In the limestone gorge country of SW France, this bridge is a medieval monument to a legendary pact: a man wagered his soul to the Devil, and the Devil lost.
While living in Paris, a friend of mine asked if I would like to visit his childhood home on the way to stay with friends down in the Pyrenees. (My quick reply was “bien-sûr-que-oui-merci! Of-course-I-would-thank-you!!”) After a long night of traffic (thousands of Parisians all getting out of town for Christmas) and raiding his family’s country house pantry for a late dinner (home-canned tomatoes and pâté), we spent the next morning driving through icy fog. As it was burning off we found ourselves along the banks of the Lot River, in the town of Cahors, by the Pont Valentré bridge.
Voilà la légende: the master builder, challenged by the design and slow construction of this defensive span, made a deal with the Devil: help me finish this bridge, and you’ll have my soul. As completion neared, he re-considered his eternal prospects and came up with a way to break the contract--for the last bit of work, he asked the Devil to bring water to make the mortar...in a sieve. Even Le Diable couldn’t transport water in a sieve, and so the master builder kept his soul.
The Pont Valentré (a UNESCO world heritage site) was completed in the 1370‘s. The Santiago de Compostela pilgrim’s route still crosses it. Cahors has been a town since Celtic times, and its wine and gastronomy continue to draw visitors.
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Le Moulinat, Douelle
We stayed for a fortnight at this wonderful old house in the countryside 10km west of Cahors. It was the perfect holiday, in a beautiful part of France. For 10 of us, it cost a fraction of hotel prices. Restaurants in walking distance, but a car or bikes are advisable.