Next morning it was still raining, and the temperature had plummeted from 30 degrees to 13! Luckily there are lots of caves in the Dordogne in which to take shelter, so we decided it was a good day to visit Lascaux, the most famous of them all.
This cave system, with its spectacular 17,000-year-old wall paintings, was discovered in 1940 by four teenage boys. It opened to the public in 1948, and proved immensely popular, with the result that the humidity caused by all the visitors made algae
grow on the walls and damage the paintings. The cave had to be closed to the public in 1963. A replica was created (Lascaux 2) in 1983, but after thirty years of use yet another replica, Lascaux 4, had to be made. (Lascaux 3 was a touring exhibition.)
The new “cave” is state of the art, built well away from the original cave, with ample parking for the thousands of visitors who flock there. And on a rainy day in June it was particularly busy!
The whole experience is very hi-tech,
and includes a museum, 3-D visualisations, films and interactive displays. Everyone is issued with their own tablet, then there is a guided tour of the replica cave, where photography is forbidden. It’s just as damp and dark as the real thing, and the
paintings of bulls, deer, bison and horses seem to flicker into life as the guide shines her torch on them – an unforgettable experience. Emerging from the replica cave you enter a large interpretation room where there are more replicas of the
paintings – replicas of replicas, in fact! - this time fully lit, and you can approach closely and examine them at leisure, and take photos with the tablet which you can then send to your own computer. It would be possible to spend hours
pottering about, visiting the cinema, the theatre, the various displays. By this time we were more than ready for lunch in the very pleasant café, but the one thing the designers hadn’t taken into consideration was bad weather – there were
far more tables outside, in the pouring rain, than inside, so the queues were horrendous!