Fiona Horan enjoys some art at the Lascaux Caves in France

Inspirational cave art

Inspirational cave art

Events and Entertainment Editor Fiona Horan recently visited her mother in France and spent a few days in the Dordogne.

On the way they called at Nontron, a charming hilltop town with gardens, both public and private, tumbling down from the ramparts of the main street and lovely views over the countryside.

They spent the night at the village of Montignac, close to the famous Lascaux caves and is also an extremely attractive little place in its own right, with medieval houses of honey-coloured stone on either side of the Vézère River. Though small, the village has a tourist office, many hotels and eateries, and a campsite.

The following morning Fiona and her mother visited the Lascaux Caves, which are just ten minutes walk from Montignac. The original cave was closed to the public in 1963 because 15 years of visitors had caused contamination and deterioration of the artwork.

Fiona outside the Lascaux visitor centre

Fiona outside the Lascaux visitor centre

To protect these extremely ancient and fragile pictures and yet satisfy worldwide interest and curiosity, a series of replica caves has been created underneath the very modern looking visitor centre. Not only has the artwork been painstakingly copied, but so has the cave itself – the rock walls, dimensions, levels and height are exactly accurate.

After visiting the realistically chilly new cave, visitors can learn more about the paintings in the visitor centre, which is very high-tech and educational – or head off to the café (expensive, but over-looking the attractive bee-friendly borders).

Fiona and her mother also visited the beautiful Jardins de Marqueyssac overlooking the Dordogne river and the town of Sarlat-la-Canéda – a 14th century treasure of well-preserved buildings. Sarlat’s centre is mostly car-free and it has little alleyways that suddenly open into small squares and is slightly reminiscent of Venice.

On Wednesdays and Saturdays there is a market in the centre selling food – cheeses, sausages, oils, preserves, bread, and pate de foie gras, for which the area is famous. Though very touristy, the town clearly still has regional importance, and Fiona noted that many of the customers at the market seemed to be local.

Autumn proved to be a great time to visit the area. Fiona says, “The countryside is truly beautiful, the weather was good, all the attractions were still open without being too crowded.”.