Saturday, July 7, 2012

An Australian, a Finn and Three Americans walk into a cave....

Yesterday was the big adventure to the Lascaux Caves, in the South of France. The caves are home to 17,000 year old paintings in a state of near-perfect preservation!

The only problem is that Lascaux is inaccessible via public transport, and to get there we needed to make this journey.....

right across France......

a car......

...where the steering wheel is on the wrong side of the car, 
the gears are on the wrong side of the car, 
the clutch and accelerator are on the wrong side of the car
.....and everyone drives on the wrong side of the road!

Not to mention that most of the driving was on roads that looked like this...

and this...

and this.....

 With five girls in the car, it was really only a matter of time before someone needed a toilet stop. Of course, with infinite faith in GPS technology, I veered off the beaten track in search of a rest stop. 

We ended up in Luane. 

This is Luane. 

This is ALL of Luane. 

We bought bread and cheese and ate it with our hands!

Then we got back on the road....

Mackie and I, who were the designated mum and dad of the trip (by virtue of sitting in the front seats) had programmed the GPS to go to Lascaux, Centre-Ville. Sensible, right? 


This is Lascaux Centre-Ville. 

Not a cave in sight....

And when we programmed the GPS to the address of the Office of Tourism where you buy the tickets for the caves, which is in Montignac we realised we were still an hour and a bit away. I gave up driving at this point (after four hours) and Finnish Laura took over.

This allowed me to take some photos out the window of the super pretty country side...

When we finally arrived at Montignac we found that it was, itself a remarkably beautiful town.

Where we promptly busied ourselves eating the delicacies of the local patisserie. 

 And then we were off to the caves...

The caves were a truly amazing experience. The original caves were closed off to the public after the pigments used in the paintings started developing incurable diseases due to their exposure, after 17,000 years, to people breathing all over them!

You are however, able to see an exact replica built on the site. They were painstakingly sculpted to mimic the exact rockface of the cave, and then painted over a period of six years by a French artist. 

The result is remarkable, although because the replica is made of the same sensitive pigments, you are not able to take photos. Here are some internet happy snaps to give you a bit of an idea of what it was like: 

All of the paintings in the Lascaux Caves are of animals, including a large number of bulls, cows, ibexs and horses. At the time of the paintings all these animals were wild as argiculture and domestication were yet to be developed. 

When you walk under the ceiling, decorated with these images and the natural texture of the cave, you can't really can't help but feel a sense of awe. 

One of the most remarkable paintings is this one, the Upside Down Horse. 

It is difficult to see here, but he is painted around a bend in the cave. It is impossible to see from the front the back of the horse and from the back, the front of the horse. The painter who made it never saw his work whole or completed. 

Yet, with today's technology, we are able to look at the horse flattened and we have since found that it is the most realistic, and beautiful horse in the caves, the closest to life and the most richly detailed. 

As you can see in this happy snap, they have evidence that the painters in the caves invented a type of lamp, stencils made of animal skins and even scaffolding to complete the art. 

We had an absolutely amazing time, and it definitely made the 9 hours of driving worth it. 

However, on the way back we managed to get lost again. This time we ended up out on a long road where I tried to do a u-turn, only to find a car approaching us from behind. We had no choice but to go forward, where upon we realised that this "road" was actually a drive way and we were approaching the guy in the car behind us' house! EEK! Luckily we were able to do a u-turn near his garage and escape with no questions asked. 

This was also the moment where my rage at French roads not making any sense was interrupted by a fox and a hare darting across the road in front of me. Yes. An actual fox. And an actual hare.

A bientot!

1 comment:

Robyn said...

Isounds like fun!! It would have been the correct side for your American friends!!