Visitors enter the courtyard of Cénevières, a medieval -to- Renaissance castle located across the river Lot from Latitude

 Visiteurs devant la porte fortifiée du château de Cénevières situé de l'autre côté du Lot.

Where is Latitude ?

The Latitude Cultural Center  is located in the department of the Lot, part of the historic province of Quercy. Aside from its rich history & dramatic landscapes, the Quercy is world-renowned for its gastronomy; its specialties include foie gras, breast of duck, lamb, small goat cheeses called "cabecous" or "Rocamadours,"  truffles, rhubarb jam, Quercy melons, Cahors red wine, "pastis" apple dessert, & walnut oil.

Latitude sits in a section of the Lot Valley that guidebook writer Karen Brown calls "the most stunning 51 kilometer stretch in France." She continues," The Lot Valley rivals the Dordogne and yet remains relatively undiscovered and less travelled.. Vistas are dramatic at every turn. . ."

Ou se trouve Latitude ?

Latitude est situé dans le départment du Lot, dans la province historique du Quercy. Le Lot, pays contrasté de vallées et de causses, est un des plus beaux coins d' Europe, a une  très faible démographie et est  assez peu fréquenté par les touristes. Les spécialités quercynoises sont bien connues dans le monde entier --  foie gras, pastis (pâtisserie régionale), cabecou (fromages de chèvre), magret de canard, huile de noix, melons du Quercy, truffes, agneau fermier, et le vin de Cahors.
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The Lot, according to authors of  guidebooks to France, is "a region to tour in," "fascinating," "well worth a month of anyone's time," and  "a region to be roamed at a lazy pace in order to fully appreciate its character and charms."

In his Atlantic Monthly article about the Lot, "The Province of the Past" (January, 2001), Peter Davison writes that "In the Lot one can make imaginative journeys into the past on foot." He adds,"It's curious that the Lot today should look so harmonious and peaceful when it has suffered so many years of strife and intolerance [e.g., the 100 Years' War; the Religious Wars of the 16th century]. Perhaps it has exported everyone with a genetic tendency to be disagreeable . . . "[italics added]   Comparing the Lot and Paris, Davison notes that " The Lot has so little in common with the more fevered society far to its north that after a fortnight I felt a severer culture shock on arrival in Paris than I had after my flight across the Atlantic."

Aside from being home to various "contrarian French institutions"(e.g., surrealism, the Maquis), as Davison calls them, the Lot is one of Europe's most beautiful -- & least-travelled-- river valleys. The green Michelin guide rates the Lot as a 2-star valley (1="interesting"; 2 ="worth a detour", 3 ="worth the trip"). Very few (e.g., the Loire, the Dordogne) valleys rate 3 stars, and they are seriously overcrowded,unlike the largely undiscovered Lot. In addition, the Lot is home to 2 places that are "worth the trip," according to the Michelin:  the caves of Pech-Merle and the pilgrimage site, Rocamadour.
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Quercyrail narrow gauge train crossing
La Toulzanie-Cénevières bridge

Framed by limestone cliffs and a fairytale castle, Latitude sits at the edge of the river Lot, about 625 km southeast of Paris & 45 km east of Cahors, the departmental capital (pop.: about 20,000). Its home is La Toulzanie, an ancient hamlet with  neolithic artifacts, a column  from the Roman temple of Divona, & some dwellings dating from the Visigoth era & the Hundred Years War. Latitude's headquarters is a 14th century moulin (with turret and stone hearth) that once milled flour for the chateau of Cénevières across the river (see photo of mill and castle on right).
Latitude's headquarters, the 14th century 
moulin of La Toulzanie
(photo by Georges Couderc)
Although tiny (pop.: about 30 in summer), La Toulzanie is often mentioned in guidebooks as "pretty and interesting" due to its semi-troglodyte homes built into the cliffside and its glorious scenery. Its year-round residents include a tobacco-farming family, & a retired doctor & his  wife, formerly the Mayor.of the commune (St. Martin  Labouval). Its summer residents come from as near as Villefranche de Rouergue (Aveyron)  & Toulouse & as far as Moscow, London,  Paris, & Lake Como.
Negative hand & animals, Pech-Merle cave painting)

Encadrée de falaises calcaires et d'un château de conte de fée, Latitude est situé au bord de la rivière Lot à environ 625 km au sud de Paris et 45 km à l'est de Cahors, chef-lieu du département. Sa demeure est sur le lieu-dit de La Toulzanie, ancien hameau dont il reste une colonne d'un temple romain et quelques vestiges de constructions visigothes ou datant de la Guerre de Cent Ans. Bien qu'elle soit petite, les guides touristiques n'oublient pas de mentionner La Toulzanie comme "belle et intéressante" grâce à ces maisons semi-troglodytiques et  à son cadre grandiose.

Past & future surround Latitude. Minutes away are internationally-recognized treasures: prehistoric cave paintings at Pech-Merle (see photo on left); St. Cirq Lapopie, one of France's most beautiful medieval villages, & the Renaissance chateau of Cénevières (see photo). Shepherds' dry stone huts ("cazelles" or "gariottes"), dolmen & castle ruins dot the countryside. Cahors (pop. about 20,000), famed for its vineyards and Pont Valentré (Europe's oldest fortified bridge), lies about 45 minutes away by bus or car; sections of the medieval city have been beautifully-restored. Two of France's most celebrated sites, the Padirac caverns & medieval Rocamadour, as well as Cordes, France's first fortified "New Town" (b. 1222), & the aerospace industries of Toulouse lie within a 100 km radius.

La grotte préhistorique de Pech-Merle et ses peintures, St. Cirq Lapopie, un des plus beaux villages médiévaux de France, et le château de Cénevières sont à deux pas. Cahors, ses  célèbres vignobles et son Pont Valentré (le plus vieux pont fortifié d'Europe) sont situés à 40 minutes en voiture ou en autocar. Deux des plus célèbres sites de France, le gouffre de Padirac et Rocamadour, ainsi que Cordes (la plus ancienne bastide de France, fondée en 1222 et centre majeur pour les pèlerins de St. Jacques de Compostelle) et Toulouse, gros centre d'aérospace, se trouvent à un rayon de moins de 80 km.

Getting to Latitude

Comment se rendre à Latitude?

From Paris: Trains for Cahors leave from the Gare d'Austerlitz several times daily; the trip takes about 5 1/2 hours. A bus leaves for La Toulzanie from the Cahors train station & arrives 45 minutes later. There is NO TGV (fast train) to Cahors. Avis and Europcar (allied with Autoeurope in the US) rental car are located across from the train station in Cahors. they both close Saturday afternoons and Sundays, but cars can be returned then. Note: Except at Charles de Gaulle and the Toulouse airports, it is hard to find an automatic shift to rent! By car, the most direct (but NOT the most interesting)  route Paris-La Toulzanie  is  the autoroute. With  no meandering, it takes about 6 1/2-7 1/2 hours driving time to La Toulzanie from Charles de Gaulle airport.  Take Exit 57-- Cahors North--then the road to Vers, and  at the Vers roundabout, turn turn left over the river Vers & continue on the D662, direction St Gery and St Cirq Lapopie. Notes: (1) The autoroute now bypasses Cahors completely! (2) Exit 57 is not well-marked. If you overshoot it, get off at Exit 58--Lalbenque-- and, after a circuitous road, continue thru Lalbenque, Limogne, Cenévières. Cross the bridge, turn right, and you're in La Toulzanie. From the Toulouse Airport: Latitude is about 1.5 hours by car. Or, if not renting a car:, take the shuttle bus to the Toulouse train station, the train to Cahors, then the bus to La Toulzanie which leaves from the Cahors train station. (Check times at and click on TER which is the bus, then put in 46 for Department for the schedule.) From the Carcassonne airport: about 3 hours by car.

De Paris:  Le voyage de la Gare d'Austerlitz à Cahors dure à peu près 5 heures et demie. De Cahors: Un autocar au départ de la gare vous laisse à La Toulzanie en moins de 40 minutes. A proximité de la gare SNCF de Cahors il y a Avis, l' agence de location de voitures. Nous vous recommandons fortement d'adopter cette solution pour le séjour. De l'aeroport de Toulouse:  Latitude est environ à 1.5 heures de voiture. De l'aéroport de Carcassonne:Latitude est environ à 3 heures de voiture.

It is highly recommended that you rent a car  (or bike, if you're really "sportif") during your stay in the Lot. Bus transport is available from Cahors to Latitude & onward to Cajarc & Figeac, but the last bus runs about 7:15 p.m.,  before restaurants serve dinner. Lotois do not ride bikes after dark. There is only one taxi in these parts, andt it is prohibitively expensive (90 euros from the Cahors train station to Latitude --return [return is charged] in 2011, at night rates.) Walking  or bicycling are not recommended after dark; there are no street lights outside of the villages.

Nous vous recommandons fortement  la location d'une voiture pour le séjour.  Il y a des autocars pour aller de Cahors à Latitude et des villes plus éloignées (comme Cajarc, Figeac), mais ils s'arrêtent de circuler en début de soirée-- bien avant l'heure du dîner. On peut marcher ou faire du V.T.T., mais pas après le coucher du soleil.

From Cahors, by car to Latitude:  Go to Boulevard Gambetta, Cahors's main drag, going South. Just before the Louis Philippe bridge, there's a roundabout with a modern shiny stone fountain;  go 3/4 way around  the roundabout  & continue along the river thru Cahors, passing Henri IV's 16th century residence on your left. You are on D653 . It will pass thru Laroque des Arcs & Lamagdeleine At Vers,  take a right turn onto D662 ( signposted "Vallées du Lot et du Célé") at the roundabout. Continue thru St. Géry & Bouziès Bas. Continue, passing the cut-off at Conduché for Cabrerets and Pech-Merle--do not take it. Stay on D662.Go thru the short tunnel (lights on). In a few minutes, look up to your right: on the other side of the river Lot, you'll see the medieval church in St. Cirq Lapopie rising from the escarpment.Do NOT cross the river. Continue on the D662  thru Tour de Faure ( (good bakery there) & then thru St. Martin Labouval. Slow down to 30 km in the middle of St. Martin Labouval :  there are 2 "sleeping policemen" (speed bumps). St. Martin Labouval is just a minute or two away from Latitude; continue on the D662 & La Toulzanie will be signposted.  On the river side, several hundred meters from the LA TOULZANIE sign, lies Latitude's mill. Three doors down from the mill is Latitude's salmon-colored house & tobacco hangar. There are blue gates and a road sign identifying Latitude. Register at the tobacco hangar, not the mill.

Notes: It is really an easy (& beautiful) drive to La Toulzanie from Cahors. There are only several points where you can get lost. But, heads up especially at Vers. And, a word to non-French drivers: The French attitude toward food (slow and relaxed) does NOT extend to their behavior behind the wheel. 

Travel hints/ Tuyaux pour les voyageurs

Here are some frequently asked questions -- & answers based on our experience:

Q .Should I travel by plane, train, automobile, bus, bike, houseboat, foot, or a combination of the above?

A. That depends on your personality & pocketbook  Keep the following in mind.:  Bicycling  around La Toulzanie is good because the path along the river is flat. If you want to bike, consider  bringing your own helmet.. About 6 buses pass by Latitude daily--but they stop running about 7 p.m.  Hiking is excellent in the Lot, &, in June and July,  it does stay light until about 9:30 p.m. There are only one or two taxis nearby, and they tend to be expensive, especially at night. Riding horses are available at several nearby locations. All kinds of boats --from canoes & kayaks to houseboats--  are available for rental on the Lot. In nearby Bouziès, there is a boat  with hour-long tours by river.

Within walking distance of Latitude:  The bus stop (for Cahors or Figeac) ....a grocery store in Cenévières.. Le Paradou,  a  snack-type restaurant / and sometime nite club (!) in Cénevières.

Advice:  If you want to explore the Lot, you should  rent a car  because the backroads are so scenic -- and so inaccessible -- by public transport. U.S. residents get a better deal by renting from the U.S. (Note: Automatics are unavailable in Cahors & much more expensive to rent anywhere in France than manual shift cars.)  French railways have several train/drive programs;  for more information  see or, from the U.S., call  1-800-eurail. Many airlines have attractively-priced fly-drive programs.

Q. Where can I get more information about the Lot & the Midi-Pyrénées (the Lot's administrative region)?
A. Here are a few resources. First, print.  The green Michelin guide, in English or French, on the Dordogne,Quercy & Périgord (depending on the edition); poet W.S. Merwin's stories about the upland (or "causse"), The Lost Upland;  a variety of guidebooks, such as Arthur & Barbara Eperson's Dordogne & Lot; & "Happy Valley," a warmhearted article about the Lot in Condé Nast Traveler magazine, February, 1999. Second,  Websites, including
for events in the Lot & the region -- /
Check the  keywords Quercy, Lot Valley, Rocamadour,  St. Cirq Lapopie, & Cahors.  For restaurants, check the red Michelin guide & the Gault-Millau. However, note that some small  & very good restaurants are not rated in any of the big guides. Latitude's staff  can offer suggestions about a range of restaurants.

Q. Should I buy Travellers' Cheques?
A.  No. Use your credit card (Visa or Mastercard) for shopping at the supermarkets & many other purchase points  (you get a better exchange rate) or your ATM card (Crédit Agricole, among other banks, have "distributeurs de billets" ("billeteries") in Cajarc, Limogne-en-Quercy, & Cahors; banks all over France take them).

Q. Can I use any ATM card in France?
A.  Non! Be sure to ask your bank if your PIN will work in France. FOUR NUMBERS may be necessary!

Q. Aside from a notebook,  casual clothes & a bathing suit, what should I take with me for the trip?
A. Half the clothes & twice the money.

Q. What should I NOT expect to find in the Lot?
A. Bellhops, Brazilian or Burmese food, good Chinese cuisine, slow drivers (except farmers on tractors),  English bookstores, stores open during the noon-2 lunch hour (except supermarkets such as Leclerc and Carrefour),  reasonably-priced, fast photo print shops, women attired in short shorts, restaurants serving dinner before 7:30 p.m. (However, there is now a shop selling Brazilian coffee in Cahors and a major African music festival (Africajarc) in mid-July).

pool thru the window

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