Lascaux vs Font de Gaume

Mar 10th, 2007, 09:32 AM
  #1  
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Lascaux vs Font de Gaume

Our trip is less than 3 weeks away. Yahoo!

Unfortunately, we will only have time to do one prehistoric cave in this trip. I see that my Michelin guide only gives Font de Gaume * (one star), while it gives Lascaux ** (two stars). I know Lascaux is a replica and Font de Gaume is the real thing, but which one was more awe-inspiring, in your opinion? Also, how about availability of tours in English? I speak French, but my husband does not and I would rather not have to translate (but will do so, if necessary!).

If schedule is an important consideration, it fits our schedule the best if we can go to a cave on Sunday, April 1st (*not* first thing in the morning, but anytime after that) or Monday, April 2nd, anytime. How far in advance would I have to make reservations for Font de Gaume during early Spring?

Before someone brings up Pech-Merle, it won't be open when we pass through that area. So, it's a no-go.

TIA!
Mariarosa is offline  
Mar 10th, 2007, 09:50 AM
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I think that I would say that, given your situation, Lascaux is more spectacular. The fact that it is a replica really does not take away much from the experience. I think there is more of a chance of getting an English tour there. We made rreservations for the English tour at Font de Gaume by e-mail weeks ahead of our trip in early May a few years ago. When we arrived, there were no English tours, although the guide did do some translation for those who had trouble with the French. In high season, perhaps there are more tours scheduled in English.

Last fall I visited Lascaux II; we had no reservation, just showed up at the site and bought tickets and got on the next English tour within a few minutes of arriving at the site. Actually we began on the French tour but since a few members of our group did not understand the guide, he hustled us forward and hooked us up with the English tour just ahead of us...

Even putting aside the issue of the English tours, I think that Lascaux wins by a hair as far as the awe inspired in the visitor. The (replica) drawings are much clearer and the light is better. But it is close and both are worthwhile...
ekscrunchy is offline  
Mar 10th, 2007, 10:46 AM
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I would vote for Font de Gaume. At Lascaux II in the back of you mind is the fact that this is a replica.
We went in May last tear, had the hotel phone two days before and book the English tour -no problem. Phone(email) your hotel and have them book as English tour and give them a choice of days and plan your day around that.
I could be wrong but I think there is a difference in the type of guide (qualifications etc).
You will probably be the last generation to see Font de Gaume. Fewer people are being admitted each year. Lascaux will always be there. I didn't find Lascaux near as moving as Font de Gaume. One is a tourist attraction, the other is a historic site. (Rather see Elvis or an impersonator?)
robjame is offline  
Mar 10th, 2007, 11:02 AM
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I agree with robjame, although my own visit is not until summer- I really wrestled with the same question and posted it various places online, like you. Ultimately what won out was not the awe, necessarily, but the sense of actual connection with human ancestors tens of thousands years old over a reproduction, regardless of how "authentic". I still marvel at the memory of the wagon wheel tracks in the street paving stones at Pompeii- while the plaster casts and treaures were mostly all off- site (which I didn't havea time to see), I opted for the experience of the real place...of course, it's entirely personal preference- so regardless of what a travel guide gives in terms of stars, I go with what matters to ME!
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Mar 10th, 2007, 11:26 AM
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I can not speak authoritatively as to which is better since I had the same decision to make and I went with Font de Gaume. I understand that there is talk of closing Font de Gaume to the public, and it seemed more important to me to see that before it closed than a replica at Lascaux which would always be available.

I thought of Lascaux more as a museum and Font de Gaume as a real experience of ancient people. If I return to the Dordogne, I would like to see Lascaux, but it would be as a supplement to the actual sites one can see.

I would not let the lack of an English tour stop me from visiting, if none were available, even if I didn't speak French. The cave is very, very small, and the art is very, very close. The magic lay in the intimate connection with the ancient artists rather than in what the guide was saying.

The guide points out the paintings with a light pointer. Not so much needs to be said, and if necessary you can help your husband by filling in what you hear from the guide. This is what I did at Pech Merle, where the tour was in French, and it was fine.

If, for some reason, it is impossible to get a tour at Font de Gaume, I believe there are other caves with original art in the area that can be visited with less advance notice. I would make sure to include at least one actual cave to have the experience before going to Lascaux.
Nikki is online now  
Mar 10th, 2007, 11:46 AM
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That is a good point about the Font de Gaume scheduled to be closed. I had forgotten that and think I might now revise my answer...

Lascaux II will be there next time...
ekscrunchy is offline  
Mar 10th, 2007, 11:54 AM
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Well, this is obviously a personal thing, but I would certainly recommend Lascaux over Font de Gaume, even though it is a replica. The original cave at Lascaux is much more complex and beautiful than the one at Font de Gaume, and the very well done replica reflects that.

The difficulty with Font deGaume, as well as being smaller than Lascaux, is that it has been open for a long time, and has suffered damage over the years. So colours are not as bright, images not as clear.

This is very obvious when you are with the guides - who, as far as I know have the same qualifications. At Font de Gaume the guide shows you a drawing and has to trace the image with the flashlight so that you can really see it. At Lascaux the image is THERE - often they do assist in showing one image superimposed on another, but for the most part you see the images much more clearly

Just a side comment - we came back from South Africa last week, where we went off into the semi-desert to look at rock art. Pulled into this small camp 4 hours north of Cape Town, and mentioned that we came from France, and had actually brought the owners a book on the Lascaux paintings. 'Oh, we know them' she says, 'the Mayor of Les Eyzies was here a few months ago!' Apparently they were talking about twinning the two towns, but it doesn't seem to have gone very far. In fact the only other people there were a French couple - we were probably the only 4 people who were dumb enough to go out in the 35-40 degree heat to look at rocks. Great, but far too hot.
Carlux is offline  
Mar 10th, 2007, 12:31 PM
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I personally would choose Font-de-Gaume (and/or Combarelles), but I don't think you'll feel cheated if you opt for Lascaux II. In fact, on the tour at Lascaux II you will learn more about cave art than on the FdG tour. And it's far easier to get an English-language tour at Lascaux II. If you do choose FdG, reserve NOW if you want an English-language tour and don't be surprised if they book you one and it isn't actually available when you arrive. I've ended up translating for English speakers on at least 3 tours that were supposed to be in English.
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Mar 10th, 2007, 01:06 PM
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I've been to both twice, and agree with Carlux.

Stu Dudley
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Mar 10th, 2007, 02:01 PM
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I'm not sure what the requirements are for entrance into the original Lascaux, but I was able to get in about ten years ago. I applied quite a long time in advance and am a university professor. I assume both made a difference. My son, a historian, thought it was the greatest thing he has seen in many trips to Europe. I concur. I don't want this to sound like "bragging time;" I just thought some of you might want to apply for a future trip. If anyone is interested, I will try to find the address to which I applied.
Boots Newstrom
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Mar 10th, 2007, 02:21 PM
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Permission to visit for research purposes as I understand it is given only to qualified archaeologists who apply to the Direction Régionale des Affaires Culturelles, Service Régional de l'Archéologie, 54 rue Magendie, 33074 Bordeaux (tel. 05-57-95-02-02). You can reach staff at the cave site at 05-53-51-90-29.
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Mar 10th, 2007, 02:39 PM
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The guide at Font de Gaume told us that visits can be arranged during the winter that are longer (I seem to recall 2 hours instead of one) because of the less damage from body heat, ambient temperature, etc. and they go farther into the cave.
I guess it was just a personality thing but she spoke to us at some length and was extremely knowledgable about cave art. It sounded like she was perhaps a researcher though that might just be the luck of the draw.
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Mar 11th, 2007, 07:21 AM
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Hi M,

From my trip report:

Font de Gaume.

After a picque-nicque in the car beside the Vézère river, we picked up our tickets and began a very long, very steep climb up to the cave. About 3/4 up the hill is a sign: Caution - very steep climb - tickets not refundable. Passing through an airlock, we entered a very tall, very narrow cave decorated with prehistoric paintings of bison, horses and ibex. The guide was quite good, and the tour was very interesting.

The really good stuff is closed to public access, but you can buy photographs.

Lascaux II

Even though Lascaux II is a reproduction of part of the Grotte de Lascaux, it is very well done. You do get a good feel for the environment in which the art works were done (except it is not moldy and dusty). Our guide was quite good.

Lascaux II will be open when you return, FdG might not.



ira is offline  
Mar 11th, 2007, 07:21 AM
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PS,

It helps to have a pocket flashlight when visiting caves.

ira is offline  
Mar 11th, 2007, 07:52 AM
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Ira I am just curious..where at the Font de Gaume or Lascaux II did you make use of your flashlight?
ekscrunchy is offline  
Mar 11th, 2007, 07:54 AM
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I should elaborate.. I am asking this because I toted one along on my first rip to the Dordogne and it proved to be totally useless in the caves, or anyplace else..
ekscrunchy is offline  
Mar 11th, 2007, 07:56 AM
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ira
 
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Hi EK,

I have one of those little ones with the adjustable beam.

It was very helpful in illuminating the pix that the guide had outlined.

It was also good for looking into areas that the guide didn't talk about.

ira is offline  
Mar 11th, 2007, 07:59 AM
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Thank you Ira.

ekscrunchy is offline  
Mar 11th, 2007, 08:22 AM
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My pleasure, ek
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Mar 11th, 2007, 08:27 AM
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Ira - not sure about this one but I would question if a flashlight would be welcome, especially at Font de Gaume. It seems to me they were quite particular about keeping the drawings as pristine as possible by controlling the situation. The pathways were quite well lit. At points the guide shut off all illumination and used her light (maybe laser?) to show the outlines and it would be quite annoying to have another light flashing about. Anyway ask first.
I recall one lady reaching out to touch the drawings, despite the repeated warnings, and the rear guide shouted at her and told her if she did that again she would be removed.
Good point about the walk up to Font de Gaume for anyone with mobility problems.
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