In addition to the mushroom cave, we went to 4 other caves during this trip: Lascaux 4 (reproduction), Font-de-Gaume, Chauvet-Pont d’Arc (reproduction) and one more where the kids went spelunking and rappelling (and I did not!).
The ones that I went to are all caves that have famous cave paintings in them. Lascaux is the most famous, but I think the Chauvet-Pont d’Arc paintings may be more beautiful.
The reproductions were interesting. I had some hesitation about going, thinking ‘why would I spend my time going to a fake cave, better to just see the real one and skip the others.’ I’m glad I didn’t do that.
For Lascaux 4 and Pont d’Arc, the process of making the reproductions was just fascinating. They are full size, to-the-millimeter, faithful reproductions of the inside of the cave. To the extent possible the paintings were replicated using original techniques. My favorite bit: they hired a ‘professional nose’ to visit the caves and replicate the SCENT – which is now pumped into the replica, so that it will feel even more like you are in the real thing. No photos are allowed inside the full reproductions (or in Font-de-Gaume – the only original cave I visited) so all of my photos are from the museum at Lascaux.
This was not the only place, but Lascaux 4 was the first place we encountered armed military guards. They’ve been taking things seriously since the terror attacks.
In Lascaux 4 the most common animals were aurochs and horses (17,000 years old). Reindeer were the most common food but were not depicted with nearly the same frequency. In Chauvet-Pont d’Arc is by far older than Lascaux, at over 30,000 years old and had good preservation as the entrance to the cave was blocked for tens of thousands of years. Font-de-Gaume has some as old, and is primarily a bison cave. No photos were allowed here. I bought a book, but the photos don’t do it justice. The drawings aren’t in as good condition but in the dimly lit cave, with a light playing over them, much as it must have been with crude lamps when they were drawn, the animals seemed to reveal themselves more clearly.
Common to all the caves: predators were rare and were always ‘hidden’ they were in the shadows, in the cracks, hard to see. Humans were rare and crudely drawn, especially compared to the beauty of the horses and bison.
PS We got lost looking for Pont d’Arc cave and accidentally drove past the actual Pont d’Arc – a natural bridge, and the original cave sight, although we didn’t know it at the time.
PPS We also drove past some signs indicating that the road would be closed for the Tour de France, but I didn’t get a shot of it 🙁