Today we switched from Castles to Caves and explored the Vezere river and it’s rich history and pre-history. Again we rode through countless medieval villages, such as Urval, Siorac, St Cyprien, Meyrals and onto Les Eyzies. Sarah was in need of some time off the bike, so while she explored Les Eyzies, Mike continued on for a loop through Grotte de Rouffignac, Plazac, La Rogue St Christophe, site de la Madeleine and back to our cozy little room in chambres et gite en perigord.
The whole region is characterized by sheer cliff walls either side of the valley. This area is sometimes referred to as the cradle of humanity, as tribes left Africa and wandered around Europe, many settled in this region. This was a time of huge fauna such as the Mammoths, Bison, wild Horses and of course the Sabre Tooth Tiger. As such the best and safest place to sleep was high up in the cliffs and this habit has been home to many different humans from the Cro Magnon in the Paleolithic (40,000 years ago) right through Medieval (Middle ages). The caves and cliffs were still inhabited until fairly recent times.
The Grotte de Rouffignac is a stunning network of underground caves featuring friezes from the Paleolithic ages of Mammoth, horses, rhino, bison and ibex. Even earlier than that, the caves were inhabited by huge bears and the bear pits and wall markings from the animals are incredibly well preserved. It is definitely worth a look. Interestingly, some curious characters from the middle ages explored the caves and left their mark with candles on the cave ceilings. Historic graffiti! They wouldn’t have known what they were looking at since they had no knowledge of pre-history back then, it made me wonder what they thought of these strange creatures marked in dark crayon of the cave walls.
The Troglodytic lifestyle refers to the cliff dwellers, who built their homes high up the cliff wall. The house frame was made of wood and then stone and mud was used for the roof and walls. The whole area is covered in these sites, not to mention a number of dinosaur museums as well.
Looking around at the lush forests, swelling rivers and deep red soils, it is easy to see why this region became so popular and so densely populated with every type of living being for the last 50,000 years and more.
In case you are wondering, cycling here is still an absolute joy. It is only a very short distance between towns, typically 8-10 km, and they all have ample cafes, restaurants and gites. It is tempting to stop at every one and sample the espresso and pastries. The roads we’ve followed are quiet, smooth and undulating and the drivers are so courteous, we haven’t felt threatened even once as they calmly overtake leaving plenty of room.
Finally tonight we splurged a little and ate at a slightly more expensive restaurant, what they call here “gastronomique”. Having ridden past many duck farms and having seen the tins of precious Fois Gras, I just had to sample a little which was served with a beautiful fillet of marbled beef cooked very medium rare! Sarah chose a lovely plate of duck fillets; both went perfectly with the Bordeaux red wine, so we can tick that one off the list! It’s back to cheese and bread tomorrow, which isn’t so bad!
|A lovely little chateau on the outskirts of St Cyprien|
|Gourmet food outlet near the Grotte|
|Vezere River with cliffs|
|The front yard of the troglodytes at St Christophe|
|St Christophe. The holes in the rock are the mortises for the wooden roof and floor beams|