The sky was an eerie color as we drove from Bordeaux to Orgnac sur Vezere, which I now know can be attributed to the Sahara sandstorm.
Still, the drive was pretty much routine, that is we only got lost — I prefer to think of it as slightly misplaced — at the very end when we missed Auntie #1’s road, and we had to backtrack (just a little). So, as I say, routine for us when traveling in France.
Upon arrival, Auntie G. and Uncle R. made us very welcome. Neither set of Aunties and Uncles had seen any family members for two years thanks to the pandemic, so they were very happy to see us! You can read more about their place in my 2019 blog post about their gite.
Here’s a view from their place.
We had planned to stay only two nights with Auntie G. and Uncle R., which turned out to be a good thing as a close friend of theirs, who had been very ill, died while we were there. Since they were involved with his care and looking after the widow, as well as grieving themselves, they weren’t able to go to Lascaux with us.
We set off on our own. As usual, I navigated with the aid of the GPS (SatNav) and my French road atlas. Eager to see more of the countryside, we decided to avoid the highways. The GPS took this to mean we wanted to visit every hamlet between Orgnac and Montignac, where Lascaux IV is located.
For once, I’m not exaggerating. Since I was following along in the atlas, I could see several times where the GPS had us get off a well-traveled road to take another much smaller road — sometimes more of a track — that did kind of a “U” and ended up back on the well-traveled road perhaps a half-mile from where we’d turned off. Since the distance we drove on the smaller road was usually more than the distance we would have gone on the well-traveled road, this made no sense.
On a positive note, I’m sure we were the first visitors from America to see some of those hamlets since World War II, so at least we gained that distinction.
In case you haven’t heard of Lascaux, here’s a little background on these ancient cave paintings. Due to the damage from the volume of visitors, you can no longer visit the actual caves. Instead, the government entity responsible for French culture created a replica called Lascaux II, which has since been replaced by Lascaux IV.
Although this sounds like it wouldn’t be nearly as authentic, the replicas were painted using the same techniques and paints as the original and are said to be quite spectacular.
We don’t know because we didn’t see them, showing up fifteen minutes before the next French tour and about twenty-three hours before the next English one.
Lest you think we are complete idiots, I’d like to point out that I looked at the website before we visited, and although it mentions buying tickets ahead of time, the link was a dead one. And nowhere on the site — at least not in any obvious place one might look — does it say anything about English and French tour times, although I’ve just now managed to find the place to purchase a ticket, and it doesn’t specify either.
I asked if there was any kind of self-guided tour, and the answer was a firm, “Non.”
Ah, well. Another time, perhaps. And maybe then, Auntie G. and Uncle R. will be able to go with us.
Instead, we turned back the way we came, deciding to stop at Saint Robert, a medieval village we’d passed on the way.
The church was built in the 11th century, so the town is quite old.
As we wandered through the town, I couldn’t help wondering what its residents thought of strangers like us showing up and walking their streets and pathways. I also considered the fact that they all must be quite fit because the village is built on a steep incline.
That night, we all went to dinner in Uzerche. The Engineer and I had wandered around this town in 2019, and it’s a beautiful place. I wish I had written down the name of the restaurant we went to, but I think it was the Hotel Restaurant Jean Teyssier because I recall Auntie G. maybe saying something about a hotel. On the Yelp map, it looks like it’s in the right place too.
Well! France’s reputation for great food is well-deserved! Every meal we ate was delicious (with the exception of our self-cooked eggs). Also, I’ve noticed servers seem to approach their work with an air of professionalism not always found in the US, and rarely found in the UK. There’s no waiting for plates to be cleared as new courses are served, no looking around to find someone to ask for another drink, and yet, no hovering at one’s elbow either.
I found myself thinking, “Yes! This is how things should be done!”
The restaurant in Uzerche was no exception. Our server (I’m pretty sure he was actually the maitre’ d) was wonderful. When he learned we lived in the US, he asked if we watched baseball or the NFL. When I said neither, that we only enjoyed Premier League football, he asked which teams we supported. I said Liverpool and think I made a friend for life. It’s always fun to bond with another Liverpool fan. Go Reds!
Uncle R. had him select a bottle of wine, which Monsieur Maitre’ D proffered efficiently and with style. As we perused the menu, M. Maitre’ D helped by describing any dish we were interested in. This helped immensely, much better than piecing the information together from my phrase book.
The restaurant offered a fixed price menu, which is common in France (and some other parts of Europe too). A customer may order an entree (what we call an appetizer or starter) and a plat principal (what we call an entree or main dish) with or without dessert, a plat principal with dessert, or a plat principal and fromage (cheese) to finish the meal, with set prices for each variation. In each category except cheese, one is given three or four options.
It’s a great way to do things, simpler for the chef and servers, and less expensive for customers.
Once we decided on our selections, M. Maitre’ D, reappeared with what appeared to be little appetizers for everyone. I was confused because I’d opted for the plat principal and dessert choice, but found out later this how things work at nicer restaurants in France.
These little appetizers are called amuse-bouche (mouth amuser) and are chosen and created by the chef to prepare diners for the meal and to give them an idea of the chef’s style.
Ours were a salmon mousse – delectable! – and some kind of curryish lentil sauce or soup. I practically licked my bowl!
For my plat principal, I had sea bream stuffed with a mashed potato filling with just drizzle of a delicious creamy sauce. Again, I was scraping the plate, trying to scoop up every delectable morsel.
As for dessert, it was creme brulee, predictable tourist choice, I know, but oh, my heavens! Swoon!
We greatly enjoyed the opportunity to partake of such an incredible meal with family, and I think for Auntie G. and Uncle R., it was a break from what seemed to be a difficult time.
The following morning we would set out for Auntie #2’s. But that story will wait for a future post.
Travel Magic and Mayhem Score: The magic of discovering Saint Robert, a visit with Auntie #1 and Uncle R., and that fabulous meal in Uzerche more than made up for a little mayhem with our Lascaux mishap.
2 thoughts on “Saint Robert and an Almost Visit to Lascaux”
It sounds as if overall the trip is more magic than mayhem, more moving than miserable, more magnificent than mundane? I do miss small, efficient French bistros where you can eat like a king for a very modest amount, the waitstaff are properly paid so they are professional and serious about their work, and where the chef/owner/maitre is justly proud of his offering.
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That’s an excellent description of dining in France! And, yes, it was definitely more magic than mayhem, but even the mayhem leaves us with a story … once we get through it, although there’s a bit more mayhem right at the end.
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