The Prehistoric Caves of France
October 12 - 23, 2013
Day 1 & 2 Sat., Oct 12 & Sun., Oct 13. Depart O'Hare 6 pm on American #42 and arrive (CDG) Paris at 9:10 am on Oct 13. You will be met and taken to your hotel, the Le Relais Monceaut Hotel, to drop off your suitcase and you will board a mini bus for your first orientation tour of Paris seeing all the most significant places of fun and the Eiffel tour and earliest structures, such as the earliest church, the Saint-Germain-des-Prés Church, and examples of Romanesque and Gothic religious architecture, e.g. Sainte Chapelle (the king’s chapel) and Notre Dame Cathedral and secular architecture, La Conciergerie, (a palace converted to a prison). The day winds down at the famous historic gathering spot for the literary and artsy, Café Les Deux Magots restaurant (a
tad expensive, but the tax and tip (service) are included, and it’s the place to be!). We will return at hotel check in time so that you can rest up for an early start the following day and to accommodate jet lag.
Day 3 Mon., Oct 14. After breakfast you will be delivered to Gare d'Austerlitz, the Austerlitz train station, for your train ride at 9:53am through the countryside to the picturesque Dordogne region with its medieval villages and Romanesque castles. Your guided tour of the painted prehistoric caves will begin when you step off the train at Brive-la-Gaillard at 1:57pm where you will be met by your drivers, Christoph and Cedric. Before going to your hotel you will visit the UNESCO site, The Grotto de Rouffignac the so-called "Hundred Mammoths' Cave." Visitors board an electric train in order to view some of the figures of the mammoths, bison, horses, rhinoceros and the low "meanderings," thought to be finger doodling of children. There is also evidence of the hibernating giant cave bears (now extinct). Your stay is at Les Cordeliers a charming B&B in Sarlat-la-Caneda, a beautiful medieval village with shops and a market.
Day 4 Tues., Oct 15. After breakfast at 9:00am we depart for the spectacular copy of the world famous Lascaux, labeled Lascaux II. Our visit is at 9:45am. To preserve the famous cave this stunning copy was made. Lascaux is known as the “Sistine Chapel of Prehistoric Art”. At 11:00am we will continue on to visit Le Thot, an animal park with species descended from the animals that you have just seen on the Lascaux II walls - the aurochs (long horn African cattle), horses, bison, Przewalski's horses (Mongolian wild horses that are nearly extinct) and models of the extinct wooly mammoths and wooly rhinos. There are four more Lascaux facsimiles. Around 1:00pm we brake for a light lunch. At 2:00 we will depart for the UNESCO designated site La Roque Saint Christophe, the prehistoric "Troglodyte (cave dwellers) Village". If time we will visit a truffle farm. We will be ready to relax when we return to Les Cordeliers.
Day 5 Wed., Oct 16. At 9:00am we will be picked up to enjoy the beautiful paintings of Font-de-Gaume the only polychrome cave of its type open to the public. We then continue to Les Combarelles famous for its engravings and the famous "Drinking deer." After lunch, for something different, we’ll visit two outdoor rock shelters: Cap Blanc Abri with impressive carvings and paintings and Abri de Cro-Magnon the places where these prehistoric Magdalenians actually lived. Time permitting, before returning to our accommodations, we will see a goose farm.
Day 6 Thurs., Oct 17. At 11:00am we travel to Les Eyzies to visit the famous National Museum of Prehistory. The labels are in French but printed inform- ation is available. We will allow two hours here and then we will break for lunch but return. There are 18,000 artifacts including beautiful carved blocks from sites now closed. You can take photos. We will return to the old city of Sarlat and explore the Cathedrale Saint-Sacerdos and the 12th century cemetery with the enigmatic Lantern of the Dead.
Day 7 Fri., Oct 18. Today we will visit scenic Beynac and Beynac Castle which was the scene of several battles during the Hundred Years War, some claim caused by Eleanor of Aquitaine. The castle was painstakingly restored in 1962 to evoke the life of the 12th century denizens. A Bronze Age structure was excavated near the castle. Is there a plaque? We continue on to Peche Merle called “one of the most stunning caves” by archaeologists. A famous panel 4m in length and dated 24,640 years ago displays sprayed hand prints and two so-called "Spotted Horses”, really horses with significant dots on and above the bodies. The cave was painted during two different time periods.
Day 8 Sat., Oct 19. The morning is free, after lunch we’re off to the train station and Paris where we will be transferred to Hotel Relais Monceau a traditional and charming hotel with breakfast. Our Paris tours will be optional, since some have visited Paris before.
Day 9 Sun, Oct 20. Today after breakfast we have an optional. We will share cabs and visit the extensive Quai Branly ethnographic museum famous for its African collection. The museum is eight minutes away by cab. It would be wise to research this museum beforehand to decide which areas you wish to see. The afternoon is free to visit another museum, to shop or to sit at a café sipping coffee or wine or to relax in the nearby park— pretending to be French. We will have dinner (included) near our hotel.
Day 10 Mon, Oct, 21. After breakfast we will share cabs (about 5 min,) to Le Louvre Museum. We will enter by the side door to avoid long security lines. The entry fee currently is $13. Deb Stelton will lead you to some historical paintings by Gericault, Delacroix, Gros and David that will give you a feeling of French history. Afterwards we can visit the “Three Great Masterpieces”, the Winged Victory, the Venus De Milo and the Mona Lisa. For those ready for 20th century art, we can cab to the Strada for a French lunch (cheese and house wine or tap water) or more and continue on to the fun at the nearby Le Pompidou Center. The Modern Art Museum ($15) is on the fourth floor and it starts with Cubism and continues through Surrealism, Expressionism Pop Art and yesterday’s art. (Dinner inc.)
Day 11 Tues, Oct 22. Today we can arrange whatever is still on your list. If you want to visit Versailles or Chartres Cathedral we can arrange it. Another option is a trip to the Musee D’Archeologie Nationale located in a castle at Germain-en-Laye just outside of Paris which contains portable Ice Age art, Solutrean bas reliefs and a cast of a section of “great Magdalenian sculpted frieze.” At 7 pm will enjoy a ride on the Seine and a 3 course dinner with wine for our farewell dinner together at the foot of the Eiffel Tower, exchanging addresses, and sighing over our clinking glasses.
Day 12 Wed, Oct 23. We use a shuttle to CDG to depart Paris American Airlines flight # 41 at 12:10 noon and fly with daylight all the way home arriving home at 2:25pm