Today we went to Font-de-Gaume, a UNESCO site & home to some incredible cave paintings. Incredible.
Before I wax rhapsodic about the experience, though, I should point out that, yes, we did ACTUALLY arrive– all went well on the drive down immediately following the 18 hours of air travel. I chose not to drink coffee or alcohol on the day of travel, and eschewed the offered “chicken or fish” on the flight in favor of meals eaten at the airport and pre-packed snacks. I mostly credit the lack of either chicken or fish with my success in sleeping for most of both flights, and therefore my (mostly) cheery disposition & unflappable driving metier on the trip from Charles de Gaulle to Beynac-et-Cazenac. Please see below some images of what awaited us there…
The cottage is, in fact, on the lower approach to the Château de Beynac, and the views of the castle and countryside from our windows are staggering. That sunset shot, for instance, shows both how close we are to the castle walls, AND HOW CRAZY BEAUTIFUL AND OH-SO-LIMESTONEY it all is! It really feels like we are living IN the castle, which is a fascinating way to spend Christmas– but, with touches of home, as there are palms and a lemon tree growing on the property!
These pix were taken the day following, though, as we arrived “out of the mist,” which was fascinating– and by “fascinating,” I mean both in the sense of “irresistibly controlling the attention” AND “there were occasions I thought we might not make it.” We drove through miles of heavy, pea-soup fog, which would lift occasionally, revealing swathes of gorgeous forest or piles of buttery limestone… which in THOSE moments was beautiful, but was mostly as terrifying as it was majestic for this first-time driver of le French “routes.”
BUT, hey, bonne chance, we got here all the same.
We got here, met the keyholder/guide in a parking lot, folded her into our already cramped vehicle… AND, wait. Did I mention the “minivan” Lana had selected turned out to be a Ford Galaxy? I know that we have a perhaps unreasonably large family, but check out this image of what patently IS NOT A MINIVAN, but actually an over-inflated sedan:
AND NOW CONSIDER– in the image above, you see six seats, two TINY Euro-style suitcases, and three cutsey wrapped presents. Imagine, if you will, three adult-sized people, three child-sized people, AND their winter wear… PLUS three ‘Merican sized suitcases, one small suitcase, six carryons, and a folded stroller.
And then add one kind French person.
Sardines ain’t even in it.
Anyway, Martine (our guide) joined us, and we drove up to the castle in the dark, assisted by her incredibly good directions (the only failure, there, was on my part– as she did not speak a lick of English). A few false-starts later, we arrived at the top of the hill, found, the correct parking lot, and debouched from the vehicle– we then traipsed some tricksy, slickery cobbles back DOWN a bit of hill, and arrived at the cottage. Again, the cottage is incredible. We checked in, and after a while the kids checked out.
And I want to tell you more.
HOWEVER, everyone else went to bed about three hours ago, and if I’m to successfully reset my internal workings, I must needs join them. As a teaser, let me leave you with a final picture of the tree that my friend Blair at Universal Sign Shop cut for me out of cardboard (to my design– maybe I’ll take orders next Christmas?)– so we could pack it flat for Christmas. It is a lovely tree, and stands all of 22″ tall.