To Conques - Three Seasons Around France: Autumn - CycleBlaze

October 14, 2022

To Conques

It was just a matter of time.  There was no way we were going to make it through an entire autumn in France without getting wet.  It was dry when we left our hotel at 9 and the forecasts suggest we have about four dry hours ahead - but within a mile of leaving our hotel it started drizzling and didn’t let up until after we arrived in Conques 30 miles later.

For a rain day things could have been much worse.  It never came down more intensely than a modest shower; there was only minimal wind and it wasn’t cold, and except for a less than pleasant five miles on busy route 840.  Really, as good as you can hope for on a rain day.

Still, both halves of the team harbor some grudges about Susan for apparently taking the good weather with us when she left.

Leaving Auberge La Diege, a place we recommend if you don’t mind being out of town a bit. Bike friendly, good restaurant.
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We stopped at the Intermarche to load up on lunch materials for the next two days. It’s the weekend, and surprisingly there is no grocery in Conques.
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The first six miles, on the D840, are like this - no shoulder, more fast-moving traffic than we liked. Unpleasant and a little tense, especially once it started raining. They’re the only miles along the Lot we didn’t thoroughly enjoy. If we come back we’ll add a few miles and bike the other side of the river through Asprières.
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When it started raining we dashed into the only shelter around - an open private garage. We would never try this stunt back home - we might get shot.
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At Boulliac we crossed the river to pick up a small lane on the far bank, leaving all the traffic behind. We’re on what I think is an access road to the last two locks on the river - there’s one just off the frame to the left, and the final one is five miles upriver at Livenhac at the end of the navigable run.
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It’s a good thing we have narrow vehicles or we wouldn’t be making it past three of these monsters upgrading the lane.
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Once we’re past the road crew we have the lane to ourselves. It’s just us and the chestnuts.
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We returned to the north side of the river at Livenhac when the lane ended. You can just make out the final lock on the river to the left of the rapids ahead. Our road from here on is fine though, as all the traffic turned south toward Rodez a few miles back.
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After a steep climb, the only real work of the day, we pull into Conques. Four miles back we left the Lot to follow its tributary the Dourdou. Scenic, but you’ll have to wait for tomorrow to see it because it’s still raining.
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We arrived in Conques around one. With our room not available for another hour we left our bikes and baggage with the hotel and had a snack lunch at the cafe across the street, on the covered deck overlooking the valley.
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Conques is another revisitation for us.  We stayed here in 2007 after biking in from Figeac.  Four or five miles up the Dourdou it’s somewhat off route, but we came this way to see the renowned village and its Abbey Church of Saint Foy, one of the major stops on the route from Le Puy to Compostela.  Built in the 11th and 12th centuries, it’s regarded as a masterpiece of Romanesque art.  I still remember how stunned I was then by the splendid multicolored Last Judgement tympanum above the church portal.  I must have spent fifteen minutes staring at it, spotting one new detail after another.  I knew that if we were ever in the region I’d want to revisit it.

There’s more than Conques than the church though.  The entire well-preserved medieval town is fascinating to wander through - just the thing for an off and on wet afternoon.

The Abbey Church of Saint Foy.
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The Abbey Church of Saint Foy.
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The Last Judgement. Better to go left than right.
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Such an unhappy lot. The closer you look the more grotesque the tormented figures looked - roasting on a spit, heads gnawed upon by demons. Oh, the horror.
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Inside the Abbey Church of Saint Foy.
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A sudden downpour discouraged me from walking around town, so I hid out in the cloister for fifteen minutes until it gradually abated and finally ceased.
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Some sodden pilgrims.
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The Abbey Church of Saint Foy.
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Looking back at the church from the way out of town through the lower gate. Just ahead is the medieval bridge across the Dourdou; and somewhat beyond that is Compostela. Have faith, you’ll get there in good time.
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Another view of the church and village, from across the river. This is a shot from our previous visit, when the weather was better.
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A window in Conques. Many of the homes are half-timbered.
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A view from above, looking across the Dourdou.
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I liked the remnants of this old fence, the posts anchored into the side of the stone wall.
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Keith AdamsFrom this angle the need for a fence is not obvious. Surely the wall would have been sufficient?
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Keith AdamsYou can’t see it from here, but there’s a private walkway along the top of the wall.
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1 month ago
Keith AdamsTo Scott AndersonAh.
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1 month ago
In Conques.
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Keith AdamsI like hanging doors. Don't really know why, but I do.
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1 month ago
Steve Miller/GrampiesTo Keith AdamsThey are both ornamental and functional, what is not to like?
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1 month ago
In Conques.
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In Conques.
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In Conques.
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In Conques.
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In Conques.
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A female or immature European goldfinch?
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Cathryn RamsdenI think it may be a chaffinch
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1 month ago
In Conques.
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The entrance through the upper gate.
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In Conques.
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A biodegradable staircase railing.
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Not medieval, but old enough that it fits.
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Many of you will probably recognize the Automoto, a prestigious brand, but I had to look it up. The last ones were produced in 1963 after Peugeot bought the company out.
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Ride stats today: 29 miles, 1,300’; for the tour: 887 miles, 55,000’

Today's ride: 29 miles (47 km)
Total: 888 miles (1,429 km)

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Comment on this entry Comment 1
Rich FrasierI've been told that Conques was used as the model for the village in "Beauty and the Beast" - the animated Disney one from the previous century. Supposedly the first musical scene in the picture (where Belle is waltzing through the village saying "Bonjour" to everyone) is faithful to the layout of the real village of Conques. I've never verified this. :)
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1 month ago