Friday, June 22, 2007

France, next pictures - THE CAVES!

The next instalment - which features the cave pictures. As I think I've said, we were really lucky with the weather. Although a lot of days were somewhat overcast, it was always great walking weather and we got 10 mountain walks in, in the 11 available days (day 12 we had to be at the airport for 10:00AM,). The one day it DID rain, and rain quite steadily all day, we decided to visit the Grottes de grande canalettes. I am SO glad we did, as you'll see. These pictures don't even come CLOSE to doing the place justice, it really was that good! You can't hear the music on here, or see the fantastic light show, etc etc. I wish I could bring it to you all, but I can't, only as these pictures. I hope you enjoy them anyway.

Carrying on from where I left off, Mannes & Brenda took us to the bottom of a very steep climb that rose from a col. They decided to stop at this point, as it was unsafe for the dogs on the rocks, plus the snow was deep. We went almost vertically up to this frozen lake. At one point I got Colin to video me as I pressed my walking pole into the snow under my feet. I went right up to the handle! We were searching for a plane wreck, but as you can see, the snow was getting deeper, the higher we went. The weather also started to close in, so we did the sensible thing and came down. If it had come on bad, we really could have been in danger. The lake was at twice the height of Snowdon!
We reckoned that ridge above was where the wreckage we were looking for was. The sky looks lovely and blue, doesn't it?

But when we turned around, THIS is what was approaching, hence the decision to abandon the search and come down.

As usual, this is how the evening started. Brenda put out 'nibbles', and we all had a beer (or two) as an aperitif.
After the nibbles, a more serious course was brought forth.

Always the spiv, Colin decided to do his hair specially for the occasion.

And Mannes was the waiter - note, the bottle has COLIN'S name on it!

The next morning we woke to rain, and I am tempted to say; 'HOORAAAYYYYY!'. Off we went in Mannes' car, and he dropped us off at the caves. We'd seen these caves each time we'd visited this area of France (in the village of Villefranche de Conflente), and often said we ought to visit them. Well, today it was on the cards, so the Grottes de Grand Canalettes had the pleasure of our company at LAST.

I was in awe from the moment we stepped inside the entrance. These pictures aren't bad, but you can't BEGIN to appreciate just how fantastic the place is. It was seven euros to go in (about a fiver), but I would have GLADLY paid twice, even three times that. We were in there for almost three hours, and we were all wonderstruck! All the time, gentle, but exciting music accompanied the walk, our way lit by subtle LED lights (blue on the way in, red on the way out). At the innermost cavern, a HUGE affair, there was a gallery that could seat about 150 people. At that point, there was a fantastic light show spectacle, accompanied in voice by the likes of Pavarotti. I wish I could show you some of it, but it's not possible in email to do so, you will just have to imagine - or visit the place.

These 'straw stalactite's' were fragile, but beautiful.

You can see how sympathetic the walkways are in this shot.

This one is called le chevaux (the horse). It's about two feet long, but SO delicate.
Caused, it said, by magnetic forces and draught.

After being totally blown away by all this, we decided to see if the other caves were open. The 'Grottes de Petite Canalettes' was closed, but the 'Grottes de Prehistorique' were open, so off we went.
WHAT a let-down after the grandeur of the Grand Canalettes. THIS cave looked to be mostly for children, and was tacky to the MAX! Instead of Pavarotti, in this one, we got 'Jurassic Park' music, along with plastic dinosaurs and unconvincing bats in the roof. See what I mean?

Oh, oh - I'm FRIGHTENED (not!).
The rain finally abated, so we took the little yellow train back to Nyer station. As you can see, the skies stayed angry all that night, but we weren't bothered - we'd had a super day!

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