Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Caves, castles, and catches

Here's the Renault Trafic diesel van we rented...nice rig. It handled the nine of us comfortably with plenty of room for our stuff.

On the way to the Dordogne we stopped in St. Emillion where we had a picnic lunch in a small out of the way garden below the walls of the city.

We also tasted some St. Emillion wine. Adam and Missy ordered a case of wine to be sent home and the proprietor threw in a free bottle for our picnic was very good!
We really got the most out of this trip. During our two and a half days there, we went to Sarlat and strolled about the town. This was were I got my new hat.

We visited two castles, Beynac and Castlenaud. The former was loyal to the French during the 100 years War, the latter was the English stronghold in this area.

They had a pretty good view of each other for the duration. During our tour of Beynac we were shown how in the kitchen and dining hall they suspended food and babies from hooks in the ceiling to protect them from rats. They even had to hang up their crossbows to protect the strings from being gnawed in two.

We also visited three prehistoric caves, Lascaux, Font du Gaume, and Rouffignac. Each one was amazing in a completely different way. The first contained artistic images that were so fully realized that you might have thought you were in a contemporary art gallery, the second was an amazingly closeup and creepily dark look at original cave paintings set deep within a twisting narrow cave that had us all feeling as though we had descended into some netherworld where images danced to flickering candlelight, and rock forms played tricks with your eyes, here bulging, there hollowing out suggesting bison's bellies, heads, horns etc...the third cave was enormous and featured a little train which transported you far down into the cave. This cave had been discovered in the fifteenth century. We say graffitti dated 1770! I'm not sure why that is so memorable to me when the cave paintings themselves go back many millenia.
Tucked in between these cave visits we also managed to lunch in Les Eyzies in the public gardens and then take in a great musuem there...La Musee de Prehistoire. For anyone interested in learning about prehistory and seeing skeletal remains and reconstitutions of extinct speicies as well as aritifacts and tools this museum has it all. Everything is very accessible and user friendly, perhaps a little too accessible. This exhibit of a bison, an animal which once roamed the continent and which is depicted in many dozens of cave paintings in the Dordogne, is enclosed in plexiglass but the top is completely open to the air. I was standing next to this particulary bison when I heard Colm counting "One, two, three!!"
I turned just in time to see, Sparkle Rose, his stuffed unicorn sailing up into the air in an arc that was destined to terminate in the airspace directly above the bison exhibit.
Instinctively, I reached up and, like a third baseman snagging a soft liner, turned certain trouble into a routine put out.


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