Friday, 25 October 2013

Oct 12th - the last full day in France began with rain. Heavy rain. Beating down on our tents and dripping through seams and small, found weak spots. The prospect of taking down our camp and re-pitching it sometime close on dusk in a new campsite further up towards Calais was not filling any of us with joy I think but needs must. 
So first off we began the day dismantling and packing up tents and praying for the weather to break. The plan was to break the journey back up to Calais in to two parts, taking in a trip to Rouffignac on the way and re-pitching somewhere closer to port so as not to miss our ferry home. The prospect of wet tents and damp bedding was not great.
Rouffingnac was incredible. The cave was vast. It had been inhabited and used from way back. By cave bears, who left un-countable claw marks in the walls and worn out hollows where their beds had been. By cro-magnon man, the reason for trip. And by modern man, who had left candle smoke names dating back to the 18th century. The beautiful paintings made by early man had been near covered by this graffiti over the years and had had to be painstakingly cleaned with cotton buds. It's hard to imagine the care that would have had to have gone into that and it could be thought of as yet another layer of history belonging to the cave. After the wow of Rouffignac we set off towards calais with no sure place to sleep that night.
But, we had Anna, and Anna managed to find us a gite to stay in. So, for the last night of our holiday, we had central heating, and a hot, hot shower and beds and a real kitchen with a table, and lights and a fire and an electric kettle. Glorious decadence, glorious luxury and comfort.
And setting off home, it seemed we were mostly well rested and happy.
Oct 13th - we gathered to thank our stars and vans packed, our drivers steeled themselves for the final marathon drive and set off for home arriving home in Norwich in the small hours of Oct 14th. It was nice to be home. My son had done a good job of cat sitting. Going away had filled me with new faces, new places, new ideas and notions, all good, and had also reminded me how much I love my home, my family, and what I love about my life as it is at the moment. Home sweet home.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Oct 11th - Font des Gaume and les Combarelles and another trip to the little museum in les Eyzies where I took photographs of leaf prints on the concrete walkway. Of all the caves we visited I think that les Combarelles was the one I really loved. The visit was intimate just six of us and a guide. The cave was only slightly lit and we were close enough to touch the engravings though obviously we didn't. The pictures were exquisite reminding me of Elizabeth Frink's wonderful animal prints. 

Oct 10th - felt very fragile when I got up and out of my tent in the morning. The previous night I'd been suddenly very sick with a dizziness that allowed me to walk no more than a few steps without dropping to the floor. The view from my tent was idyllic, but camping didn't feel wonderful while I was being ill. The group leader and one of the women minded me while I wobbled through the day. I managed to walk around les Eyzies and look at the small free museum. And later walked a little bit around Abri de Cap Blanc and the Chateau Commarque, following, perhaps, a boar path through a bed of reeds. 
By the evening I was beginning to feel better, the sky was clear and full of stars and wood was gathered and sawn and a small fire pit lit and chestnuts were roasted and stories told. I went to bed feeling better. 

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Oct 8th/9th - at St Leon-sur-Vezere we were camping at a municipal campsite which was a different camping experience. It was situated by the river which was lovely, but their was a through-path which made it feel less safe and also less free. Our tents were pitched close to each other and the experience was much less peaceful than the previous site. 

I needed to take time to be quiet so on both days I skipped group activities and went for short walks on my own. On the 8th I explored the village and went a little way out by the river past the small chateau, through a walnut orchard and out to the fields. Not adventurous but nice. 

On the 9th, I woke missing the quiet and comfort of home, and familiar faces. I walked to Sergeac along the other side of the river. It was good to be alone to ponder life while walking, taking in sights and sounds at my own pace. At Sergeac I sat in the churchyard and all I could hear was birdsong, and trees rustling in the breeze. Very lovely. When I walked back my lift to the next campsite had texted to say he'd be late so I was able to wander in a different direction out of St Leon on a small road. And also to take time to photograph some of the meadow flowers and watch the clouded yellow butterflies.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Oct 7th - from the campsite at Thonac we walked to St Leon-sur-Vezere, again beautiful sunshine. The air was still and fresh and the many, many spider's webs sparkling wet from the morning mist. 

After Montignac, most of the travelling group walked to Lascaux 2 to see the cave paintings. The paintings were impressive and beautiful. However, being reproductions, they were trumped for atmosphere later in the holiday by the original paintings and engravings at Font de Gaume and les Combarelles sited further down the river valley.
The visit to Lascaux was followed by a 7 or 8 mile walk through beautiful sun-soaked countryside, small villages and sweet chestnut woodland, following small roads and well marked paths through Brenac and Valojoulx to Thonac, which was close to our first campsite, just as the day was drawing to a close. 

Oct 6th - visited Montignac, the sun was shining, the little streets were quaint and the graffiti gorgeous. I particularly enjoyed the cats who were very busy defending their small territories, observing each other with obvious suspicion.


Wednesday, 16 October 2013

I've just been away in the Vezere valley, Dordogne, for a week. I want to write poetically but my words keep coming out wrong so I'm going to start at the beginning and write it like a diary a bit at a time. 
Oct 4th & 5th - after a fairly epic journey from England, the group arrived at the first campsite and set up the tents and a yurt. We were camping at the top of a grass hill surrounded by trees. Later the sky was bright with stars, static and shooting. I fell asleep listening to owls calling. And woke with doleful church bells, cocks crowing and birdsong, to a drench of autumn dew.


Wednesday, 2 October 2013

I have blue mushrooms in my garden, I get them every year. I don't know if they are edible or not but they always seem amazing and remind me of Alice in Wonderland. " Who are you ?" said the caterpillar.