Ok. So, not all days can be roses. This was one of them.
I woke up before everyone else and headed out for a run. The one thing that I really like about where we have travelled thus far is the fact that no matter where I (or Deb for that matter) have run we have felt super safe. Country roads, village streets, sides of major throughfares…all safe.
It was a coolish morning and made my way down to a pedestrian bridge that crossed the Dordogne River, and it was super cool as the far side of the bridge was enveloped in fog. So much so, it looked like you were running into nothing. Maybe the afterlife. Wait, that is a light you go to.
Anyways, no one was around and it was super serene. I looked over and there was a couple of swans swimming in the sunrise mist, and I went down to a trail to get a photo. The angle from the trail wasn’t as good as I wanted it, so I wandered through some weeds and grass to the edge of the river. Something was pricking me as I walked through, like there were raspberry bushes, but there weren’t any raspberry bushes. Oh, well. Photo taken and back on to the run.
Strange, but the stinging and burning feeling didn’t seem to be going away, in fact it was getting worse and was creeping up my legs to as high as my knees. It was like what patients describe as nerve type pain…burning, the pain bouncing with each time I took a step… I looked down, but no rash. So, my medical brain goes nuts and I try to figure out what I got exposed to in those weeds. Dr. Google kicked in, and researched a couple of stinging plants that I knew. I didn’t figure it out for sure, but think it was stinging nettle that was in those weeds. The burning numblike pain lasted 24 hours and then went away eventually on its own.
Oh well, we went out adventuring nonetheless… Deb and I had a route planned out to go to some prehistoric caves with cave paintings, then to a cliff where neanderthals and other relatives lived over 52,000 years ago, and then onto Le Gouffre de Padriac where you had to purchase tickets ahead of time. We had it planned down to the minute, eventually ending at home for supper at a local restaurant.
We arrived at the first of our daily tour, Lascaux II (WikiLink and Ancient History Encyclopedia link), which is one of seven (I think) cavernous locations where prehistoric prelinguistic cave drawings can be found. Actually this site is a recreation of the drawings in the original cave since the early tourists (1200 a day from 1940 to 1968) generated so much moisture and carbon dioxide from breathing amongst other human gaseous expulsions. So, we get to enjoy the new replicated cave which was still pretty impressive.
The drawings depict what animals were found in the area at the time, but not much about human life activities.
The place was pretty shut down, including the ticket office, so we wandered in on our own. We had the cave to ourself which was nice. It was kind of Star Wars like when Luke goes down into the cave with Yoda and finds Darth Vader.
A narrow twisting passageway that is really dark when you come in from the bright sun. What were those teenagers thinking when they went in here back in 1940. “Hey guys, look over here! A really dark tunnel leading into a cave that kind of stinks like 17,000 year old people! Come on! Let’s check it out!”. Seriously.
The kids sent the canary, Dad, down into the caves first to check it out. After I emerged and all was good they came down, but they didn’t last too long as it freaked them out a bit being in the cave. No worries, I got to stick behind with the place to myself to play photographer for a few minutes. The kids were outside playing American Ninja Warrior jumping from wood structure to wood structure, and all was good until Lulu missed and fell onto both wrists. She wailed and cried like she did when she broke her wrist before we left. This was actual pain, not just scrape her skin pain. Uh oh.
We let the crying settle down and I examined her, and most of the pain was over the base of her thumb, but scaphoid (a bone at the bottom of the thumb) testing was fine. Phew! Trenholm Scaphoid Rules….haha!!!
We had a quick picnic lunch and headed onto the next location at La Roque de St. Christophe, which we saw on the way in, so we knew it wasn’t far. Perfect…and on time, but we only had a window of time to visit this site before we had to leave to get to our tour at Le Gouffre.
It was prety impressive once we got up here, and we would have had the place pretty much to ourselves had there not been a tour group there. Damn tour groups. The one thing with tour groups is that you can get a free piecemeal tour if there are a bunch of them there…you move from one to the next as they congregate around various points of interest and talk about whatever they are looking at. I pick up a couple of points and move on. Call me a historical mooch…
The place was pretty cool. There is evidence that the area was used as shelter as far back as 50,000BC, and they had a cave set up with full sized neanderthals with spears and a bear stabbed through the neck to prove it. Haha.
The rock face was set up in 5 levels, with the poor living on the lower levels and the rich living on he highest levels. They lived on the cliff to protect themselves and their valuables from the Vikings that travelled down the river. They would have livestock and farmers down on the ground beside the river but if there was any sight of the Vikings they would use the elevators (below) to bring livestock, people and goods up to the cliffs away from the Vikings.
They would then signal using a horn to the village in the neighbouring cliff side. There were a bunch of these villages and they could transmit an audible warning signal from one end to the other (21km) in 6 minutes. That is better than Muskoka cell service!
The cliff was complete with a church, a quarry, a butchery, and a hair salon to name a few. Ok. No hair salon.
We checked the time and noted that we had 35 minutes to get to our next location that was 45 minutes away, our final stop for the day and we had tickets for this part of our adventure so we didn’t want to be late. No problem, we could make it.
We hop in the car, punch in the address and find out that it is 1.5h away. What the hell! Where were we looking before? So, we pull over at a foie gras farm and the fat ducks and I had a French phone call with Le Gouffre staff. They said no problem, just come tomorrow. Oh, and there is an 8euro “You dumbass tourist” surcharge to reassign the tickets. Oh well. Call me a dumbass. We buy some foie gras while we are there….
We decide to go to Sarlat en Cenada (yes, that is how you spell it) as it is supposed to be a nice town to walk around. It is on the way home.
We pull into town, and just our amazing luck another car pulls out of a spot right in the heart of all of the downtownness. Awesome. We pull in, get out and head down the street.
Deb walks over the the bank to get some cash with Lulu and I head down the street with Wilson. We are literally 50m down the road and the gendarme is writing us a parking ticket! What the hell?!? Deb is signalling me to go back to the car, and I jog back before it is too late.
The gendarme officer is very nice, and I try to use my worst “Englishman’s French” so I look like another “Dumbass Tourist”. I even use hand signals.
So, something got lost in the charades translation as she smiled very nicely at me and led me to the parking machine. Meanwhile the parking ticket was being printed out of some magic pocket printing machine.
We get to the place where you pay for the parking and I ask her how I pay for parking. She, all the while having a nice pleasant I am so sorry smile on her face, punches in the ticket number and asked me for my credit card. Which I stupidly gave to her without thinking about whether or not I could contest the ticket. She taps the card and, as they say in France, c’est un fait a compli. Done. Finito.
She walks to the next car, still pleasantly smiling, and writes the next ticket. I am standing at the machine speechless. Then Deb comes over. “We got a ticket? Did you pay it?”. “Yes, um, I think I did”, I reply.
Then I notice at the bottom of the ticket that I could go and contested. So I go to several stores to figure out where the bylaw office is or the police station is. And after three or four stores I figure out where it is. And of course, it is closed because all of the police in town are out writing tickets.
Eventually, the Master Corporal sergeant major please dude comes back to the office and has the same look on his face that the police officer for the pink panther has on his face. Not much in the way of the motion.
I, again, use my worst Englishman’s French to explain the situation and that my wife was going to the bank to get money out to pay for the parking, which made no sense since I was paid the parking ticket with my credit card. Thankfully, the police officer wasn’t super Swift and did not pick up on that detail. Once again, charades came into play and after about 10 minutes, the Master Sargent Corporal Major dude waves his arms in the air and says that he is ripping the ticket up. Unfortunately, I have to then explain that I have already paid for the ticket. It took so long for me to explain this, that the rest of the ticket riding company came back to the office. And thankfully the officer who wrote the ticket was in that crew. And she was still smiling. Wipe that smirk off your face I thought!
So, she finally understands what is going on and she explains it to the Master Corporal sergeant major dude and he shrugged his shoulders and list that was hands and basically to say, “What am I supposed to do. You’re just a dumbass tourist who didn’t see the parking meter. We wait all day for suckers like you. Have a nice day!”.
Jeez. Oh well, no gelato today I guess.
We all walk around Sarlat and say “Well, that was a bust”, grab a few photos and then head to bed to try to go to Le Gouffre tomorrow.
I have to say that the village of Saint Cyprien is simply amazing. It is a quintessential French community as I would have expected it. Everybody living life in a relaxed manner, very friendly, and cut right out of the 1500s. After dinner, the kids went out into the street and played tag on the main “downtown” street without us really having a care about them getting mowed over by cars. But then again, it could have been the great French red wine….haha. Maybe that is the secret…