Dordogne and Lot provide many opportunities to go back in time to see the artwork of cavemen within fabulous caves. There’s almost too many around Les Eyzies-de-Tayac – Grotte de Lascaux II, Grotte du Grand Roc, Grotte de Font-de-Gaume and Grotte des Combarelles. When we had driven through on our way to Sarlat we had found the huge tourist numbers almost overwhelming so when we were at St-Cirq-Lapopie it made sense to visit the nearby caves at Pech-Merle. They are just up the hill from the very cute town of Cabrerets with it’s troglodyte house cut into the hills.
On arrival we parked and made our way to the cashier’s desk. Only a certain number of visitors are allowed each day. Luckily we were able to join the next available tour which was about 40 minutes later. Whilst waiting we took the time to look around the museum showing the history of the discovery of the caves, lots of fossils (even a mammoth’s tusk) and replicas of the cave paintings we would see shortly after. Fortunately we met an English couple who were on our tour and I was able to borrow a jacket. Even though it was 27 outside, in the cave it would be quite cool and I was just in a t-shirt.
As it turned out our group was mostly French speaking as was the guide. Fortunately our guide gave us a guide book in English which we and the other two English speakers in the group referred to as we went. The path took us into a large chamber at first with lots of the usual stalactites and stalagmites but most impressive was the first cave painting there.
In fact the truly amazing cave paintings were a highlight overall.
An artist’s handprint on one of the paintings was an unusual feature.
Also there were a number of calcite sculptures formed from water containing calcite running over grains of sand and over thousands of years building up to make small ball like objects as well as a ‘spinning top’ too.
Large calcite formations were also impressive, especially with the backlighting.
Another feature that has built up over thousands of years were the remarkable floor to ceiling columns.
Our tour ended after about an hour. The guide had given an animated performance for the French speakers, most of which was too quick for me to understand, but clearly walking around with a guide book was second best. However we were well pleased that we had visited Pech-Merle.
Final note- The photos of the cave interior and the paintings in this post are either replicas from the museum at Pech-Merle or scanned copies from our souvenir guide book. Sadly no photos are allowed in the caves due to ‘scientific reasons’. One wonders about the commercial reasons! Perhaps I’m being cynical but I would have thought photos without a flash wouldn’t have been a problem.