The beautiful region in which our house in France 47 is located, the Lot-et-Garonne, was called “Little Tuscany” by the early 19th Century French novelist Stendhal. It’s not on a well-known tourist itinerary, which is an advantage for those who like peaceful, timeless places. It’s gained that name due to the limestone topography of rolling hills, hilltop villages and farmsteads, cypresses, rich agriculture, wide rivers (the Lot and the Garonne) and deep valleys, wooded hills giving way to vistas of fields, and rock outcrops along the roadside.

The view from our terrace across the Lot valley is a good example of this Little Tuscany, as in this photo. Our village, Laparade, is a hilltop “bastide”, a medieval formerly fortified village on the scarp side of the valley which falls steeply to the River Lot below. Across on the other side, also on a hilltop, is Montpezat d’Agenais, whose lord helped trigger the Hundred Years War by his dispute with Saint Sardos to the west (on the right, just out of sight), One might just make out the windmill which is there now. In the valley are orchards of plum, apple and hazelnut, and fields of strawberry, sunflower and wheat. You can make out a classic French avenue of plane trees either side of the village of Granges-sur-Lot. It’s a view you can just sit and watch for hours if you choose, it’s so rich.

On either side of the valley of the Lot are rolling limestone hills, interspersed with deep valleys, especially to the south. At all seasons of the year there’s a beauty to the landscape, a mix of woodland, orchards, vinyards, cultivated fields of corn, sunflower, maize, and rape, to name a few, and settlements and windmills often on hilltops. It’s a timeless landscape that never ceases to reward the reflective gaze.

The limestone hills of our “Little Tuscany” are really part of a plateau that further inland becomes a region of the Causses, with caves once inhabited by our ancient ancestors. This land rises towards what is called the Massif Central, cut up by deep gorges. The big rivers that flow down from here towards the Atlantic, like the Lot, the Dordogne, and the Tarn thus bring water for the agriculture of the region and were once an important means of transporting produce to places like Bordeaux and for overseas trade. Thus for example the Lot carried wine from the Cahors region. Along the river are towns that acted as inland ports for loading barges. The area round Laparade was a wine-producing region until the 19th century phylloxera outbreak decimated the vines and wiped out the local wine business.

View of landscape near Laparade 47