On Friday we had booked ahead on the internet for Lascaux, the most famous of the prehistoric painted caves. Actually it is Lascaux 2 ---- an exact replica build once they realised that letting thousands of tourists into the caves to view the paintings was going to result in their rapid deterioration due to harmful micro-organisms carried in on the breath, clothes and shoes of the visitors. Also the temperature in the caves (12-13 degrees C) would go up and help ruin everything there.
No photographs are allowed, even though it is a replica ---- the French are very keen to guard their rights on their national treasures.
But we also went to le Thot, a little museum and animal park with species descended from the creatures around when the paintings were done
(the mammoth isn't real, but the rest are!)
One thing we had not realised in advance was that right by where we were staying was the Font de Gaume cave which is the only cave in the world with multi-coloured paintings still open to the public (other places have drawings only in one colour - black or red). There is another such cave in France and one in Spain but htey are both closed. People book months in advance to be one of the very restricted number of people allowed in to Font de Gaume each day (they worked out how many can come in without changing the temperature and environment inside). Or you can queue for a restricted number of same-day tickets --- ticket office opens at 9:30am, people were queuing from 7am!
However, the owners of our B&B knew of a guide who taking a private tour into the cave on Friday afternoon. He was also booked up and only had one place ---- that was going to be me, but we both went along on the off-chance and he managed to get us both in, because a later group was going to be one less than the maximum, so the overall count for the day would be ok.
So that was a real privilege and the guide was excellent, giving us a whole lecture about pre-history and the theories about how and why people did the paintings before and after we went in to see them.
I can't tell you how amazing it is to see these paintings made by early man tens of thousands of years ago.