Friday, 29 September 2017

The Manche to the Med - Day 10: Montignac to Sarlat

We're over half way now - another glance at the map and it seems hard to believe that we've cycled all this way, carrying all our stuff, unsupported, on bikes that weigh almost as much as we do!

The hotel in Montignac is interesting - it seems there is just one man running the whole show, he booked us in, he sorted out breakfast for everyone, he always seems to be around, hidden, but popping up almost telepathically whenever he is needed. Kind of a Ninja Hotelier.

Today and tomorrow will be easier. Tomorrow certainly - we've built a rest day into the schedule - we'll get all our washing done and have a lovely day taking it easy. Today is a short ride to Sarlat but first we have decided to stay in Montignac for a couple of hours and visit the Lascaux Cave Paintings. We thought we'd buy some water first, but it's Saturday, everything is closed.

The cave was discovered in 1940 and contains Paleolithic paintings estimated to be 17,300 years old. The cave was put on show in 1948 but the damage caused by carbon dioxide exhaled by visitors led to it being closed in 1963. A replica cave was built in 1983 and now there is a totally new Lascaux IV International Visitor Centre - on the outskirts of Montignac and offering a totally new visitor experience. I'd visited Lascaux II a few years ago - so I knew this would be worthwhile - and worked hard to convince Gaz who was a bit reluctant at first.

Lascaux IV
Walking up to the site, the first impression is of modern architecture, then it sinks in that the building design is reminiscent of a crack in the rocks - rather like the discovery of the cave must have been. We got our tickets and waited for our allotted tour - we'd be taken round with an English speaking guide. When we were called our group consisted of only half a dozen people. The guide was exemplary, she explained everything clearly and answered all the questions we had. She walked us through to the cave entrance - there was a dog barking and a man shouting in the wooded slopes just above - I suddenly realised there are speakers out there recreating how the cave was discovered.

The visit was absolutely worthwhile - and we can thoroughly recommend it to anyone passing through or visiting the Dordogne - this is definitely not to be missed.

We finally got on our bikes at the crack of noon. The first mile or two from Montignac was okay - but then we started an excruciating long climb that went on and on. Cars were hooting - either in sympathy or admiration - as they passed. We were riding up Duck Hill - why Duck Hill? - because it was Canard.

When we approached Sarlat there was a welcome downhill stretch for a mile or so and then we were on flat roads into the town. It was market day, the streets were overflowing with traders and tourists. We couldn't cycle through so we dismounted and pushed our bikes along the medieval streets.

Sarlat market
Sarlat has been inhabited since Roman times and became an important and prosperous city in the VIIIth century. It is the most famous town in the region and one of the most renowned and visited in France. It is also one of the most attractive. The old town with its impeccable Medieval and Renaissance buildings, built from yellow sandstone, is a delight.

We finally made it through the throngs to our hotel, situated half a mile outside the old town. Our room was good and after stowing our bikes in the underground garage we enjoyed a quick beer.

More about Sarlat in the next post!

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