It was a toss up today between Roman ruins and some caves. We opted for the caves – not entirely sure why – and set off cross-country. I think the dog had something to do with it – we could take her for a walk in the forest around the area and then have a look at the caves. There were some impressive-looking photos of the stalactites that reminded me a little of the hall of knives in the Darren Shan stories and I kind of thought it would be cool. Plus, the boy and I had done a little limestone experiment yesterday, dissolving limestone in vinegar as we were talking about why the valley bed of the Tardoire was lower than the countryside around it, and why the stones were filled with holes like cheese. So it fitted in with a little amateur geology.
We got there at a very-English mid-day. There was a camper van there and very little else. The sign for the grottes seemed to point through someone’s back yard. It was all a bit odd and dilapidated. It seemed to suggest that you should talk to the person in the golf shop if you wanted the key to the caves, yet the ‘golf shop’ was a very run-down hut with not a soul to be seen. There was a family playing on the crazy golf, but in all honesty, it was shabby and very bizarre. Everything was overgrown or collapsing.
So we wandered a little further down, coming to the caves. They were locked. Not unusual. The fosse de diable near us also is locked and you have to pick the key up at the restaurant if you want to go in. A little casual, but fair enough. Guess it stops men trying to bury their father-in-laws in holes, as the legend suggests.
Nevertheless, we decided not to let this be a waste and followed the boy down a path. The path of poo. There were several piles of fecal matter that would no doubt entrance the Ray Mears type. And me. It was absolutely heaving with blackberries, sloes and butterflies. We wandered further and further, coming across a strange abandoned hut, a house in the middle of nowhere and not a soul to be seen. If this were England, we’d have met at least 20 other people. You can’t escape the crowds, unfortunately!
The butterflies were crazy. There were blue ones, black ones, ones with eyes on them, admirals, white ones – an absolute disco of butterflies.
But, by then, we were a little bit lost. We were wandering a bit aimlessly. The dog was hot. There were no signs. It was very Hansel and Gretel, and maybe the boy should have been dropping little stones along the path so we could find our way back.
We managed to find some houses and a road, and then a village, and then a signpost and then the car – by some stroke of luck. I was just about praying as we turned the final corner. Moll had been dragging her feet for the last half mile and I was beginning to wonder if she’d need a ‘cochon’ ride, as Jake calls it. Or a cushion ride. Not quite the same, but a piggy back to you and I.
Still, it seemed a bit of a waste to have driven 10 minutes out of our way, had a bloody long wander and then not gone down the caves. Some other cars had turned up and there seemed to be about ten people or so. Enough to make it worthwhile to trek back through the deserted garden, past the abandoned restaurant/bar and see if the golf shop proprietor had materialised.
We left the Moll and went back to the Stephen-King-esque golf kiosk where a very old woman (who I can’t help but think of as the witch in Hansel and Gretel now!) was giving out stuff. I took a moment to have a look, wondering if we’d have to pay, having left my purse in the car, and seeing the ‘tarif’ sign. 7 € for adults and 5 € for children. Almost 20 quid, then, to go down a hole.
Now I like a hole as much as the next man, but it seemed a bit steep, especially since Lascaux II (the replica for the cave drawings’ grottes) and Rouffignac with its electric train are only the same price. And they were guided tours. Surely this ancient old crone wasn’t about to take us down the cave??!
Anyway, by that time, we were hot, tired, thirsty and at the end of our patience, so it seemed a bit much for a trip into the dark. Unless the cave had cave paintings, a train, a museum and a guided tour, it seemed a bit of a rip-off. Now I might go back on my own sometime but Mr Stephen isn’t going to let a 20 € trip pass without some kind of amazing stuff, not when you can go down the grande fosse (or Grand Canyon as Jake likes to call it) for precisely 0 €
I think a trip to Rouffignac might be in order instead, if we want to look at a cave! I guess, with Blue John Cavern being £8, I would expect something a little more ‘cave-bling’??!
So… Grottes de Queroy: Grotty.