Breakfast is the usual: Yogurts (no nonfat selections), several breakfast roll varieties (nothing special), breads, factory-packed jams, cold cereals (all sugar-laden, and non with any significant fiber content), a couple of cold meats, boiled eggs. And, of course, coffee.
We saunter one block to the Vezere River, where we are acquainted with our canoes, life jackets, and the large plastic barrels in which we can securely store water-damageable goods. (Brig and I hadn't planned to keep much more than a camera and money belt in the boat. We had planned to put long pants, shoes, and sweaters in the bus, for the Roussignac caves. However, it turns out that our driver, Juan, is out, seeking medical attention. This means that the bus is not available for storage. No problem, though: The big container is large enough to hold all our stuff, and then some.
Our 12 km stretch on the Vezere (Montignac to St. Leon) is basically a very long bathtub. There are no rapids whatsoever. There are barely any ripples.
We drift past two or three riverside châteaus, accompanied by a pleasant sun and balmy breezes. The countryside is beautiful, and tall shade trees are thoughtfully provided on the southern bank.
I give Brigid her choice: to paddle, or not to paddle. Almost all of the time, her decision is "not".
What a life!
Kristen has gotten the canoe company to press their bus into our service, to fill in for Juan, who is still out of commission. Twenty-one of us pile into a bus that initially appears to only accommodate 17. Then we notice that there are jump seats in each aisle gap. Yikes! The NTSB and DoT would NEVER approve! Kristen follows with one last tour member, in a car that the canoe company lent us.
We first visit a cliff-dwelling, La Roque Saint Christophe, which has been inhabited for some 10,000 years, and which was a fortified town during medieval times. Lucy, our guide on this limestone complex above the Vezere River, fails to impress Brigid. (I think she did okay.) The views of the countryside are pretty good. Poor Sarah has a couple of minor mishaps (inadvertently tumbling headfirst over a barrier) getting into a "squirrel cage" apparatus to demonstrate how residents would lift or drop heavy items.
Then we visit La Grotte du Rouffignac, an ancient cave that has had human presence for 13,000 years. One or more prehistoric artists climbed up to 1 km into this cave, with nothing more than a grease lamp and a paste of manganese dioxide.
Our artist(s) climbed in there and drew rather impressive likenesses of wildlife representative of many late ice age animals. The naturally-formed limestone cave is lined with flint nodules, and decorated with engravings and manganese dioxide drawings. The MnO2 comes from 30 km away.
Access to the cave is through a locked door, and on an electric railway that goes around one km deep into the cave. The French chose this option instead of allowing visitors to walk the small distance. The idea is to reduce the volume of CO2 dispensed. It is this problem that has apparently damaged the famous Lascaux cave. (While Lascaux is nearby, it has been permanently closed to nonresearchers.)
On the way back to Montignac, we pass a pen filled with geese, no doubt destined for dinner tables. The sky keeps getting darker and more threatening, and eventually we're treated to the natural fireworks afforded by a thunderstorm. Our driver, Christien, is very accommodating, pointing out châteaus and other interesting items along the way. When it starts raining on us, he turns on the wipers -- to considerable sound effects, but with little result. Those wiper blades haven't been replaced in quite a while! We all laugh, and Christien shrugs his shoulders and joins us...
When we get back to our room, Brig decides to go off window-shopping in Montignac, while I take a shower.
Dinner is at the hotel restaurant again. At dinner, we learn that Juan has gone home to Belgium, to seek medical attention and bed rest for a lung infection. Our new driver is Tony, who has spent practically the entire day travelling here from Belgium, in order to pick up the tour -- no doubt, much to Kristen's and Sarah's tremendous relief!
So, here are the details of dinner:
The starter is an omelette with cepes mushrooms, and garnished with bits of walnut. The cepes are strongly flavored, and delicious. I should have picked them out and eaten them by themselves, considering that the omelette itself was nothing special. The walnuts are actually sweet, and no coating is responsible. They've either been marinated, or they taste that good because they're fresh.
The next course is supposed to be sandre with a ginger/saffron sauce. It turns out to be a perfectly cooked salmon filet, on top of a handful of cubed veggies, on top of a very shallow pool of the promised sauce. There was apparently a last-minute substitution on the fish. In any event, the fish is delicious, and I leave NOTHING -- not even the crunchy skin! Even Sarah, who ordinarily despises fin fish, puts a good-sized dent in tonight's fare.
The cheese course is a dairy fromage frais (fresh cheese -- and it tastes precisely like a very smooth, drained yogurt) atop greens with a vinegrette. Even Brigid finished all of hers!
Dessert is another kind of walnut cake. The version we had at the picnic looked a bit like a tart. This walnut cake is a baked cake, with walnut nutmeats interspersed. A mildly sweet sauce pools beneath the cake. It's delicious, and I find it difficult not to ask Brigid if I can finish hers -- but I manage it.
During the cheese course, the lights go out, and the emergency lighting kicks in. A minute later, lights come back on -- and then fail again in around 30 seconds. This pattern repeats several times during the remainder of the meal. Presumably, some switching station has taken a lightning hit. Eventually, candles are produced. The problem isn't resolved until just after we return to our rooms and find our flashlights.
A lovely, relaxing day. Bon nuit!