Caroline Quentin had set up a few obstacles to those of us who wanted to join the Lot cruise she had organised, and we had to battle through strikes from both French air traffic controllers and train drivers to get to Douelle, the start of the cruise. Years of living in the UK have badly eroded my capacity at navigating the French public service, and I managed to get there a day late - therefore missed the sailing up to Cahors, as well as the visit to the market on the Sunday morning.
I met the boat at lunchtime on Saturday, and dinner at Le Balandre was the perfect way to recover from a slightly frustrating journey - French cuisine does not get much better than in the Quercy, and regional wines need no introduction. A walk back to the boat through the sleepy town rounded up my first day.
On Sunday, we woke up to bright blue skies, and a very hot day saw us sailing up to Vers, through truly awesome scenery – a wonderful day in great company, rounded off with dinner at the Truite Dorée, where our waitress hailed from Devon!
Monday's skies were overcast but no less warm, and we made our way to St Cirq Lapopie, voted one of France's most beautiful villages. We moored by a campsite, where a "pontoon" party was taking place before a barbeque dinner. What those unsuspecting French campers must have thought when they witnessed this invasion of Anglais we shall never know - and little did they know crews were competing for the "best platter" prize, where marks were given for presentation and use of local ingredients. The efforts, inventiveness and creativity displayed were truly amazing - expect pictures in the photographic competition, you will not believe your eyes! The evening was rounded off by a singalong organised by our Corinthian friends – let's spare a thought for those campers, who must by then have wanted to throttle the band of hooligans regaling them with their personal rendition of Amazing Grace, Oh Danny Boy or Peggy Sue, among others ...
Today, Caroline had organised a visit to the Peche Merle caves, some of the oldest painted caves in Europe: both the caves themselves and the paintings are simply awe inspiring. After a typically French lunch by the river, we spent the afternoon visiting St Cirq Lapopie, exploring its alleys and marvelling at the views afforded from this village perched high on the rocky side of the hill.