As our 2017 season draws to a close, autumn is really setting in here in the Dordogne. In the last week, the leaves have gone from being green to being well on their way to full autumnal golden glory. It really is a beautiful time of year here in the Vezere Valley. The mornings are misty and mysterious, often with the sun faintly visible through the mist, but not able to break through yet – that will come later (we hope!)
It’s time to reflect on our season. How has it been? Once again, we have met delightful people through our Tours. The great thing about them is that our visitors all have something in common before they arrive – a wish, and sometimes a long held wish – to visit the caves. Groups bond instantly and naturally – and the saying is so true, ‘arrive as strangers, leave as friends’. And for us too, whilst we have got to know our visitors to a certain extent through exchanging emails during the booking process, it is when we meet up that we begin to really know one another. It is a most enjoyable aspect of running Caves & Castles Tours.
This year it is also time to consider the question we posed earlier in the year. What will our visitors’ reactions be to the newly opened Lascaux 4, compared to Lascaux 2? We have our own views, of course, but have been careful not to influence our guests’ with our thoughts – it was what they thought that was important to us and we feel, to you.
It has been very interesting!
This year and next year – after that, who knows? – it is possible to visit Lascaux 2. For our folk it is usually their first visit, so they don’t know what to expect. But for us, of course, it is a familiar place – Steve must have visited hundreds of times over the years we have been running our Tours and he still gets a buzz from it. But the visit there now is even better than it used to be! For a start, not so many people are going there as they are attracted to the higher profile Lascaux 4 – and a smaller group makes for a much more intimate visit. Secondly the visit is longer giving more time to pause, think and appreciate what is in front of ones eyes – and it is an awesome sight. Thirdly, the guides now extinguish the lights and light a flame lamp. The effect is dramatic! In the flickering light, you see as closely as it is possible to, what the artists saw as they worked. It also brings out the feeling of movement in the animals intended by the artists by using the advanced artistic techniques of twisted perspective (Cubism 20,000 years before Picasso!), 3D and animation.
So what of Lascaux 4? It is bigger – much bigger! The configuration of the cave is very different, following more closely the actual layout of the original cave, winding more sinuously. The quality of the artwork is once again, stunning – how wonderful that modern day artists have the time, patience and skill to reproduce this ancient art. As in Lascaux 2, the same materials and techniques have been used as those employed by our ancestors. The accuracy is even more ‘spot on’ than in Lascaux 2 which is an incredible feat – Lascaux 2 was accurate to within 5 mm and thanks to the aid of vastly advanced computerised surveying techniques, Lascaux 4 is accurate to less than 1 millimetre! Also, now we can see many of the engravings for the first time.
Without exception our visitors have enjoyed both sites. The general consensus was that Lascaux 2 is more “cave like” and has a better ‘feel’ to it – or ‘plus authentique’ as the French would say. Of course, it cannot be the same as a visit to an original cave, but there are other opportunites to do that – Font de Gaume, Les Combarelles, Rouffignac and Cougnac all feature in our Tours. All are original, all are different and all are most definitely atmospherically awesome!
Without doubt the opportunity to take photographs in the exhibition area which is visited after the ‘cave’ visit is a winner with visitors – and there are some great photo opportunities to be had. The suspended panels are painted to the same incredibly high standard and are able to be scrutinised at close quarters.
To our mind, this year and we are informed next year – after that who knows? – it is possible to have the ‘best of both worlds’ by visiting both Lascaux 2 and Lascaux 4. We deliberately included both this year having made our first visit on the opening day of Lascaux 4 and we must admit we do have a ‘soft spot’ for Lascaux 2! The layout may not be quite as accurate as in Lascaux 4 – 90% of the paintings have been cleverly ‘woven’ into what people have commented as the “more cave like” space – but it does make for the most amazing visit. Being surrounded by the bulls in the Chamber of Bulls and then walking out along the decorated Axial Diverticule to pass the incredible ‘falling horse’ (the artist could not have seen both ends as he worked on this masterpiece!) is such a privilege. Perhaps we are biased being so familiar with Lascaux 2 – why don’t you join us on a Tour next year as see what you think? It may be your last chance!
|Steve and Judie Burman live in the beautiful Vezere Valley in the Dordogne region of South-West France. Together they run Caves and Castles, specialising in prehistoric Cave Art and medieval Castles Tours. You can join a small group (up to 6) 4 night/5 day Tour based 2 nights each in the medieval towns of Sarlat and Montignac-sur-Vezere or book a custom Tour for a day or more.
Professional archaeologist, Steve loves to share his passion for the ‘Cradle of Humanity.’ World famous sites such as Lascaux, the ‘Sistine Chapel of Prehistory’ and Font de Gaume are close by. Coupled with gastronomic meals and superb wines, your Caves & Castles Tour is really special.
Slow Travel Tours is an affiliation of small-group tour operators who offer personalized trips in Italy, France and other European countries.