Thursday, June 21, 2018

Take Me Away....

Two weeks in the south of France does wonders for the soul, mind and body.

We drove there and back. It's kind of weird driving onto a train, sitting in the car for the 35 minute tunnel crossing, and then driving onto the wrong side of the road in France. Two weeks later we did the same trip in return, arriving home having added more than 3000 miles to the odometer.

Our dogs, faithful travelling companions both, were so well behaved. They sat on the back seat and loved every moment of the trip. I have to say though that a number of French dogs were enamoured of one in particular. Good thing she never gave out our phone number or address.

Driving in France is a pleasure. The roads are excellent, traffic flows well, and the scenery, drastically changing the further south you travel, is stunning. Then there's the food and wine. Fabulous. Just fabulous. And no, I did not add to my waistline. I was moderate in all my eating and drinking. I know, you're only concerned about my health.

Lots of scenery, lots of art and lots of history. The highlight for me was the Grottes préhistoriques de Cougnac, a series of caves with beautiful stalactites and stalagmites. But then, tucked away in the back, is a series of cave paintings. At least 25,000 years old. Primitive, artistic, and moving beyond belief. I could only stare, trying to take it all in. Photos not allowed, so I grabbed a few postcards. If you haven't seen them, then you've seen enough pictures in books, films and websites to get the idea. But those can in no way compare to the real thing.

(I thoroughly recommend the Werner Herzog documentary, Cave of Forgotten Dreams about the Chauvet caves, which have far more artwork than the Cougnac caves. For their preservation, however, they have been closed to the public for many years.

But at night, sitting outside under French skies and sipping red wine, I gazed at the stars and my mind turned to a prehistoric France. The people then, most likely my ancestors, saw the same stars and the same hills. How much has the landscape changed in 25,000 years? How much did they understand about the sky? There were certainly some different animals, the lifestyle was very different and the landscape too. But a few people left art that is still there now.

Yes, the holiday was also a time of self-reflection, and wonder and awe. And for me that makes for a pretty good break.

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