In the stunning Dordogne again after our 2-week break at Lac de l’Uby, where we just simply continued to enjoy the proper summer weather with hot temperatures and hardly a cloud in the endless blue sky. We were grateful for our pitch in the shade and the large cooling swimming pool and, of course, the carp fishing, which ended with a grand total of 7 specimen ranging from 9-17Kgs: Adonis was happy, to say the least.
We left Lac de l’Uby on Monday morning and headed straight north to an aire on the north side of Bergerac at charming Lembras. It was wonderful to see the lovely welcoming ceramic mural the local school children had made to receive motorhomes and the aire itself was a very pleasant surprise, beautifully maintained, with hanging baskets and neatly cut lawns for us to enjoy. And all for free: just marvellous!
There is a very pleasant shaded walk adjacent to the aire that leads to the river Caudeau as well as an alternative longer circular hike to a Roman bridge 2.5 km away, but we were happy to simply stroll to the river to cool off a bit.
We were very keen to visit the world famous and UNESCO listed prehistoric Lascaux caves and wall paintings in Montignac and for this purpose we stayed at the convenient aire in town highly recommended by fellow motorhomer Guy, whom we met at Moissac in March, so we knew it would be good. We planned to get our tickets to the caves at the TIO and walked there in the afternoon to book them for the following morning, but we were told that the tickets are now sold directly at the entrance to the caves, which were only a short walk away. On getting there, rather than wait until the morning, we thought we might as well do the guided tour in English at 4 p.m. as we only had to wait for 1/2 hour. What luck!
We waited for our guide to call us and after getting our audio guides and tablets, our group of around 20 people of all ages set off excitedly into the mystery of the caves. At the start of the tour, our friendly and funny guide, Olivier, gave us a brief history of how the caves were discovered by an 18-year-old lad, Marcel Ravidat, following his dog, who had run off chasing a rabbit into the entrance of the hidden cave and, being too scared to enter on his own, he went back the next day, 8th September (my birthday, would you believe!) 1940, with 3 friends. They meant to keep it secret until they died, but somehow word got out and soon everyone in Montignac knew. Because of the WWII, the caves remained ‘secret’ and shut until 1948, when they first opened to the public, but due to the damage caused to the painting by body heat and breathing from so many visitors, they were closed forever in 1963.
This brief introduction outside the caves was followed by a short film explaining how 20,000 years ago the surrounding landscape was completely different, not covered in dense forest, but immersed in the Ice Age, looking more like Siberia, with temperatures as low as -30ºC!
The caves we visit nowadays, Lascaux 2, are an exact replica of the original and walking through the narrow and uneven passages, gaping at the extraordinary paintings on the wall, is a very humbling experience. What can I say other than they are very impressive and absolutely magnificent and the knowledge that they have been there for 20,000 years makes it all the more awe-inspiring.
The guided tour lasted an hour and then visitors get the chance to explore freely using their tablets for more information in the visitors’ centre, where even more replicas of the paintings have been created. It is here that pictures are allowed, as for obvious reasons, none are allowed in the caves themselves.
This is certainly a ‘must-visit’ and ‘must-do’ experience when in the Dordogne region and we left very happy and all the richer for having visited this magical place.
We spent a quiet evening back in the motorhome aire in Montignac and left this morning to discover more treasures in the Dordogne. We are now south of Sarlat-la-Caneda, at Vézac, nestled between some very picturesque villages which we plan to explore either on foot or on our bikes. The aire is right under some very high and impressive cliffs and next to the Camping de la Plage. We have free access to their swimming pool, but not their shower/toilet block, and the Dordogne river is just a few meters in front of us: complete bliss!