The Vezere valley is also the home of the earliest form of art, painted on cave walls by prehistoric man. There are two famous examples: Font-de-Gaume, which you have to pre-book a month in advance (we hadn’t) and Lascaux. The original Lascaux caves, with their striking images of animals and mysterious symbols, is no longer open to visitors in order to preserve it. However in 1983 they opened Lascaux II, a replica of the original cave. It took artists 11 years to reproduce the paintings using the same pigments and methods. So do we drive over an hour to see a fake? I was tempted to go but Dougie wasn’t budging, not keen to see the Blue Peter (here’s one I made earlier, or should it be later?) version. I had a leaflet for the Grotte du Sorcier, famous for the drawing of a chap who is very well-endowed but both husband and son refused to travel any distance just to see a dodgy drawing of a big todger.
A few days into our holiday and it was piddling outside. I wasn’t expecting this and was most annoyed. Caravans are cold at night anyway and this weather wasn’t helping the general misery we were feeling in Jabba the Hut that morning. SuperDad came to the rescue with his fabulous omelettes using the newly-repaired frying pan. We really should have attempted boiled eggs as the mobile home came equipped with eight egg cups. Eight? Who on earth would cook eight boiled eggs so they could be simultaneously eaten by eight happy campers? I’d love to be in charge of the inventory for a caravan: put some decent knives in for a start, steak knives preferably so you can actually cut the food you’ve cooked on the provided barbecue. Oh and bigger wine glasses please.
When it’s raining in the Dordogne sightseeing is high on the agenda as this area is jam-packed full of caves, ideal for dodging the raindrops. We took advice from our trusty guide book and had an amazing tour of the Gouffre de Proumeyssac, otherwise known as the Crystal Cathedral. We’ve seen a few caves with stalactites and stalagmites in our travels but I think this one must count as one of the best. It’s the biggest underground cavern in the area and is quite breathtaking inside with its calcite formations named The Medusa and The Waterfall. What was spectacularly kitsch was the presence of large tables underneath the dripping stalactites filled with little clay models. The figurines remain on the tables for 12 months until they have built up a deposit of calcium carbonate crystals. Once above ground they are polished up and put in the gift shop to sell to excitable people like me. I bought myself a little traditional Sarlat goose.
In the end we drove five minutes up the road to the Grotte de Bara Bahau, so named because of the noise made by the falling rocks which created the cave which was then inhabited by bears. There was a small group of us waiting for our guided tour of the cave: we were mainly Dutch and British so the guide decided to speak in English. He had to concentrate very hard doing his spiel and looked like a very serious David Mitchell (without Robert Webb). Our group weren’t his ideal students: a rag tag of families with naughty children, a crying baby and three pissed New Age traveller types. There we all were trying to follow David’s laser pen as he traced it over seemingly random scratches on the walls:
We all nodded and tried to behave which was difficult as the baby then burped and we started to snigger. The New Age travellers began to chat to each other at the back of the group and were immediately chastised by Monsieur Mitchell as he stage-coughed and barked the words:
“If you don’t want to listen then maybe you should leave. I think it would be the best.”
They promptly shut up and we were then shown some aurochs and galloping bisons (apparently). Ten minutes later the travellers decided to sneak off and their departure was greeted by a very loud “Goodbye” from an increasingly tetchy guide.
The sniggering continued, the baby wailed and the toddlers became fractious. David gave up and directed us back to the exit where we all shuffled off like the inattentive children we obviously were.
Back in the car I looked at the leaflet and discovered there had been an engraving of a phallus in the cave after all! BossyBoots hadn’t wiggled his laser pen over that bit of prehistoric rudery, more’s the pity.