The long awaited opening of Lascaux 4 happened on the 15th December 2016! This seemed an unlikely date in the depths of the winter (and it can get very cold in the Vezere Valley – we’ve known temperatures as low as -18OC (about -0.4oF). But this was the ‘soft launch’ which is as well because there were some teething problems. There will be a far more high profile opening in the Spring although President Hollande has already made a visit. This was apparent to us because there were security helicopters buzzing around overhead and a small army of gendarmes at every roundabout in the area! He seemingly was impressed (interestingly though – the French Government haven’t actually contributed any funds to this project) which has cost some 57 million euros. The result is a stunning building and a completely different visitor experience.
On arrival and having joined a group, the official guide will take you to a glass lift which elevates you to rooftop level to both take in the views and access the facsimile. The walkway is intended to replicate as closely as is practical, the route taken by the lads who discovered the cave in September 1940.
There is then a scene setting video to enjoy – similarly after your visit there is another gallery running through our changing concept of prehistory which we will talk about in a future blog.
What did we think about the new facsimile? We have to be honest here, we had mixed feelings about it. There is absolutely no doubt, the creation and reproduction of the cave is superb – as it should be with all the technology used (10’s of million survey points!) and all credit to the artists, they have achieved just as high a standard as that in Lascaux 2 and therefore the original Lascaux. But what spoilt it for us was having visited the first chamber which in many respects is similar to Lascaux 2, the visitor flow is then from the Axial gallery to the Nave which includes engravings (not reproduced in Lascaux 2) BUT instead of linking the two areas in an appropriate and sympathetic way, in order not to disrupt the visitor flow, there is a boarded, blank corridor so the journey is totally disrupted and it screams out that it is false. This meant we, in common with all visitors, largely missed the Galloping Horse and the Falling Horse – two of the greatest masterpieces in world art! (amongst our favourites in the cave).
It seems such a missed opportunity to create something totally mind boggling – if only the two areas flowed together to keep the overawed feeling going as one progresses through the cave.
Having left the facsimile ‘cave’ area, you then progress to the high tech area which is where the teething problems were evident! Initially each visitor is issued with a tablet (and little or no explanation how to use it) on which photos can be taken. Fortunately we had a ‘low tech’ camera with us and had taken the precaution of using that as the ‘high tech’ approach failed to work on the opening day. This is something that will be resolved and no doubt visitors will benefit – or, of course, could use their own camera if preferred.
Panels similar to those seen in Le Thot are suspended and as you progress round, automatic sensors trigger the commentary on the tablet for the adjacent panel. The downside of being there on the first day is that the staff didn’t know all the ins and outs of how these ‘gizzmos’ worked, so it was all a bit hit and miss. It is definitely not for the technically challenged, but techno-phobics reading this, don’t despair – on our Tours Steve will be there to give you explanations and answer your questions.
Seemingly photography will be allowed in this zone via the tablet which is a plus, although it didn’t work for us due to teething problems.
It is entirely possible that we are being over analytical and critical because of our background and desire to give our visitors the best possible experience whilst with us. Also leave with a picture in their mind of how life was in the Vezere Valley for our ancestors and with memories that will stay with them. As you can tell from this recent email, we know this happens “ So, I want to thank you for escorting Pat and I on one of the most life changing vacations I’ve ever had…. ” This is very gratifying and is what it is about for us. (Thank you Mikki).
If you’ve visited Lascaux 4, please do let us know how you feel about it, we would be very interested to hear from you.
In 2017 we understand Lascaux 2 will still be available and we plan to take our visitors to both sites so they can tell us what they think. This will be very interesting for us! We’ve not altered our prices from the 2016 rate and thus the extra visit is a bonus gift from us – so it’s a great year to come and there are still a few places left. Why not come and join us and see what you feel about Lascaux 2 and Lascaux 4? Which do you prefer? It may be your last chance to compare the two.
Does Lascaux 2 feel ‘plus authentique’ (more authentic) than Lascaux 4? You will have to come and find out!