Friday, May 15, 2015

Friday, May 8, 2015 - Rouffignac and Chateau de Losse

I'm so far behind in posting. Today, (May 15 - happy birthday, Alex), we finally stayed home to catch up on cleaning, laundry and above all, this blog. Hoping to get several posts off today and get somewhat caught up.  Even though I haven't been posting, I have been collecting photos for you, my friends. 

Wooly mammoth sign at Rouffignac Cave

Rouffignac cave (La Grotte de Rouffignac) is one of the area's caves where you can see real cave paintings. It's particularly long - something like 8 km on 3 levels. As it's always been open, there's significant modern graffiti, but the paintings are still in good condition. Since opening in 1959, only 3 years after being discovered in 1956, it has always toured people through using an electric train. There are no reserved tickets and the phone message tells us to show up when they open to buy tickets.  That makes us a bit nervous, but we head off on the hour drive anyway, hoping we'll get in.

Christie showing the cave entrance.

It turns out we have impeccable timing (and it helps that this week, for some reason, everything's pretty quiet. Perhaps, finally, all the Easter vacations are over and everyone's back to school and work. Whatever the reason, we're glad for the empty roads and short lines.)  We are able to buy tickets for the next tour which starts in 20 minutes. Just like we planned it. (wink)
waiting for our tour: Christie, Dave, Chris, Lynn, Pat, Chuck, Ron.

The tour is in French only, but for 1 Euro 50, we can buy iPods with written descriptions in English of what we are seeing.  So off we go on the electric train.

The electric train - a great way to travel the distance in order to see stunning images deep in the cave.

We're given general information about the caves, their discovery, and their geological history for the first km as we travel deeper into the cave. The only light is that on the front of the train and a flashlight used by the guide to highlight something on the walls or ceilings.  At one point he turns out all the lights so we can understand the utter blackness of an unlit cave. Imagine what it must have been like to be exploring and painting in these caves with only grease candles to light the way.

Of course photos are not allowed. So the one following is from a website.
black line drawing of a wooly mammoth - it looks modern but it's from 13,000 years ago
One good website to explain the cave is here at Don's maps. Once more we see wonderful and artistic drawings of the animals familiar to these cave artists. This cave is unusual not only for its topography, but for its representations of wooly mammoths. There are more than 150 of them, drawn as they would have been seen.

In one of the galleries, we are shown horses drawn on the ceiling that was less than 3 feet tall. (They dug away a wide enough piece of the floor, after archeologically excavating it, so the train could go through and we could stand under the drawing.) The artists would have had to paint while lying on their backs. A large specimen of a horse is drawn to scale in spite of the fact that the artist would not have been able to be far enough away from his work to check his perspective.

Once out of the cave, we picnic in the woods next to the Cave entrance,
Somehow, we always manage to snap a photo when everyone's mouth is full. Sigh

then head off to find  Chateau de Losse, 5 km away.  Another winner. There are expansive gardens, but of course, it is too early for much other than greenery and buds.
Pat and Christie among the greenery of the Chateau de Losse gardens
We find a few splashes of color and lots of lovely views of the Vézère which is also over its banks, brown and muddy from the recent rains.
Looking over from the terrace behind the renaissance palace at the farm buildings and the Vézere river

Christie looking out from the gardens along the river

The younger son of a Flemish family, Jean de Losse moved far from his family to Thonac and established a fortified fortress next to the Vézère River, pledging his allegiance to the lord of Montignac.  A gifted military strategist, he attracted the attention of the royals. His heir, Jean II de Losse was likewise a military genius.  He served as page to François the 1st, became captain and governor of several forts and was the military trainer for all of Catherine de Medicis children, including the future Henry IV.

Crenallations, machicolations, guardhouse (right) and dry moat protected this castle from attack.

Looking down the dry moat at the guard house. The bell is just above the gate on the right, Clark.

The medieval fortress keep was replaced in 1576 by a Renaissance pleasure chateau.

Barn (left), renaissance palace (center), gate house (right) with gardens everywhere else.

The tour of the Renaissance palace begins when the bell at the watchtower gate is rung vigorously.  Clark would have asked to be the ringer, but alas, he is missing and the tour guide must do it herself.,
Medieval doorbell
Done only in French with an English written guide book provided, the tour shows several beautiful rooms with authentic period furniture. We visit a dining room (no photos allowed), bed chamber, and armor room with a most interesting Nuremburg coffre - a metal safe opened with a huge key. (Photos from the Chateau de Losse website).
Great hall, dining room. We're told table is an anachronism.
At the date of the palace, the table would have been up against the right wall with chairs only on one side behind it
to leave room for entertainments in the middle of the floor. Also, people never sat across from each other.  The nobles sat against the wall and servants served from the front side.

A bedroom - there was lots more information about the furnishings in this room which were spectacular

After the tour, we wander the inner courtyard gardens and turrets. In one of the turrets, we are able to see a "resting room" and a wooden bath that would have been used by the lady of the house to "get away from it all" to take care of personal affairs, nurse children, and rest.

A simple chamber, but with a really nice bed.

The wooden bath is draped for privacy. 

Chuck of course was interested in the tractor in the barn.

On the way home, we stop at St Léon-sur-Vézère to see the Romanesque church and its village.
The Vézere river at St. Léon-sur-Vézere. The church is on the right.

The church at St. Léon-sur-Vézere. We've been told the acoustics are fantastic.

A simple Romanesque church with wooden ceiling. There are remnants of painted walls above the altar.

We also found a poppy for Judy, although it's orange and so far one of only a few patches we've seen.

Once home, we finish baking the ratatouille we put together last night and cooked duck and risotto. Enjoyed all of it outside in the garden.

Risotto, duck, and ratatouille for our last dinner with Ron and Chris.

At table in the garden. Chris, Chuck, Christie, Ron, Lynn and Pat.

The roses in the garden are bursting into bloom. These are the ones on the wall to the left of the kitchen window.

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