Tag Archives: Cave Paintings

Autumn 2016 Newsletter

NewLogLemonBalmCanoe100x100

Hand-crafted and Fully Guided Canoe Trips that combine the pleasures of paddling down tranquil rivers with an insight into the history and natural history of the region whilst we enjoy the local cuisine and stay in small Inns and B&Bs as we make our way gently downstream in beautiful & dramatic countryside.

A Green River Canoes Poster: http://goo.gl/GRZBSF © Steven R House 2014

Autumn Canoeing

On the Vézère, the Dordogne and the Célé rivers in France

You still have time to enjoy a late holiday break to the South of France with us. September & October are great months for paddling, and of course these are wonderful places to canoe in the Autumn.

It is still warm: very often it is still warm enough to swim in the rivers. We have the  7 Days in the Perigord and the 6 Days on the Cele trip. Or you can push both trips together for our 12 Days 3 Rivers tour. The rivers are quiet: we are often the only people on the river, and of course the châteaux and castles and restaurants and wines are as fabulous as ever.

The tours include visiting the 25,000 year old cave paintings in these regions at Lascaux & Pech Merle, and we can fit in visits to other caves if we wish: Castel Merle, Rouffignac and Font de Gaume for example.

The number of châteaux we canoe past is almost too numerous to mention: the Losse, Belcayre and Clérans on the Vézère, the castles at Montfort, Castelnaud and Beynac as well as the châteaux of Marqueyssac, Fayrac and Milandes on the Dordogne and also the Devil’s Castle and the Chateau Cabrerets on the Célé.

We also visit and stay in numerous pretty villages – Les Plus Beaux Villages de France – which include Saint-Léon-sur-Vézère, Saint-Cirq-Lapopie, Beynac-et-Cazenac, La Roque-Gageac and Castelnaud-la-Chapelle. With a little bit of effort we can also visit Domme, Cardaillac and Saint-Amand-de-Coly. These are all tiny country villages in stunning settings. We will also visit the regional town of Sarlat-la-Canéda, preferably on market day.

But, of course, rivers are our main focus and the scenery and wildlife are just as stunning in this season and we will have the bonus of autumn colours.

Célé, Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips

Admiring the cliffs on the Célé river, Lot France

6 Day Célé Tour

A 5 Night, 6 Day tour in which  we spend three days paddling the Célé river and a day hiking a section of the Way of St. James. We also visit the cave paintings at Pech Merle. An extra day can be added if we wish to paddle on the Lot river for a day or we can swap the hike day for a paddle day.

On this tour we will stay in a farmhouse above the Célé for the whole tour. This will save us packing & moving on every night. Every day is but a short drive to the river. Not even 20 minutes drive. Our host Richard & Helen will prepare lovely home-made meals for us and we will enjoy the conviviality of their home.

We will rendezvous with our canoes on the first day and then keep them for the three days it will take us to paddle down to the confluence of the Lot river. We will picnic along the way for lunch and stop at the pretty villages along the route. We will also have ample time for little walks & hikes here & there.

Full tour details are here. The brochure is here.

The Chateau de Belcayre on the River Vezere, Perigord, France

The Chateau de Belcayre on the River Vezere, Perigord, France

7 Day Perigord Tour

A 6 Night, 7 Day tour in which we canoe down the Vézère & Dordogne rivers with visits to caves to see 25,000 year-old paintings, troglodyte dwellings along the river, huge castles and beautiful chateaux.

On this tour we spend two days paddling down the Vézère river and 3 days paddling down the Dordogne river.

The Vézère valley is famous for being the ‘valley of man’. Almost 200 sites of Neanderthal and CroMagnon antiquity have been found here. We will see and explore some of them, including the renowned Painted Caves at Lascaux. But the Vézère is also beautiful for other reasons, including fabulous chateaux, stunning scenery and wildlife.

The Dordogne river is  famous for its more recent history, the 11th and 12th Century for example, which are represented by the huge castles we shall pass, which are reminders of the 100 Years War between France & England. We shall paddle past these as well as numerous smaller chateaux  built for more peaceful times. We shall have plenty of time for visiting some of these as well as the stunning villages along the way.

Full tour details are here. The brochure is here.

Beynac on the Dordogne river, France

Beynac on the Dordogne river, France

12 Day 3 Rivers Tour

An 11 Night, 12 Day tour in which we canoe down the Vézère, the Célé & Dordogne rivers by combining the 6 and 7 Day tours above.

Full tour details are here. The brochure is here.

GRC_2015NewsletterFooter

Advertisements

Guest Blog: Day 2: Vézère: Chateaux and Locks

On the Vézère with Chateaux and Locks

Another cool and overcast day with rain forecast at midday – but it will be our first day on the river – yea!  Some went for a walk with Steve at 6:30 but I opted out this morning – spent some time in the lounge checking e-mail as that is the only place I can get wi-fi.  I was not up for getting up at 6am! Breakfast was at 8am – typical European breakfast with cold cuts, cheese, cereal, yogurt, croissants, coffee and juice.  We were ready to leave the inn at 9:15am.

a1 Our inn

Our inn: the Relais de la Côte de Jor, St. Leon-sur-Vézère

After stowing dry bags and such in the van, Steve, Marlee, Ann and I took a path down to the village where we meet the canoes – about a 40 min walk.  Beautiful stone walls, summer houses awaiting their occupants, wildflowers, rows of walnut trees just starting to leaf out, white horses who came running to greet us – all part of the experience.  We gather paddles, life jackets and then follow the trailer with the canoes to the put-in spot.
From here we walked up to the town of Montignac where we grab coffee, or an éclair while the “Steves” do some errands.  Finally around 11:30 we are finally on the Vézère River!

c20 Finally - what we came here to do!!

Getting ready at Montignac on the Vézère river

I am paddling with Steve in the stern – I am lucky!  He is a wealth of information as we paddle the quiet river, sometimes with a few ripples, past verdant river banks, 10th century chateaux sitting high above us with ivy hanging down from the cliffs, waterfalls flowing rapidly, waddle tail birds, sandpipers, gray herons and 3 ancient 18th century locks that kept the river traffic running when there were dams on this river until the railways were built.

Steve (aka George – nicknamed by me as he called me Patty in the beginning of the trip!) prepared a delicious picnic lunch for us along the banks of the river – it was fun despite a light rain falling.  Here we also explored the sleepy little village of Sergeac, so quaint and lovely with blooming gardens and cozy looking French homes made of limestone.

c24 Cheryl paddles with Steve

Cheryl paddles with Steve

d30 Steve & I approach a small waterfall

Steve & I approach a small waterfall

Another 30 minute paddle in the rain brought us back to our village of St. Leon where we took out and climbed in the van for another adventure.

 

e41 One last look

One last look at the Chateau du Losse on the Vezere river

We stopped at the Rouffignac Caves – only 10 million years old!  These caves are all natural as they were found and contain so many interesting features.  We take a little train through the corridors of the cave with a guide speaking in French and occasionally in English for the 5 of us.  The further and further that we got into the caves, the more interesting it became.  20,000 years ago, bears inhabited these caves and made huge crater-like depressions in the floor rocks as they hibernated.  They also made many scratchings on the rock walls as when they awoke, they needed to trim their nails!

Deeper into the cave it became apparent that man had also inhabited this area – but 14,000 years ago.  There were many etchings on the walls of hippos, bison, woolly mammoth, big horn sheep, horses etc. In some places there was even some graffiti on the ceilings – these were done by “modern” visitors who were not aware of the prehistoric drawings further on in the caves. Some of the animal etchings were superimposed to make it seem like the animals were running and some were even pregnant.  It was hard to imagine in some of the areas where men had to actually lie on their backs due to the low ceiling to make these etchings. It was quite mind boggling to see these ancient etchings of another civilization!

g65 Toasting with pastis!

Toasting with pastis!

Back to our inn, time for a shower and then we are off to dinner at 7:20.  We ate in town again – a 5 minute drive by van.  My duck confit was absolutely delicious and we had laugh after laugh after laugh – a great group and great guides!  Per Steve 2 or “George”, we are going through the group dynamics of “Forming, Norming, Storming and Performing” – he was a psychiatric nurse at one time and has done much psychiatric counseling – guess we all need that!!  Ha! Ha! But whatever it is, the group is certainly working and we are having a great time and a lot of laughs!

Green River Canoes Back Book Cover

Details of this tour can be found here: Green River Canoes 12 Days 3 Rivers

Lot, Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips

A Trip to the Célé in July 2015, Part 3

Pech Merle, Cabrerets and St. Cirq Lapopie

Today we start with a visit to the painted caves at Pech Merle. It’s a short drive from our farmhouse, firstly into the Célé valley at Sauliac at then down the valley to Cabrerets. After hanging around for a little bit we are led into the cave down some steep stairs. It’s like entering the tomb of the mountain king, or perhaps it’s like entering Moria, or as it was known in the ancient days Khazad-dûm. Let’s hope no Balrog lives down here now.

Cave paintings at Pech Merle, at Cabrerets on the Cele river, Lot, France

Cave paintings at Pech Merle, at Cabrerets on the Cele river, Lot, France

The cave is fascinating and beautiful. The geological aspects are of course stunning. Fabulous stalactites and stalagmites but it is the paintings that overawe. 25,000 years ago a group of people used these caves to draw, carve and paint the animals that meant something to them.

After an hour of so we come stumbling out into the light and spend another half-an-hour or so checking out the museum. Now it’s time to get back on the river.

Célé, Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips

On the trail down from Pech Merle to Cabrerets with views over the Causse de Quercy, Lot, France

Célé, Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips

The Devil’s Castle at Cabrerets, Lot, France

We decide to walk back down to the village and take the steep track as it descends to the river & village below. It doesn’t take long and before we know it we are marching along the road back to where we have left the canoes. We retrieve our gear from the minibus and flip the canoes over ready for launch. We first have to remove any unwanted passengers: a spider here, a slug there!

Célé, Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips

Making a splash on the chute (glissiere) on the dam at Cabrerets on the Célé river, Lot, France

Célé, Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips

Surviving the chute (glissiere) on the dam at Cabrerets on the Célé river, Lot, France

A very short paddle brings us underneath the Château where another dam and flour mill are. We have another chute to glide down. I go down first and eddy out to watch the others come down. A big splash heralds the boys and then another as the parents come down. More wobbles but no capsizes.

Célé, Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips

Canoeing on the lower section of the Célé rivr, Lot, France

On we go for an easy hours paddling down to Conduché where Kalapca have there canoe base and where we will finish canoeing on the Célé. The river runs down beneath high cliffs and twists and turns. We dodge the shallows as usual and then arrive at the Pillars of Hercules. Two large boulders have fallen into the river from the cliffs above and I always pretend that it brings good luck to all paddlers to do a figure of eight manoeuvre through them: through the middle, then turn left around one, through the middle, then turn right around the other, then through the middle again. It’s a good exercise anyway. Also I believe the good luck thing because once, shortly after doing it we passed a tree and as we went past it fell down into the river behind us. A lucky escape? I think not.

Célé, Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips

Paddling on the lower sectin of the Célé rivr, Lot, France

After the Pillars we continue downstream until eventually we come to the ramp at the canoe base. Steve is there to help haul the canoes up and we get ourselves all sorted before hopping into the minibus for the 5 minute ride over the Lot river to Bouzies. We notice the strange small castles built into the rock-face and drive carefully over the very narrow, single-track suspension bridge.

At Bouzies we picnic beside the Lot river and gaze at the tour boats and hire boats. The Lot is navigable in this section and has numerous locks along its course. We will see this tomorrow when we canoe on her.

Lot, Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips

The ‘Sentier de Halage’ (Haulage Towpath,cut into the cliff on the Lot river, Lot, France

After our splendid lunch we start our hike to St. Cirq Lapopie and take the Chemin de Halage along the river bank. This is the path that horses used to use when barges were pulled along the river. We pass under the old railway bridge and come to the place where the path has been cut dramatically into the cliff-face.

Lot, Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips

Jumping into the Lot river from the towpath, at the confluence of the Célé river, Lot, France

Lot, Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips

Swimming ithe Lot river from the towpath, at the confluence of the Célé river, Lot, France

Half-way along the path we come to some steps leading down to the water. This is where the boats tie up if they have to wait for the lock gates. Some children are here jumping off the path into the river 10 feet below, and then swimming back to the steps. Our kids want to do it too. Why not? We hang around for a while whilst the children enjoy themselves.

Lot, Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips

The ‘Sentier de Halage’ (Haulage Towpath, on the Lot river, Lot, France

We continue along the path to the lock itself. We are disappointed that no boat is passing and we don’t have the chance to wind open the sluices or the gates. The path continues alongside the canal so boats can get past the weir. We pass numerous fruit trees: apples and plums and many walnuts. Eventually the path turns away from the water, and passing somebody’s immaculate vegetable beds we reach a small country road.

Lot, Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips

Looking at St. Cirq Lapopie in the Lot valley, France

In time we reach the footpath which will climb up to the village of St. Cirq Lapopie. The climb is short and steep, but we take a break half-way up to scramble out onto some rocks and admire the view. When we arrive into the village square we are surprised to see many people. It is a popular spot. I take a break on the hotel cafe terrace and enjoy a long cold beer. The others wander around for a bit.

Lot, Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips

In the village of St. Cirq Lapopie, Lot, France

Lot, Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips

The Abbey in the village of St. Cirq Lapopie, Lot, France

We then decide to walk down through the narrow alleys of the village until we reach the arched gate at the village entrance. Steve is here to meet us and we soon pile into the minibus for the short 15 minute ride home. Our drive takes us down into the Lot valley, across a bridge, and up to the causse on the other side. We stop to admire the view over the Lot valley and look at where we will be canoeing tomorrow.

Lot, Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips

St. Martin below us in the Lot valley, France

At the Métairie Basse farmhouse we relax and loll about as usual. Some of us take a dip in the pool some of us take a nap in the hammock, and try to be nonchalant when we fall out of it. Oops. I hope no-one saw that!

Before very long it is dinner-time again and Richard & Helen do us proud once more. We have a delightfully convivial evening before retiring, once again, for an early night.

A Trip to the Ardeche in May 2015 (Part 3)

40,000 Year old Cave Paintings at the Spectacular Chauvet Cave

The Chauvet Cave in the Ardeche, Frnace

The Chauvet Cave in the Ardeche, France

On the third morning we drove up to Vallon Pont D’Arc and beyond to find the new Chauvet Cave exhibition centre built in the hills just outside of town. Here they have built a replica of the cave found in 1994 which contains the oldest cave paintings ever discovered. To proteect the original paintings from the ravages of the atmosphere this exact replica has been built. We spend the whole morning inside this cave being shown the paintings by a knowledgeable guide. We are astonished at the artistry and skill of our Cro-Magnon forebears.

Inside the museum at the Chauvet cave, Ardeche, France

Inside the museum at the Chauvet cave, Ardeche, France

Inside the museum at the Chauvet cave, Ardeche, France

Inside the museum at the Chauvet cave, Ardeche, France

Inside the museum at the Chauvet cave, Ardeche, France

Inside the museum at the Chauvet cave, Ardeche, France

Inside the museum at the Chauvet cave, Ardeche, France

Inside the museum at the Chauvet cave, Ardeche, France

Of course we are not allowed to take photographs inside the cave and these shots are from the screens inside the museum at the same site. They do not convey at all how fabulous the actual paintings are.

Spending all morning at the Chauvet Cave was well worth the visit. I’d recommend it to anyone.

In the afternoon we visited the villages of Balazuc, where we had lunch in a very wind cafe.

At the village of Balazuc, Gard, France

At the village of Balazuc, Gard, France

At the village of Balazuc, Gard, France

At the village of Balazuc, Gard, France

Later we visited the pretty village of Labeaume as well.

At the village of Labeaume, Gard, France

At the village of Labeaume, Gard, France

At the village of Labeaume, Gard, France

At the village of Labeaume, Gard, France

At the village of Labeaume, Gard, France

At the village of Labeaume, Gard, France

 

 

Spring 2015 Newsletter

Our Newsletter for the Spring of 2015 is now available. Here is a summary of the news section.

Cave paintings at Chauvet, at Pont D'Arc on the Ardeche river, Ardeche, France

Cave paintings at Chauvet, at Pont D’Arc on the Ardeche river, Ardeche, France

Cave paintings at Chauvet, at Pont D'Arc on the Ardeche river, Ardeche, France

Cave paintings at Chauvet, at Pont D’Arc on the Ardeche river, Ardeche, France

Cave paintings at Font de Gaume, at Les Eyzies on the Vezere river, Perigord, France

Cave paintings at Font de Gaume, at Les Eyzies on the Vezere river, Perigord, France

Cave paintings at Font de Gaume, at Les Eyzies on the Vezere river, Perigord, France

Cave paintings at Font de Gaume, at Les Eyzies on the Vezere river, Perigord, France

Cave paintings at Lascaux, at Montignac on the Vezere river, Perigord, France

Cave paintings at Lascaux, at Montignac on the Vezere river, Perigord, France

Cave paintings at Pech Merle, at Cabrerets on the Cele river, Lot, France

Cave paintings at Pech Merle, at Cabrerets on the Cele river, Lot, France

Cave paintings at Pech Merle, at Cabrerets on the Cele river, Lot, France

Cave paintings at Pech Merle, at Cabrerets on the Cele river, Lot, France

Cave paintings at Lascaux, at Montignac on the Vezere river, Perigord, France

Cave paintings at Lascaux, at Montignac on the Vezere river, Perigord, France

Pre-History Cave Paintings

Visiting caves in France with 25,000 to 40,000 year old paintings

On our trips to the South of France we take the opportunity to visit some of the sites of Man’s oldest artistic endeavours where we can see cave paintings from the times when both Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon Man roamed this part of the world.

Opening this spring are the Chauvet caves near the Pont D’Arc in the Ardeche Region of France and we will ensure that we visit it on our canoeing trips to the region. These caves were only discovered in 1994 and, as at Lascaux, a replica cave has now been created so that the paintings can be observed without disturbing and destroying the originals.

On our trips to the Perigord region we include a visit to the paintings at Lascaux and we can also try to book into the site at Font de Gaume (not a replica cave, where the number of visitors is restricted) and Rouffignac where you travel into the cave on a small train.

Our canoe trip on the Célé and Lot rivers includes a visit to the cave at Pech Merle just above the village of Cabrerets, also an original cave.

6 Day Perigord: Day 7: Back to Brive via Lascaux

We visit the cave at Lascaux II before leaving for home.

These are some reminiscences of days on the river in the Perigord region of France. I shall be mixing up stories from my first trip, eight years ago, to the trips we did last summer, about thirty trips in all. This entry is about the sixth day of the Perigord trip, where we canoe on the Dordogne river and pass some beautiful Chateaux  and generally swan about before reaching the canoe base at Siorac.

It’s the final morning and everyone has the return to Paris on their mind. We still have time however to manage a couple of things this morning before making our way to Brive for the train departures.

First however we will get breakfast over and then make sure everything is packed away in the van and we have all the luggage and have not left anything behind. We have some fun cramming everything in and making sure we can access the stuff we are going to leave at Roland’s place.

Our intention now is to get to Lascaux and visit the caves. We telephoned yesterday to book ourselves in. Preferably we would like an English language tour but they only do a few per day and it might not fall kindly for us. No matter. We will take what we can get.

Cave Painting at Lascaux II

Cave Painting at Lascaux II

It’s a fairly short 40 minute or so drive through the back roads, passed Sarlat to get to Montignac and then from there only three or four kilometres to the site of the cave. We arrive before 10am to catch an early as possible tour. Usually the parking spaces are fairly full already, especially in the high season, but the tour buses have not yet arrived.

At the ticket booth we sometimes have some problems. Every year they seem to change the place where the tickets are sold. Some years it is only at the Tourist Office in Montignac and other years it is only on site. If it’s a Tourist Office year we can usually blag our way by saying that we hiked here and it’s unreasonable to ask us to hike to Montignac and back. It always works.

Of course Paul and I have been in before and so we don’t go on every trip. Besides we have to take some gear to drop off at Roland’s Place. The tour takes about an hour so that gives us time to do that. From time to time we also get guests who don’t want to visit the cave and see the paintings. Some people are put off by the fact that it is a replica and not the real thing. If that is the case then we can take these people to visit the huge fortified church at Saint-Amand-de-Coly and wander the beautiful village.

The fortified church at Saint-Amand-de-Coly

The fortified church at Saint-Amand-de-Coly

I should say though that I believe that Lascaux II is an outstanding visit (This link, by the way allows you to visit the site virtually). The cave is an exact duplicate and the artist who painted the replicas took 9 years to do so. It is absolutely stunning, and I think not to be missed. Not many people will have the chance to return here.

Cave Painting at Lascaux II

Cave Painting at Lascaux II

After an hour or so Paul and I will return to pick up the pieces and we will finish the drive back to Brive that takes about an hour. We are usually in plenty of time to get the train and often we have sufficient time to return the van to the hire place and catch the same train up to Paris. Strangely two trains leave within a few minutes of one another and often we have some guests on one and some on the other.

Sometimes we have time for lunch before departing, sometimes just time for a cup of coffee.

It’s always sad to say our farewells; here or in Paris. I, for one, can always say I’ve had a great trip and met some lovely people.

Cave Painting at Lascaux II

Cave Painting at Lascaux II