Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Prehistory and great food

Day 5: a cave, a picnic, a troglodyte roque, another cave, and a star dinner

We got a better night's sleep, thankfully, and were on our way fairly early.  Today was market day in Sarlat.  We walked past all the very pretty displays but did not linger.  It seemed to be mostly vegetables, fruit and foie gras!  We're so not shoppers...
Pretty busy early on a Wednesday morning
Beautiful produce
The indoor market with its massive doors
 First order of business was Lascaux II.  It was an easy drive now that we were dictating to the GPSs instead of the other way around.  By this I mean we used our lovely Michelin #329 map to plot our course onto big roads, used the GPS to tell us how to get to those roads and then followed the signs for the town we were headed.

We stopped in Montignac to buy the tickets to the cave but at this time of year, you actually buy the tickets at the cave.  We have a 40 minute wait for the next English tour. We used the time to walk past the original cave entrance to the closed restaurant (?B&B) down the hill for scenic views (not worth it).  By the time we made it back, the tour was about to start.  I think there were 50 people on the tour.  It was very well lead by a woman who spoke excellent English.  Very interesting to see how the cave was discovered, almost destroyed, then recreated, and how long it all took.  I know it's "fake" but wow! were the paintings astonishing!  Spectacular!  So glad we got to see it. 

We walked to the view, killing time
The pretty view
Entrance to the original cave 

Entrance to Lascaux II
It was getting on lunch time so we headed to St. Leon sur Vezere for a picnic.  This is a super scenic little village on the Vezere river.  We popped into the church then grabbed salads, wine and beer at the restaurant with picnic tables on the river bank.  You can bring your own food and drinks, and had we been thinking ahead might have picked up stuff at the Sarlat Market, but nonetheless, we very much enjoyed this break.

Idyllic setting

Husband reluctantly agreed to go to the next stop: La Roque St. Christophe, the troglodyte city, overlooking the Vezere river.  It was an easy drive from St. Leon.  I really liked this place--the views are spectacular! The thought that people lived there since like forever ago was fascinating.  I also loved the models of the medieval weapons (they're all catapults to me!).  Harsh way to live but, even back then, location really was everything.

Beautiful view

Amazing views

The "Grand Staircase" is suspended

We tried to get into Font de Gaume but it was sold out for the day.  So we called the Grotte de Rouffignac and they were still open for tours.  We made it a few minutes before the last tour (5pm) and had a little time to walk around looking at the displays and reading the information on the ipod before the tour (in French only) started.  I estimate 30 people were loaded onto the electric trains for the tour into the cave.  It was very cold and dark and it was hard to see the bear claw marks and the scratches that made up most of the drawings.  Not a lot of color here. The two herds were pretty cool. Husband liked it more than me.  It would have been better if the information on the ipod were in audio format so I wouldn't have to read the bright ipod screen then try to make out the markings on the walls.

We drove through Les Eyzies de Tayac--so freaking cute--but kept heading back to Sarlat.  We had dinner reservations at Le Grand Blue at 730pm.  It's the only Michelin star restaurant in Sarlat.  It's located down by the train station so kind of a longish walk from where we were staying, and of course we got turned around a little bit on the way there.

The place is modern and comfortable. It was pretty empty when we arrived but by 830pm was 3/4 full.  Weirdly, one table of 6 sat down, had the amuse bouche, then got up and left.  It didn't look like the staff were sad to see them go! 

The amuse bouche was their version of sushi (tasty).  The soup was leek with an asparagus ice cream and a spicy foam--delicious. My starter was shrimp, some were a little raw but tasty, and one was fried perfectly.  Husband's starter was caramelized pigs feet which he liked a lot.  My main was John Dory fish with rice and avocado, very good.  Had kind of an Asian flair.  Husband had beef with figs and really enjoyed it.  I loved my dessert: macaroon filled with strawberries with the richest chocolate ice cream imaginable.  Husband's pear soufflĂ© was prettier but less tasty.  Overall, this was a very nice experience.  The food was quite good, the atmosphere was elegant and calm, the service was excellent.  The only thing they could improve is their silverware--kinda looked it something you'd get at Target (and not the most expensive stuff there either). 

Slow walk back to the apartment for the night.  It had been a really fabulous day!

1. Use your map and the directional signs instead of the GPSs only, duh.
2. Splurging on nice restaurants is nice. :)

Next: More caves and vertical towns

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