Thursday, October 8, 2015

More Caves and Vertical Towns

Day 6: Pech Merle, St. Cirq Lapopie, Grotte du Cougnac, La Roque Gageac, Domme, pizza

We were looking forward to seeing the cave paintings at Pech Merle.  During our 4 day stay in the area, the English tour was only offered today at 1030am so I bought the tickets online a few weeks before the trip. 

We set out pretty early and right away had problems with the GPSs.  We had plotted our course and wanted to take the A20 to Souillac but, in a fit of the stupids, ignored the sign pointing to the A20 in the middle of Sarlat and followed the GPSs instead.  We were routed on the smallest roads you can imagine on a fog filled morning.  It took forever to reach our destination and on a day we had to be there at a certain time!  We did not enjoy this drive, at all.  And decided once and for all to basically ignore the GPS and just follow our map and the road signs. 

At any rate, the scenery was gorgeous and we made it to Pech Merle with a couple of minutes to spare.  We only missed the introduction to the cave and what we would be seeing. The guide lead about 30 of us into the cave.  He was not as fluent in English at the lady at Lascaux II which made it hard to follow everything he was saying.  But the cave was spectacular and fascinating.  I mean, what's up with the hands?  And that horse.  And those "people"?  After the tour, we spent a few minutes in the museum before it closed for lunch and also perused the limited offerings in the gift shop. 

We got back on the road to St. Cirq Lapopie where we figured we'd have lunch before moseying on to Cougnac cave which was only open from 2-4pm.  We parked up the hill and walked down to this super adorable town.  We  stopped for lunch at the first place we got to, Lou Bolat, which had a terrace crowded with people enjoying the weather and the food.  I ordered Coq au Vin which was delicious.  It came with fries and some kinda weird tomatoes.  Husband ordered roasted duck which also came with the fries and tomatoes.  We drank delicious cider.  It was all very good and we really enjoyed our lunch.
First view of St. Cirq Lapopie

Coq au vin

Roasted duck
We then walked up to the church for the spectacular views over the Lot river and valley.  We popped into the church and took a few photos (my favorite of the sunlight reflecting the stained glass was taken here). 

I love this shot of the reflected stained glass

We looked at the time and decided to make our way to the Grotte du Cougnac hoping we'd get there before they closed at 4pm.

It was close!  We arrived at 350pm.  There was one other couple there, from West Virginia, and they had looked at the sign in the ticket window and determined that there were no more tours for the day.  I got mad at the Michelin Green Guide because it didn't say "last tickets sold at" under Cougnac like it did for many other attractions.  I called the number but the message was in French (duh).  Husband studied the sign and said he thought it meant "next tour at 4pm" (prochaine was the operative word) so we all waited. 

Shortly after 4pm, here came the guide and three tourists.  Husband was right!  As we paid our entrance fee a few other people showed up (a few spoke English so the tour was in both languages).  This guide was enthusiastic and engaging.  We thoroughly enjoyed the two caves we visited.  The paintings are similar to Pech Merle and they also had the "people" and some symbols in common.  But the stalagmites and stalactites were gorgeous.  Just a beautiful place.  No pictures in the section with the paintings but we could take photos in the other cave.  She was careful to point out the small bats hanging around, yikes.  Impressive cave and great tour!
Grotte du Cougnac

Delicate lace like formations all over
There were tiny bats hanging around...

(If I had to rank the caves: 1. Padirac, 2. Lascaux II, 3. Pech Merle & Cougnac, 5. Rouffignac).

It was a pretty day so we routed ourselves to La Roque Gageac just to see this pretty town.  In the late afternoon sun, the rocks glowed a deep gold--so beautiful. It was seriously quiet so we didn't linger. 
Beautiful golden La Roque Gageac

So very picturesque
We headed to Domme and drove up through the town and parked by the TI.  It was super quiet, just a few people admiring the sunset from L'Esplanade Hotel. We stopped in the church for a bit.
Domme entrance

I'd read good reviews about Cabanoix et Chataigne so we headed there for dinner.  It was about 730pm, the restaurant was empty, but they turned us away because they were "fully booked."  Oh well, our fault for not making a reservation but surreal to have a completely empty restaurant not be able to seat us.  No biggie.

We headed back to Sarlat and missed the turn to the parking lot again!  We finally made it back to the apartment where we dropped off our stuff, decided against duck, and stumbled onto a pizza joint that could accommodate us (they were about to seat a party of 70).  It's a weirdly illuminated place (lots of neon pink) that did not look inviting but we enjoyed the pleasant service, our pizza, salads and free wifi.  A Paul Sorvino look-alike was at the next table, lol.
What we were craving after days of foie gras!
Short walk back to the apartment for our next to last night. 

1. GPSs are smart but we're smarter (maybe, sometimes).
2. We'd like to spend more time exploring the Lot
3. Make those dinner reservations.  You can always cancel if plans change.
4. Learn more French.  We might have missed the tour at Cougnac but for seeing a million "prochaine" signs while driving.

Next: Castles!

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