You may recall the story, the history of a young group of school boys discovering an ancient cave with animal drawings in France. That cave was Lascaux I, and its 17,000 year old (Upper Paleolithic) cave drawings were perfectly preserved by a fallen tree by the opening. Upon discovery in 1940, the four boys agreed not to tell a soul about their secret find. As the story goes, loose lips sink ships, and by the next day they had their school teacher climbing into the cave with them. Soon thereafter, the drawings were examined, verified and the world began to look at Lascaux with astonishment.
Lascaux I was opened to the public in 1948, but not even 10 years later it was determined that heat, humidity, the light as well as contaminents from visitors were harming the drawings. In order to preserve the site, it was closed to the public. Lascaux II was opened as an identical representation of the original cave. It provides 90% of the artwork in Lascaux I in a cave setting with a constant 53 degree temperature.
The site I toured was Lascaux IV, the newly opened International Center for Pre-Historic art. The modern building replicates the cave and also has a large gallery with replicas of the art so visitors can spend time learning and examining the etchings, drawings and tribal markings of the cave. It provides quite a bit of context around the discovery of the original cave and the significance of the illustrated history. Lascaux is a UNESCO world heritage site.
From underground caves to mountaintop gardens, I happily enjoyed an afternoon in the sun at the formal gardens in the Manor d’Eyrignac. A map is provided with a recommended walking tour, but visitors are welcome to explore the gardens in any manner they would like.
The timing of my visit to Eyrignac was the last week of August after a hot dry summer. The grounds were well maintained, perhaps a little thirsty, but very picturesque. I was particularly taken with the views of the valleys surrounding the estate. After viewing the manicured gardens, I found that the simple potager (vegetable garden) was among my favor spot on the estate.
Another happy excursion was a trip to Bergerac in pursuit of some tasty red wine. I haven’t heard much about wines from Dordogne, perhaps because it’s neighboring department, Bordeaux is world-renown. I think other factors are at play and I very pleasantly discovered them.
I toured two wine estates (Château Terre Vieille and Château de Tiregand) in Bergerac, each with their versions of Pécharmant. Pécharmant is a blend of varietals: cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot and malbec. The blend creates a bold, rich wine with powerful tannins.
Terre Vieille and Tiregand produce limited amounts of Pécharmant, due to the size of their vineyards. These are smaller, unpretentious wine estates which welcome visitors with little signs. “If no one is around, give us a call on our mobile phone and we will greet you.” Tastings are free and do not need to be scheduled in advance. Terre Vieille, which was exceedingly hospitable was delighted that I wanted to walk the grounds and encouraged me to spend time exploring the estate. Tiregand, was a slightly more formal operation and offered tours in English and French. The main château was a bit down the road from the wine making buildings and shop.
Much of the Bergerac Pécharmant does not make it out of the region. It stays local and tends to sell out each year. It also seems to me that these country estates have not developed distribution systems to send the wine to great France or other countries – it doesn’t seem they need to. Somehow, the local nature of the wine made it more tasty. It is a little delight (with a tannic edge) to be enjoyed in the countryside.