Thursday, October 2, 2014

September 11 Grotte de Font de Gaume

At 7:00, Stanley and I were the first to arrive at Grotte de Font de Gaume this morning. The moon was still up and it was icy freezy cold, but I was determined to see this. De Gaume features polychrome art and it is the last Magdalenian cave with this type of painting still open to the public.

Type in "images of grotte de font de Gaume" in your search box will bring up wonderful photos. will tell you all about it.

It seemed every article I read about the cave included some tale of woe about the scarcity of tickets and how quickly they sold out every day. I'm no rocket scientist, but this looked like an easy problem to solve. Get up early and get in line. Aha! It worked! We had a few people during the first hour, but by 8:00 people were flooding in. By 9:00, there werefar more people than available tickets.
We early birds were able to get all four tickets, and there was a very unexpected perk.

 Because we were first in line, the schedule was changed and we were able to visit the cave in the first session with an English speaking guide. We had expected to either make do with a tour in French or wait several hours for English. Our guide was great! He was obviously very enthusiastic about the caves and the research being done. 

Up the hill . . . Way up the hill.

Photo ops while we waited for our guide.

We had to leave everything behind. No cameras, no bags, no hats. We were told to be very careful not to touch the walls. I expected our guide to tell us to limit our breathing, but he stopped short of that. Although he cave is still open, there are severe restrictions. Only 52 people a day. No more than 10 at one time. Very short visits. And only a tiny piece of the cave is open. We were only in the small portion from the Entree to First left passage. 

Inside the cave, it was cold and dark. All the art had been done in flickering oil lamp light. Today, it is best viewed with a guide who will flick his hand over the flash light beam to recreate the effect. In fact, some of the paintings were difficult (make that impossible for me) to see until he did that. 

Of course, no camera, no pictures. Here is a sample from the Internet.

Several interesting ideas.
The artists used the uneven surface of the cave wall as part of the work. In fact sometimes the natural surface is more important than the paint. This is very obvious in the first picture of the horse.
The use of color.
Symbols which are unique to this cave.
The absence of the "hunter."

It was a wonderful experience! Was it worth the wait? Oh, yes!

Would I recommend it as a place to visit? By all means, but you must hurry! I don't expect it to remain open much longer.