Sunday, December 22, 2013

Lascaux, the "sistine chapel of prehistory"

It was a little cloudy as we drove through the Vezere Valley, known as the cradle of mankind, since this is where Homo Sapiens, or the Cro-Magnon people, were first found. Passing Les Eyzies, with it's National Museum of Prehistory, we continued up the valley to Lascaux.

We finally arrived at the caves just in time for the lunchtime closing. Back in the town of Montignac, we wandered around for awhile, particularly enjoying the walk by the river. After deciding that we didn't want black or blood sausage, we settled on a little bistro for lunch. We had had a coffee there earlier, and I had noticed that duck lasagna was on the menu. First we had a lovely green salad, with bib lettuce of course, followed by the amazing lasagna, which had a thin top and bottom of pasta and the rest was duck. We made owner very happy with our praise of this magnificent lasagna.

We got back to Lascaux cave promptly at two o'clock, but were made to wait another twenty minutes until the tour started. Several of us waited patiently reading the books in the shop. The Lascaux caves are a perfect modern copy of the original that was closed in 1963 as the paintings were beginning to deteriorate. The caves were found by a young man out walking his dog, Robot in 1940. It is as the local Abbé Breuil suggested, "the Sistine chapel of prehistory," an unforgettable experience that overwhelms you with with a sense of art, history and a certain, "Je ne sais quoi," but something very powerful.

The artists may have lived 17,000 years ago but but they were people who were much like us, with aesthetic sensibilities and a sense of humour shown by some of the paintings of cows, deer, horses and some whimsical animals. The perfectly proportioned and colourful  pictures will never be forgotten. Frustratingly, photography was not permitted.

We backtracked to a small museum that reproduced some drawings not in the Lascaux caves. Again they were quite stunning. Outside there was a zoo with some of the animals represented in the drawings.

Our next stop was the pretty village of St. Leon sur Vezere right on the river. Unfortunately, Le Petit Leon restaurant was closed for the season but what a spot this would be to sit outside for lunch. There was a path right by the river, which we followed to the nearby huge chateau that dominated the landscape. From here we walked down some narrow, narrow lanes passing some ancient stone houses, admiring the remnants of their summer gardens. This truly is a beautiful and very tranquil spot.

Driving along we had passed several goose farms, duck farms and even a snail farm. We stopped at one of the goose farms watching the antics of the geese as they followed one another around the field with much flapping and honking. I bought a tin of jugged goose -- civet d'oie -- for dinner one evening. It is to be served hot with steamed potatoes.

Since we hadn't yet bought any wine, we drove to Le Bugue. After a quick stop at a patisserie for a reviving coffee accompanied by the brightest pink marzipan pig you can imagine, we visited the famous cave of Julian de Savignac. This was highly recommended by Bruno. Here we bought some of his favourite Perchament red and some Malbec. It was a fine finish to the day, or just perhaps that honour goes to the frites cooked in duck fat that accompanied our dinner. Oh my! How much porridge will we have to eat to counteract that?

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