16th September 2023
Ground wet outside but managed a Pain-Au-Raisin run without getting wet. Dropped the canopy, for another drive out today, we were visiting Grotte Chauvet, or rather Grotte Chauvet 2, the replica. The original cave near to Pont d’Arc was discovered 30 years ago. Only researchers are allowed into the original cave. A replica complete with the replica cave drawings was built nearby.
We arrived early for the one English commentary, booked our slot for 11.20, and went to visit some of the other offerings. Everything was automated. Gates with a countdown timer, doors opening, and the closing and presentations started without a human involved.
We were ushered into a hall with projected masterpieces of animals on the walls. Some I recognized, others were beyond my art historian knowledge. The projectors showed a seamless image on four walls of a large room. After a while, as we wondering if anything was going to happen, (a few people left at this stage), the images started to change, some moving, birds appearing and walking around the frames. Twee, but we had 15 minutes of this to go. Then the imagery got going, we were plunged into the Ardeche scenery in different seasons and ages. The animals on the painting roamed the walls. Suddenly the ceiling appeared to descend, then I noticed the ground was dropping as we descended to the cave. It was so disorienting, I actually felt nauseous. We were presented with further imagery of trains, cities and finally the pictures on the walls reappeared. Very clever.
We left, thinking we would look at this again, but alas we didn’t.
We went on to the exhibition that gives an overview of the cave’s discovery. and history. Humans drew images on the walls 36,000 years ago. It then became sealed by a landslide 30,000 odd years ago, preserving the paintings until now. It was time for the main course, and we headed over to the replica cave and our tour. We made our way there and waited. Here we had a human who came out every 10 minutes to usher the next group forward. Like clockwork and on time, it was our go. We were issued with headphones. Oh, I thought a prerecorded tour, no it was to hear our guide above the other guides in the space of the replica cave. They also served to block out the screaming children who seem to be taken on this trip.
It was a facinating walk through the artificial recreation of the cave. The pictures were full height, but the cave was smaller. I assumed it zig zagged, while the real cave was straighter. I didn’t ask and nobody else did. No pictures from the cave, no photography allowed.
Well worth the visit. It sounds dreadful to visit a replica but a really clever way to preserve the original, a lot of which is still unexcavated.
We then drove to see the Pont d’Arc itself, a natural bridge. We had to park on the far side as the West side carparks were limited to vehicles under 1.8m high. We had to pay to park. The arch looked grand. I only wish I had taken a canoe trip.