Thursday, 30 June 2011


Marie climbing to Route des Corniches
Ian’s second “day off”/ Caves of Niaux twinned with Creswell, Mansfield!!!

Ian’s day off started with an early morning cycle with me, up a quiet lane out of Les Cabannes, on the Route de Cornichons, through little hameaux and hills above the road to Andorra in the valley below, and with views of the mountains in the distance.  Steep to start with, and then very pleasant, skirting meadows and plateaux, through little villages, and up to the Chateau, remains of a Cathar stronghold, set high on a hill.  Montsegur is not far away, but will have to wait for another visit, but we’re hoping to see the chateau of Peyrepertuse, which is supposed to be stunning.

After lunch, we set off for the caves of Niaux, a few miles back down the road to Foix.  Visits by appointment only, and I’d previously called in and arranged that yesterday.  Famous for its wall drawings in black and red, about 800m deep inside the cave in the Salon Noir.  Extraordinary, sophisticated drawings of bison, horses, and  ibex, so accurately drawn with perspective, using the cave wall features to depict shoulders and tails, they could have been painted yesterday!  But they’ve been carbon-dated at 14,000 years ago, in something called the Magdalenian period.  There was a dramatic moment, when the guide turned off all the torches and we left in total darkness, whilst one of our American visitors sang Amazing Grace, to demonstrate the acoustic beauty of the place!  We all stood there in silence in the dark, for a few minutes.  I realised I’d never been in total darkness before, and it was quite special.  To stand in the same place where 14000 years ago, homo sapiens  had been depicting animals, that they worshipped or at least revered!

Entrance to cave
The guide asked us where we were from, and told us that there were some cave carvings found about 7years ago, in, get this, Creswell Crags, just down the road from us at Worksop.  He was so enthusiastic about them, gave us a leaflet and everything.  It was bizarre to travel all this way to the border with Spain, to pick up a leaflet advertising a cave, about 30miles away from home.  So we promised we’d pay it a visit.  It was so important to him, and he added that it had initiated a whole new era of reference called the Creswellian period in artistic and cultural history!!  Well, well!

Enough culture!  Back to the aire for a beer in the sun and catch-up with the blog stuff!  Still haven’t managed to post blogs yet, without Wi-Fi in all locations up to now!  But we’ve managed to catch up with the girls and find out where they’re up to.  Haven’t seen Lily’s face for a while now and I’m missing here, or as I like to call her “Lickle Pickle”!  Kate and Michael skyped Andrew and Lizzy a few days ago, and said Lily looked great!

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