Roads and train line both funnel you automatically into the town centre, where the Hôtel de la Monnaie surveys place Vival. It's a splendid building whose origins go back to the thirteenth century, when the city's mint was located in this district. The building now houses the tourist office, as well as a none-too-exciting museum of old coins and archeological bits and pieces found in the surrounding area (same hours as tourist office; €2). In the streets radiating off to the north of the square Caviale, République, Gambetta and their cross-streets there's a delightful range of houses of the medieval and classical periods, both stone and half-timbered with brick noggings, adorned with carvings and colonnettes, ogees, and interesting bits of ironwork. At the end of these streets are the two small squares of place Carnot and place Champollion, both of great charm. The former is the site of the old halles, under whose awning cafés now spreads their tables.
Jean-François Champollion, who cracked Egyptian hieroglyphics by deciphering the triple text of the Rosetta Stone, was born in a house at 4 impasse Champollion, off the square, and the building now houses a very interesting museum dedicated to his life and work (MarchJune, Sept & Oct TuesSun 10amnoon & 2.306.30pm; July & Aug daily same hours; NovFeb TuesSun 26pm; €3). At the end of this alley, a larger-than-life reproduction of the Rosetta Stone forms the floor of the tiny place des Écritures, above which is a little garden planted with tufts of papyrus.
On the other side of place Champollion, rue Boutaric leads up to the cedar-shaded church of Notre-Dame-du-Puy, from where you get views over the roofs of the town. More interesting is the church of St-Sauveur off place des Herbes near the tourist office, with its lovely Gothic chapterhouse decorated with heavily gilded but dramatically realistic seventeenth-century carved wood panels illustrating the life of Christ.
Pages in section ‘Figeac’: Practicalities, Cardaillac.
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