• James & Kate

Climbs, Curves and the Cradle of Mankind

Woke up this morning with a slight twinge of trepidation. Today we were taking on our longest cycle ever: 68 miles with about 900m of ascent in it. Admittedly that is a pre-breakfast warm up for the pros and the hardcore, but as we are leisure cyclists it felt like a fair whack. Especially as a heat wave has hit France this week. And we have to do the same again tomorrow. Crumbs.

Happily, we needn’t have worried, as it’s been one of the most beautiful and enjoyable rides we’ve ever done. There’s probably a lesson in there somewhere about not letting your fears deprive you of your goals, or something, but who knows as this ain’t the place for life lessons. It’s only a cycle holiday after all.

We started early and made solid progress, helped by the fact there was very little to stop and see or do in this sparsely populated region. But the patchwork of scenery kept us entertained as fields of wildflowers and woodland mixed in with pasture land dotted with roaming cows, arable land stretching out to the horizon and verdant hedgerows and long grasses were accompanied by the buzz and birdsong of various winged creatures. Pretty idyllic.

The gentle rolling hills of the Dordogne region provided our climbs and curves, as the road rarely maintains a completely straight or flat trajectory, unlike some of the Roman-influenced roads further north. And so by lunchtime we had reached the stunning little town of Montignac, which deserves a visit in its own right but is most famous as being the home of the Lascaux Caves, with some of the finest and best-preserved cave paintings from early man. We debated going into visit but were deterred by a) the crowds and b) the fact that the real caves are closed to the world in order to preserve them. So instead people visit Lascaux II, which is in fact a replica site made in the 1960s. A very good replica I’m sure, but if I go to the Louvre to see the Mona Lisa I kinda want to see the real thing and not a photocopy of it, thanks all the same.

There are more than just the Lascaux caves here though, this whole area préhistorique is full of relics and evidence of some of the earliest humans that ever lived. We particularly liked La Roque St-Christophe (see main photo above), a giant crevice in a limestone cliff that was continuously inhabited from 55,000 BC to about 1800 AD. Obviously at that point someone decided that cave dwelling was no longer even retro-cool and it was high time to get down to civilisation and find a good tailor, some electricity and some goddamn waffles. Fair play.

And so with our historical curiosity semi-quenched, our legs more-than-semi-tired and our bums definitely-overly-done with saddles for the day, we are resting up for the night at the incredibly picturesque town of Les-Eyzies-de-Tayac. Which is actually where our earliest human ancestor was discovered, Cro-Magnon man.

Ok, history thirst fully quenched now. Bon nuit.

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