, France

Lot, Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips

Paddlng on the Lot river near Cregols, Lot, France

After lunch we return to the boats and drag them over the short portage to the passage beyond. We find we are on a smaller branch of the river which gives us a sense of intimacy that we’ve not had today when paddling on the broad expanse of the main channel. We have to duck under a fallen tree before we eventually come out again in to the main stream.

Lot, Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips

On the river beach at St. Cirq Lapopie, Lot, France

A short while later we approach the bridge at St. Cirq Lapopie and pull up on the beach on the other side. There is a huge camping site here and they have sectioned off a part of the river for a swimming-pool. They’ve also dumped a lot of sand to make a beach. We stop here for an hour or so whilst everyone, including Steve, has a swim and cools off under the hot sun.

Lot, Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips

Passing underneath St. Cirq Lapopie on the Lot river, Lot, France

Back in the boats we continue downstream with the cliffs to our left and the high village of St. Cirq Lapopie to our right. Another weir apporaches and we again congregate before taking the chute. We paddle on. It is a long day. The river is even broader now and again we drift apart as some take this side and some take that.

Lot, Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips

Taking the chute at the St. Cirq Lapopie weir on the Lot river, Lot, France

Eventually we reach the last weir and chute. Didier has told us to be careful of this one. I go first and can see why as the chute drives you directly towards the cliff-face. It’s hard to avoid a bump. I don’t but the boys do well. Soon we are drifting underneath the cliff and dodging fallen trees and sticking our noses into small caves. In the end we reach the confluence of the Célé but decide to carry on as we are going back to the place on the Chemin de Halage to meet Steve and do some more jumping and swimming.

Lot, Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips

The last weir and chute of the day on the Lot river, just before the Cele, Lot, France

Lot, Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips

Paddling the Lot river, Lot, France

Things go a bit awry here as firstly Steve can’t reach us as the minibus can’t get close enough and a man complains about him parking, secondly the parents slip whilst getting out of the canoe and fall in the river. The first dunking of the trip. I only smile and don’t laugh. Everything is fine and no-one is hurt and they can sit on the path drying off. The boys jump overboard and swim to the steps. I drift on the water holding the three canoes together.

Lot, Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips

Jumping and swimming from the ‘Chemin de Halage’ on the Lot river, France

The boys do the jumping and swimming thing for a while and then they manage to wriggle themselves back in the canoe. I pick up Mum in a more civilised manner and we paddle back to the Célé and have a short little paddle back upstream to the canoe base.

After putting the canoes away we bundle back into the minibus for a short drive upstream. We decide we have more time for swimming and so stop off at Sauliac on the beach for ice-creams and beers. Of course our evening ends the same way with a relaxing evening at the farm and another scrumptious dinner.

Lot, Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips

A Trip to the Célé in July 2015, Part 3

Pech Merle, Cabrerets and St. Cirq Lapopie

Today we start with a visit to the painted caves at Pech Merle. It’s a short drive from our farmhouse, firstly into the Célé valley at Sauliac at then down the valley to Cabrerets. After hanging around for a little bit we are led into the cave down some steep stairs. It’s like entering the tomb of the mountain king, or perhaps it’s like entering Moria, or as it was known in the ancient days Khazad-dûm. Let’s hope no Balrog lives down here now.

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

The cave is fascinating and beautiful. The geological aspects are of course stunning. Fabulous stalactites and stalagmites but it is the paintings that overawe. 25,000 years ago a group of people used these caves to draw, carve and paint the animals that meant something to them.

After an hour of so we come stumbling out into the light and spend another half-an-hour or so checking out the museum. Now it’s time to get back on the river.

Célé, Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips

On the trail down from Pech Merle to Cabrerets with views over the Causse de Quercy, Lot, France

Célé, Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips

The Devil’s Castle at Cabrerets, Lot, France

We decide to walk back down to the village and take the steep track as it descends to the river & village below. It doesn’t take long and before we know it we are marching along the road back to where we have left the canoes. We retrieve our gear from the minibus and flip the canoes over ready for launch. We first have to remove any unwanted passengers: a spider here, a slug there!

Célé, Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips

Making a splash on the chute (glissiere) on the dam at Cabrerets on the Célé river, Lot, France

Célé, Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips

Surviving the chute (glissiere) on the dam at Cabrerets on the Célé river, Lot, France

A very short paddle brings us underneath the Château where another dam and flour mill are. We have another chute to glide down. I go down first and eddy out to watch the others come down. A big splash heralds the boys and then another as the parents come down. More wobbles but no capsizes.

Célé, Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips

Canoeing on the lower section of the Célé rivr, Lot, France

On we go for an easy hours paddling down to Conduché where Kalapca have there canoe base and where we will finish canoeing on the Célé. The river runs down beneath high cliffs and twists and turns. We dodge the shallows as usual and then arrive at the Pillars of Hercules. Two large boulders have fallen into the river from the cliffs above and I always pretend that it brings good luck to all paddlers to do a figure of eight manoeuvre through them: through the middle, then turn left around one, through the middle, then turn right around the other, then through the middle again. It’s a good exercise anyway. Also I believe the good luck thing because once, shortly after doing it we passed a tree and as we went past it fell down into the river behind us. A lucky escape? I think not.

Célé, Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips

Paddling on the lower sectin of the Célé rivr, Lot, France

After the Pillars we continue downstream until eventually we come to the ramp at the canoe base. Steve is there to help haul the canoes up and we get ourselves all sorted before hopping into the minibus for the 5 minute ride over the Lot river to Bouzies. We notice the strange small castles built into the rock-face and drive carefully over the very narrow, single-track suspension bridge.

At Bouzies we picnic beside the Lot river and gaze at the tour boats and hire boats. The Lot is navigable in this section and has numerous locks along its course. We will see this tomorrow when we canoe on her.

Lot, Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips

The ‘Sentier de Halage’ (Haulage Towpath,cut into the cliff on the Lot river, Lot, France

After our splendid lunch we start our hike to St. Cirq Lapopie and take the Chemin de Halage along the river bank. This is the path that horses used to use when barges were pulled along the river. We pass under the old railway bridge and come to the place where the path has been cut dramatically into the cliff-face.

Lot, Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips

Jumping into the Lot river from the towpath, at the confluence of the Célé river, Lot, France

Lot, Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips

Swimming ithe Lot river from the towpath, at the confluence of the Célé river, Lot, France

Half-way along the path we come to some steps leading down to the water. This is where the boats tie up if they have to wait for the lock gates. Some children are here jumping off the path into the river 10 feet below, and then swimming back to the steps. Our kids want to do it too. Why not? We hang around for a while whilst the children enjoy themselves.

Lot, Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips

The ‘Sentier de Halage’ (Haulage Towpath, on the Lot river, Lot, France

We continue along the path to the lock itself. We are disappointed that no boat is passing and we don’t have the chance to wind open the sluices or the gates. The path continues alongside the canal so boats can get past the weir. We pass numerous fruit trees: apples and plums and many walnuts. Eventually the path turns away from the water, and passing somebody’s immaculate vegetable beds we reach a small country road.

Lot, Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips

Looking at St. Cirq Lapopie in the Lot valley, France

In time we reach the footpath which will climb up to the village of St. Cirq Lapopie. The climb is short and steep, but we take a break half-way up to scramble out onto some rocks and admire the view. When we arrive into the village square we are surprised to see many people. It is a popular spot. I take a break on the hotel cafe terrace and enjoy a long cold beer. The others wander around for a bit.

Lot, Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips

In the village of St. Cirq Lapopie, Lot, France

Lot, Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips

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

We then decide to walk down through the narrow alleys of the village until we reach the arched gate at the village entrance. Steve is here to meet us and we soon pile into the minibus for the short 15 minute ride home. Our drive takes us down into the Lot valley, across a bridge, and up to the causse on the other side. We stop to admire the view over the Lot valley and look at where we will be canoeing tomorrow.

Lot, Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips

St. Martin below us in the Lot valley, France

At the Métairie Basse farmhouse we relax and loll about as usual. Some of us take a dip in the pool some of us take a nap in the hammock, and try to be nonchalant when we fall out of it. Oops. I hope no-one saw that!

Before very long it is dinner-time again and Richard & Helen do us proud once more. We have a delightfully convivial evening before retiring, once again, for an early night.