Saturday, 11 August 2012

Explore Lascaux II

For anyone remotely interested in history and especially pre-history, a visit to Lascaux II is a must. Lascaux II is a copy of the Grotte of Lascaux which is situated approximately 200 m away from the original cave, up a hill overlooking Montignac which is a charming village in the Vézère valley.

Lascaux II opened in July 1983 and is the exact copy in three dimensions of the Lascaux cave which was closed to the public in 1963. At the time the accumulated breath (i.e carbon dioxide) of the thousands of visitors flocking to view the beautiful paintings caused the temperature to rise and the condensation forming on the walls as well as the algae they brought in on their shoes affected the cave and caused 2 separate diseases "the green leprosy" and the "white disease" (i.e. calcite crystals) which started to cover the paintings.

The only solution was to close the original Lascaux to the public and tackle the diseases. They managed to eradicate the green leprosy but could not get rid completely of the problem caused by the carbon dioxide. The cave was closed and the replica built. To this day only a few people are allowed to visit the original cave  and only with special permission. Two galleries have been reproduced "The Bulls Hall" and the "Axial Recess" gathering 90% of the paintings of the original all made 17,000 years ago.

Being very interested in archaeology, I had always wanted to visit Lascaux II, but in the past had been put off by some comments made on certain websites. Finally since I had some friends staying with us for a holiday, I decided to take the plunge! I certainly do not regret it the visit lasted about 45 minutes and was conducted in English (my husband and friends do not unfortunately speak French!) and it was really an amazing experience. The beauty and sensitivity of the paintings cannot be conveyed with words. These Cro-Magnon men were very much modern men like us and it is evident in their carvings and paintings that they had an amazing knowledge of their surroundings and had extraordinary painting skills. I would highly recommend the visit and it is only and hour or so away from Bergerac.

A word of warning though! You can only buy your tickets in the town of Montignac near the Office de Tourisme which is situated near the church. Follow the blue panel located on the side of the church as seen on the photo below.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Limeuil - One of the "plus beaux villages de France"

Yesterday, I decided to take my Welsh friends who are staying with us for a week to visit Limeuil. Limeuil is one of the most beautiful villages of France and is situated in my favourite part of France, the Dordogne. We left Bergerac early afternoon and followed the Dordogne river past Creysse, Lalinde, Badefols-sur-Dordogne, Calès and arrived 45 minutes later at the foot of the village which has its own beach. From there you can hire a canöe or kayak and go down the river for a few hours of peace and quiet and nature watching. The steep streets of the medieval city lead to the site of the ancient fortresse that controlled the confluence of the Dordogne and Vézère.

The visit of the village itself last an hour and a half and you can get a leaflet from the Office de Tourisme which details the village layout and the points of interest. Of particular interest are: the échoppe de tisserand which still sells garnments but which is so small you have to try what you want to buy in the street and la maison de tolérance du village which housed the girls who were there to give a little comfort to the Gabarriers (sailors) who were a long way away from home! At the top of the village, where the fortresse controlled the confluence, les Jardins Panoramiques de Limeuil await you. This part of the visit cost 8€ per person but it is worth it just to admire the magnificent view of the the Dordogne and Vézère rivers meeting. On the way down, there are plenty of little cafes and restaurants where you can spend another hour sharing a cool carafe of rosé and we chose to accompany the wine with some delicious homemade ice creams.