Finally, we were able to take a trip out of Nice.
Rural France always beckons, and I had had a hankering to see the Lascaux caves since middle school geography class so off we went to the Dordogne River valley, otherwise known as the Perigord Noir.
The crowds were thin this time of year, because Covid restrictions have kept away the large number of British second-home owners in this area. We didn’t hear one single British accent, and normally there would be plenty.
But the Perigord Noir is touristy for good reasons. It is ravishingly beautiful, the river cutting through limestone escarpments pockmarked with caves and topped with medieval villages that endured endless battle during The Hundred Years War (basically an English-French war of succession). Vines of roses crawl over stone houses everywhere, poppies fill the fields in early June, chateaux welcome visitors to their formal gardens, and you never want to go indoors.
It is also famous for its prehistory: many caves are full of carvings, drawings and paintings made around 20,000 years ago. We visited the Lascaux Cave replica, well worth the time. Yes, I’d like to see one of the originals, and there are some lesser decorated caves you can actually enter, but there is much to learn and be awed by even at this duplicate. Lascaux was vast and grand. It was a major work of art and accomplishment for its time, like the Parthenon or cathedrals later on. I was particularly taken by a painting of a cow, which to my eye could have been contemporary. Their maker would probably have a lot to talk about with painters working today. How I’d love to go back in time and meet them.
People then didn’t live in caves, as there was a bit of an Ice Age going on and below ground was just too cold, but they used them for ceremonies. One theory is that the paintings were intended to come “alive” with flickering lights, and in fact remains of oil lamps have been found. Check out @DilettanteryPod on Twitter for an interesting thread on this very topic.
So, what about regional food? Not my favorite. The Perigord is famous for foie gras production, magret de canard, gizzard salad and various things cooked in goose fat. But, it’s also smothered in walnuts and as a result one can sample delicious walnut liqueur, walnut jams and walnut cake. We ate the latter every day without fail. Lastly, there’s the rustic sourdough, baked in a wood-burning stove for a smoky char.
We stuck to our usual pattern when traveling: drive to a couple of hill towns and walk up to the top to admire the views, stop midday for lunch and rest, then resume. We sought out the smaller villages on the Dordogne or Vézère rivers, where we’d linger under willows and raucous birdsong. France has a lot of places like that. I hope we see many more of them.
Fabulous portrait of a beautiful region. I’m glad you were able to go, and found it quiet and tranquil! We were last in the region in early 2016; in March many places were “preparing” for the tourists to come and many restaurants etc. were closed, but the slower pace made it easier to enjoy the countryside and villages. Did you know there is a cave in the Vezere, “l’abri du poisson,” with a life-sized salmon sculpted in relief? 27,000 years old! It was a different place in those glacial days.
Ted, I saw the info on the l’abri du poisson, and read about the salmon. They were huge in those days.
Imagine how the cuisine of Perigord might be very different, with salmon that size in the rivers! Watch out, magret du canard!
*VERY* nice! I posted the link on Facebook and will add it to our June blog. Thank you for including us as part of your audience.
This is my FB post: My friend Kathleen has a new blog entry and it is amazing. She went to see the Lascaux Cave replica and many other sites. Her blogs are not lengthy and are always well worth a read. Her photographs are always gorgeous and her writing is beautiful Check out her current blog post: https://kmazz.com/2021/06/16/le-perigord-noir/
Thank you, Ruth!
Yet another extraordinary commentary, with exquisite photos! Thanks for sharing, Kathleen.
Best to you and David. Indeed, HAPPY SPRINGTIME AND SUMMER!
Happy summer to you, Jim.
Very well written post!!!👏😘
Kathleen, I encourage you and David to embark on additional travels around France as your posts are always so interesting. Wonderful photos too! I wonder if UK residents will be returning soon to the region? Stay well!
I love the sight and sound of that smoky char on the rustic sourdough–a beautiful boule and cascade of consonants.
Thank you for this lovely armchair voyage! That walnut cake reminds me of the classic recipe so beloved in Greece. But oh, the bread! Seeing your photo clinched it for me: I’m baking a mie, by golly, no matter how long it takes.
Looks like you two will never run out of places to wander. That’s good, because the pandemic is all but over (knock on wood). Vermont has hit the 80% mark of vaccinated residents, so has completely opened up, though next door in NH, the mask still reigns. Have a great summer!
Send me a photo of that bread you make!
all so pretty–can’t wait to see some of “your” country in person maybe next spring?
Hi, John. Let’s hope there aren’t more variants.
Thoroughly enjoyed that – read it to Tim xox our mouths are watering.
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Great photos, especially Sarlat-la-Caneda. You have a great eye.