Sarlat la Caneda and Lascaux

Traveling from Bordeaux to Sarlat was a step-by-step improvement on the scenery. Not that Bordeaux wasn’t a good-looking city, it was. It had a lot of stately architecture that would make many a city proud, but somehow, it was missing something. Maybe charm.
The large village of Saint-Emilion in the heart of the wine country was lovely, and Perigueux, the regional center of Dordogne, boasted several perfectly charming squares, but Sarlat la Caneda was the prettiest of them all!
This fairy little town, which is virtually unknown to Americans, is a little jewel of honey-colored stone houses topped with dark conical roofs and turrets and an unexpected peekaboo effect of semi-hidden stairs and towers. It is more redolent of an opera set complete with mise-en-scenes, than of a real live town.
While all the towns we visited thus far in this region were built of whitish-yellow stone, the stone houses of Sarlat are the color of golden honey. They are succulent yellow, as if they soaked up the rays of the Southern sun.
The countryside around Sarlat is also right out of a storybook. It is natural and unspoiled, with green meadows, fields of wild flowers, ponds of still water surrounded by sedge swaying lightly in the gentle wind.
We passed farmhouse estates the size of small palaces and farmers who were actually tending their fields by hand!
The freshly plowed soil here is not brown but the rusty color tinted with ochre. The whole field of view is a carpet of greenery punctuated by golden-yellow stone houses, reddish earth, splotches of lilacs and fields of sunny yellow flowers. The scenery is tranquil and calming, and softly beautiful.
This area has been populated by humans for tens of thousands years, and they left their marks on the many caves in the surrounding hills. Today, we visited the queen of them all, Lascaux.
Nobody knows why prehistoric artists painted this cave. What archeologists know for sure is that prehistoric humans didn’t live in these caves; but why they went through the trouble of painting the walls and ceilings with magnificent animals is the staff of speculation. There are several theories. Mine are that either those prehistoric humans painted the animals they killed, believing that these paintings would ensure that those dead animals would come back in the form of new animals for their future hunting pleasure; or maybe, they painted the animals they wanted to kill in the next hunt; or maybe, they painted the animals they killed to ask their forgiveness.
Whatever the reason, those early humans were amazing artists who skillfully used the shape of the cave walls to created volume, and knew how to make vivid dyes, some of which hardly faded after 25,000 years. The animals they painted would not look put of place as a part of a modern painting – they are that sophisticated. The only primitive drawing was of a fallen hunter: a stick figure with a head of a bird, sticks for arms and legs, smaller twigs of fingers splayed out wide, and a large erect penis.


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