I’m writing tonight’s entry sitting in front of a fan in the most charming room of the trip!!Absolutely gorgeous!!
We left Sarlat around 10ish and took the toll highways down to Carcassone. We stopped a few times, once for gas and once to eat the peaches we had brought. Carcassone was a tourist nightmare!! I don’t want to rub shoulders and tread on toes of a million stupid tourists–I want to be the only stupid tourist in the place. But July!!! Say no more…
We did a wander around the walls and then into the church. The stained glass was sublime but even the inside of the church was hot. Time for a break. We found a lovely spot to eat. A shady garden and a surprisingly good menu. Carolyn started with a Ricard, a strong annisette flavored aperitif which when mixed with water turns milky. I had a Suze, the bitterest of the bitters and my personal favourite. It came with ice and a lemon slice. I’d never had it that way before. Very good. For the entree (English appetizer) I had the local ham on tomato toast with a salad–very Spanish. In fact three languages were on the menu, French, English, and Spanish. I ate tostada con tomate lots while on Camino. And the main was beef with sauce au poivre, creme caramel for dessert. Carolyn had a duck gizzard salad and the squid which I think I should have chosen. It was really tender. We wandered a bit looking into various dodad shops–I did get a couple nice shopping bags–and a tshirt for my son. Some of the buildings were really unique and the walls were incredibly thick, maybe 10 feet here in the arrow slit window. But then it was time to head out. Enough craziness!! A couple last shots on the way out–I’ll have to come back in the off season. Two shots from Mr Google: because this is what it looked like as we drove up–but no place to park. Incredible isn’t it!!Time to go find out bnb. Just a short drive out of town, half an hour or so, Siri took us deep into the old part of the village. We parked and walked the last 100 meters as I wasn’t sure the car could actually get thru some of the narrow streets. No problem. Friendly hosts, lovely room in the Ancienne Boulangerie (ancient bakery). Karin and Aidan, I am SO bringing you here!!!Now to go have a glass of wine in the patio. Bliss ❤️❤️❤️
Font da Gaume means stagnant water. This cave is THE only cave still open to the public with polychrome–multi coloured–drawings. Admittance to this cave is severely restricted so to obtain a ticket we had to get up early, drive half an hour to the cave and try to get a numbered seat in front of the ticket office. Numbers of visitors are restricted to 52 and there are 52 numbered seats in the front. One person one seat. If there are five of you in your party one person cannot buy the five tickets–they want to see you, so you must take a seat. Because we had to leave so early I parked down in a public car park. I should have just parked on the street. When I went into the park the sign out front said libre meaning free space, or available space. I knew this. But somehow I interpreted this as being free parking. So the next morning we are trying to exit the lot and of course there is a 13 euro charge. Ok. I begin to get pissed. Then I try my card. Doesn’t work. I try my card again. Still doesn’t work. I try a different card. Still doesn’t work. I press the help button. It’s a phone line to some poor schmuck who had to wake up, answer the phone and speak to an extremely angry “stupid” tourist. Poor guy. Six thirty on Sunday morning. What a way to start the day. But I’m obsessed. I want to get tickets to the cave and this nonsense is eating into my precious ticket time–so he says you must put money into it!!! There is of course no place to put money. No no over by the main entrance there is a different machine. So I run/hobble over and this machine cooperates, takes my money, and opens the gate releasing us into the world. But I’m steaming mad. So stupid!! Why didn’t I just park on the street!! My Germanic roots are showing but the drive is peaceful and I calm down. We get to the cave and the parking lot is pretty full with camper vans that seem to have spent the night. But wonder of wonders we get seats!! And near the front, not that that means anything except that we had time to spare. So we sit and drink our coffee which we had brought with us in a thermos borrowed from our hosts at the bnb. There were families and everyone was calm and relaxed. Carolyn visited with our neighbour who was a fellow from Breton, a bio chemist and Breton dancer who loved exploring the caves and other features of the region. Time passed quite quickly and the seats filled quite fast. For the princely sum of ten euros we got our ticket for the eleven o’clock English language tour. Hurray!!! It was only nine thirty so we drove through town to check out the canoe rental place as this was our afternoon adventure. We had our coffee and sandwiches on the banks of the beautiful Vezeres river. Then we returned to the cave for our visit. Again photos were not allowed so I’ve borrowed some some from Mr Google. This last one shows what the images would have looked like in perfect light and on a flat back ground. But the originals were painted using oil lamps and utilizing the contours of the cave walls. This added a three d effect and although the paintings are 14-30,000 years old, some are in remarkable condition and the details are amazing. A really lovely cave!!
Back we went for our canoe ride. We got kitted out in life jackets and paddles and loaded into a van with another family to our departure point. I left my phone in the car as I wasn’t about to risk a dunk in the river (they did give us a water proof barrel to put our things in but I didn’t trust it that much) and off we went. The canoe was an all plastic job but really stable and it was a lovely way to spend the afternoon. We drifted by limestone cliffs and beautiful treed banks, all lovely and cool. Lots of multicoloured dragon flies and some other thing, iridescent blue/black looking like a cross between a dragon fly and a butterfly. Perhaps a damsel fly?? Two hours passed pretty calmly and our day ended much calmer than it started. 😜😜
A panache and an ice cream later, we headed home. We wanted to cook ourselves some omelets for supper but it was Sunday. Late afternoon Sunday. And France is civilized. Family time is very important so really, everything is closed. We just ate what we had in the fridge and watched the news to try to catch up on the fires in Provence. Off to Templar country tomorrow. Good night.
I’m not sure what woke me this morning but it was very early. I sort of cracked one eye open and saw the room was filled with a pink glow. I grabbed my camera and headed to the window. What a glorious sunrise. Of course there are fires in Provence, perhaps this is a glow from the smoke?There is a rainbow buried in that cloud but it’s hard to see. I went back to bed for a bit but soon got up to make coffee. Carolyn wanted to do some laundry so we asked Siri to find us a laundromat. It was way over on the other side of the old town. The market was already in full swing as we walked towards the laundromat–Siri let us down so we had to ask a local for directions. We were almost there–we zigged when we should have zagged. We arranged to meet at noon at the cathedral. I headed back to the market. I say that like it is just one place but there were stalls on every street in the old town. This is one of my favourites. Where do these massive pans come from??The old town is a real medieval maze, lots of side streets and ups and downs, twists and turns. The really interesting streets were around the edges. There’s not much room to park a car so I imagine these little garages? are quite popular. The market stalls stretched down every street. There were not many people to start but gradually the streets filled up. We had several heavy showers in the morning so everyone sheltered in one of the stalls. The umbrella salesmen did a brisk trade. I picked up a few things–not much. I actually found it very expensive but I walked everywhere. There were clothes from every part of the world, leather, books, soap, lavender, foie gras, sausages, wine, etc etc etc. It was great fun checking out all the stalls. I sat for a while at a table right on the busiest street close to the cathedral. I drank a double espresso, what they call un grand cafe, and wrote my blog. Around quarter to, I headed over to the cathedral. There was actually a organ and violin concert happening so I went in to listen. It was quite amazing. There was a standing ovation and the duo happily obliged by playing the Pachelbel Canon as an encore. Lovely. I found Carolyn outside and we wandered around some more. She told me about a church that was repurposed as a covered market so we tried to find that. Look at the size of those doors. This church though was obviously decommissioned or however you call a church that is no longer a church and is used for another purpose. There was some sort of a stage set up but summer is for performances and who knows what was going on there Geese and ducks are the life blood of the region, moreover geese for their foie gras, fat liver, that comes from force feeding the birds to mimic their gluttony pre migration. It’s is all done very humanely–it has to be because unhappy birds do not produce healthy livers.
This guy was just hanging out on the city walls…We found many beautiful old buildings. This interesting building is called the lantern. There were two people inside performing medieval music. The acoustics were excellent. This is the back of the cathedral with its small flying buttresses. This unique building is now a restaurant but had been the home of the treasurer of the area in ancient times. Spare no expense!!I found a few promising houses– but even the hovel is out of my price range!!
We stopped for lunch–I had a French hamburger. They ask how you want it cooked–medium or well done. I chose medium and the waiter was so cute. He had to confirm with me that a medium burger was sanglant, bloody. North Americans would have kittens over the raw and rare meat served here but I know it was probably ground just before cooking–no e-coli filled cesspools of abattoirs here. Delicious!! We had contemplated going canoeing in the afternoon but by the time we got home, had a drink, we just decided to stay put. After a bit though we got itchy feet and thought we should go for a wander in the old town. We picked up a few things at the grocer and then sat down for a local specialty–a walnut wine. It was very tasty so now I must buy a bottle to take to my cousins in Vienna.
Coming back home the lizards were active. Do you see him?See him now?And all of a sudden it was bed time as we had to get up early to line up for tickets at Font da Gaume. Good night 😊😊
Today makes up for my disappointing visit to Lascaux yesterday. We got up extra early to drive to the Pech Merle caves, about an hour away. I had tickets for 11:00 but I wanted to make sure we got there with plenty of time to spare. Siri has been temperamental lately and I didn’t want to get lost or stranded way out in the boonies. It was a really pleasant drive out, little to no traffic, on a mostly single track lane that wove its way thru the Dordogne countryside. Quite magical. We did have some problems near the end when road signs began to conflict with Siri. For the last 14 kilometres I trusted the road signs. This took us down the narrowest most twisty road yet–just a paved goat trail but it was all covered over with green leafy trees, butted up against a limestone cliff on one side and the river in the other. Very pretty. Pech Merle was easy to find and absolutely not crowded. We had time so sat thru an informative video with English subtitles about the discovery of the cave and the detective work that went into deciphering the art work. Then there was a small museum dedicated to the lifestyle of the cro-magnon people who drew these pictures. Also English in the displays. I was very impressed. Then the piece de resistance–the descent into the actual cave. This cave is somewhat larger and with controlled numbers, has not been damaged by visitors. Yet. They do have very sophisticated monitors for humidity, carbon dioxide and other off gassing of human bodies and breath but restrict visitors to approx 700 per day. I don’t think they have 700 everyday. We were there at 11:00 thru to one and I don’t think 100 people moved thru the area.
Pictures were not allowed so I’ve downloaded some from google. The lighting in the cave was incredible. You descend thru double doors, the temperature drops and the humidity increases. There is a level footing, and solid stairs and handrails so no fear of slipping or tripping. The interior is filled with limestone formations, stalagmites, stalactites, pillars, crystals etc. I thought it looked like a gothic cathedral with all the curlicues and natural lacey patterns. And then there were the paintings!! And etchings!! This is only a small sample of the art. Google the cave or better yet try to find a good book at the library. Or plan a visit!!Hand prints and footprints of the artists from 20-30,000 years ago!!The chef d’oeuvre–the spotted ponies. Actually the spots were there first, then the ponies. The hand prints came later too. Layered under the ponies is a large red ochre fish looking exactly like a huge jack fish. To say I enjoyed this cave is an understatement!! After the cave visit we pulled out our picnic lunch and took advantage of the shady picnic grove just beside the cave entrance. We even had own own cave lion visit us!!I actually brought my guidebook with me so while sitting and enjoying the ambiance of the shady grove with cicadas chirping all around, I looked to see what was close by. Could it get any better!! A ninth century Benedictine Abbey. Only 16k upstream. So off we went. We arrived in a pretty little town, right on the Cele river. Found a shady parking spot and began a wander around. The Abbey was right there and some young fellows were there giving tours. This young guy spoke some English and gave us an indepth personalized tour. The Abbey had a facade dating from the 9th century. He toured us though the church and rather than bore you with a long story I’ll just post some pictures.
This is the carving of a lion. You have to remember in the ninth century most people had never seen a lion so it really is a fantastic creature of someone’s imagination. See how the back half of the statue is in much better shape that the front? It had been enclosed within a stone wall for 5-6 hundred years and was so protected.
These beautiful frescoes had been covered by wooden paneling and were discovered when the panelling was removed a few hundred years ago. They date from the 16th century. These are details of the wooden panels. Quite exquisitely carved. The bishops’ chair had an angel carved underneath as the bishop was meant to represent god on earth and the angels.
Love those arches and stained glass. Amazing little medieval village in the middle of nowhere!!! And the best part?? We were the only tourists!!!After our tour we found a little flowery shady cafe and stopped for a panache.
Check out the soap by the sink in the bathroom. It’s on the spike. I was speaking to madam about it and she said it was an old way of keeping soap dry. Her old school had it the same in the bathrooms. It was a long drive home. We had some wine in the room and headed out for supper to the old town. Can’t really say it was a great meal but it also wasn’t bad. I thought a meal out of town at a small restaurant like we’d had our panache at would have been better but we didn’t go hungry.
It was a really great day!!
I felt very French this morning as I trotted down to the boulangerie to pick up a fresh baguette and a couple pain aux raisins. The bakery is just down the hill and it was open at 7am. I put the coffee on before I left as we were at a Carrefour yesterday and actually managed to find real cream instead of that UHT crap. The coffee smelled delicious and tasted better. I made up some jambon beurre sandwiches to take with us and we headed out to Lascaux around 9am. I wanted to make sure we got there early. I realized yesterday that I’d missed a cave I’d prebooked. I felt as though we were meant to do something after the museum yesterday but for the life of me I couldn’t remember what it was. It was a tour of Grand Roc–not an art cave but a cave filled with mineral formations. To say I was pissed is an understatement but what can you do?? We still had a great day yesterday so que sera sera.
We lucked out on parking, getting one of the few spots left close to the building. Good thing we came early. I traded my proof of purchase for the actual tickets then as we had lots of time we wandered around before sitting down for another coffee. Our tour started at 11:15. We got all kitted out with some technology–head phones and a tablet. My headphones of course didn’t work but instead of trading them out–we were still in the tech room–the guide just told me to stay up front where I could hear. The actual cave has been closed to the public for years as there was lots of damage happening to the artwork due to the change in atmospheric conditions in the cave from the respiration of the thousands of visitors in the early days. This attraction is a reproduction of the actual cave which is just several hundred meters up the hillside. It’s incredibly popular and the guides are running tours every 10-12 minutes–trying to put thru as many people as possible. Consequently it’s a gong show. Going thru the reproduction cave was actually very realistic as the temperature drops as we entered. I really had no trouble hearing the guide–he was a very personable young man with a good sense of humour. But he seemed rushed and I felt rushed. I would have liked to have been able to spend more time looking at the paintings but there was another group hot on our heels. I don’t really think it’s so much they are just trying to push people thru for the sake of numbers–it’s also that so many people WANT to see the cave and the staff are trying to accommodate as many as possible. But it was not the relaxing contemplative experience I had wanted. I felt the same sense of wonder I would have felt at the real deal–after all these pictures were not just childish scrawls, they were real works of art–with perspective, and color accuracy, shading and movement. The physical contortions the artists went thru from climbing ladders to reach the ceiling or crawling on hands and feet thru narrow passageways–in the dark, with only fat/oil lamps for light were mind boggling. They were not just doing this for fun–it was hard, dangerous work for reasons we may never know.
We weren’t allowed to take pictures in the cave but on exiting we entered a workshop where each area of the cave was broken into bits–there was an explanation on the technology and visual cues on the life size drawings to illustrate what the commentary was about. Of course none of my technology worked–and even though I thought it might be just me, when I approached a staff member they couldn’t get it to work either. So they swapped it out. I was already frustrated and pissed so it took a bit for me to start enjoying myself again. Yes Aidan, I am a very angry person 😡😡😡.
Horses were the most numerous animal in the caves. These two fat ponies are drawn first in a winter coat (shaggy long hair, darker colours) and then a lighter sleeker summer coat. Just like our fat ponies. This horse was drawn deliberately upside down and on the curve of a wall where the artist could not see both the front and back of the animal at the same time yet it is perfectly in proportion. After horses the next popular animal was the deer. And then there were the aurochs, the huge prehistoric bulls, which I didn’t get a good picture of cause I was angry. 😡😡. There was only one picture of a human, and he had no legs and wore a birds’ head/headdress and only had four fingers. There were a few antelope, a few prey animals, cave lions and cave bears. Absolutely no rabbits or other small prey. The meanings are completely lost and it’s also unknown exactly the time period over which these figures were painted.
I spent entirely too much in the gift shop buying nothing of significance. We headed out to have our picnic and found a nice spot in the side of the river. Much of the towns’ old buildings seem to date from the 14th century from the hospital to the church to the convent. This tree was on the edge of the car park. What a massive trunk!!These wild flowers were growing on the bank where we were sitting having lunch. It was hot and we were tired so home we went. Carolyn had a snooze and I wrote postcards. Supper was wine and tomato salad with all the fixings. Very good. Now to bed as we have another cave to visit tomorrow. Good night😊
I am absolutely fascinated with history. As a teen I read all the obvious prehistory novels, notably Jean M Auel’s series beginning with The Clan of the Cave Bear. National Geo’s story of Lucy and the Leakeys enthralled me as a child and now more recently I’ve been reading non-fiction, for example, Lee Bergers book, Almost Human. CBC’s Ideas had a great documentary on “First Signs: unlocking the mysteries of the worlds oldest symbols”. I’ve copied a few paragraphs and pictures off the Ideas site. (This is the link if you want to listen. http://www.cbc.ca/1.3762393 )
Genevieve von Petzinger is a world-renowned expert on prehistoric art. What’s she’s discovered has shaken up her entire field. Most researchers of Ice Age art focus on paintings of mammoths or bison, from famous sites like Lascaux or Chauvet. But Genevieve von Petzinger has devoted her professional life to something else: the lines, hand prints, and dots that have — until now — been given scarce attention. The St. Germain-la-Rivière teeth – France. These nine teeth are part of a collection of forty-eight deer teeth decorated with geometric signs. Found in a 16,000 year-old burial in France, these artifacts are thought to have originally been part of a necklace included as grave goods. (D. von Petzinger, courtesy of the Musee Nationale de Prehistoire, les Eyzies-de-Tayac, France.
So now here I am, deep in the prehistoric centre of human existence.
We trotted off to the market this morning. Of course I left my phone behind, as you do, when you go to a market. (Face palm!!). And after the market we went to the museum of prehistory at Les Eyzies, the mandatory starting place for any prehistoric exploration. The exhibits were all fantastic but unfortunately all in French and I lost much enthusiasm for translating early on. BUT there were these fantastic little vignettes (videos) showing flint knapping, and painting, and making various tools–things I find very fascinating. In the CBC documentary the archaeologist visited the same museum to see the engraved deer teeth. There was a vignette on them but do you think I could find the actual teeth??? Genevieve, who is a Canadian too, expressed her disappointment that the teeth were displayed very poorly–you could not see the engravings!! I couldn’t even find the teeth!! But they had similar things and it was very enthralling!!
Look at how the museum is nestled into the rock face!!We had a picnic by the river with the melon and cookies we bought in the market this morning. We will be kayaking the river on Saturday so this was a nice preview!!We had couscous from the market for supper, along with our wine from the chateau, and a caramel walnut tart for dessert. I’ve been furiously writing to try to get caught up on my blog–I have post cards to write too but now bed. Tomorrow is the Lascaux cave visit and perhaps I can do postcards afterwards. Anyway, good night.
It was so quiet overnight out in the vineyards but it is definitely a working farm–Mr Farmer buzzed by the window quite early in his tractor. We went out for a walk to the main road before breakfast and the farmers were out spraying and trimming and doing god knows what to the vines—a farmers work is never done!! Look at these beautiful grapes!!I don’t know what this flowering plant was but it was sure pretty. Everywhere you looked there were beautiful things–either old buildings or old stones or old vines.
We passed this old church on one of the small roads we were travelling on. The church is built on 9th century Norman foundations. See how the stone steps are worn away from all those years of worship. I love these little plaques that are put on top of the graves. In the adjacent village there had just been a festival and the men were beginning to dismantle the decorations. It was really quite attractive with all the streamers coming down from the bell tower. This church was actually built by Edward I (Longshanks) of England. They were everywhere, these medieval people–you think they didn’t go far from home but of course, Edward was king, so had the budget to travel–however it was still at the speed of a horse. And the English owned a large part of France in the early medieval period so had to maintain not only a presence but had to keep the locals sweet and on their side. That font is ancient and look how thick the walls are!!
We carried on driving, with google maps taking us down all the back roads. It was truly like driving thru a postcard–imagine living in a house that is a thousand years old, or attending services in a thousand year old church. The old manor houses were all fortified and the farm compounds had towers and thick thick walls in the houses. In some places I think it looks the way it did hundreds of years ago. If not for the modern cars in the drive and the electrical wires it could easily have been the 13th or 15th or 17th centuries.
We drove thru a village with a huge covered marketplace. Look at the roof timbers. There was some sort of old fortified manor house or castle adjacent that had been converted into a children’s summer camp building.
And an old church too–love the old fonts…The roads were quiet and we just poked along, oohing and ahhing. We turned a corner and happened to see a tiny village with a large church so we had to go in to see. The church was all locked up. I wanted to see inside so I went to the Marie (City Hall). The girl was very nice and just handed over the big key!!This was a fortified church from the tenth century, with the bells added in the 12th century. There were some very nice paintings and wall decorations inside. Check out the carving on the leg of the font!! And I love how the stone steps are worn away from people stepping into church. Then we passed fields and fields of sunflowers. We had to pull over and climb thru the ditch to see the flowers as the faces were all turned away from us. We drove thru cave country–we couldn’t take pictures of the limestone cliffs but we will be exploring these over the next week. Then we pulled into Sarlat de Caneda, and found our bnb. What a beautiful attic apartment Carolyn found. That’s us on the top floor with the two skylights. We have a kitchen to make meals and took full advantage last night for supper–wine from our chateau bnb, bread and cheese, tomatoes and olives and a delicious dried sausage. A fridge is great for our market purchases. We had a quiet night in with our wine and a great nights sleep!!