Cave Paintings in Paris

August 13, 2015 - Paris, France

Not only are there works from Artistic Periods such as the Renaissance, the Dutch and Flemish schools, Romantic, Impressionist, Modern and Contemporary, there is an exhibition of the Paleolithic school as well. We found out that for a short time the Lascaux Cave Paintings will be on display in Paris, at the Porte de Versailles Exposition centre.. OK, they are not the real paintings but the real ones are sealed up in their cave with very restricted access and if you visit at Lascaux you will only see a reproduction anyway. As old hands at the Metro we headed off on the #4 to Montparnasse where we changed for the #12 where we alighted at Porte de Versailles.


The Exposition Centre is still under construction/reconstruction but there were plenty of signs to lead us between the barriers and through the noise and dust of building work to Building 8. Lascaux in one direction and the Lego exhibit in the other so the choice may have been difficult for some. There was one couple ahead of us at the Ticket Desk so it was no time at all before we had our tickets and an audio guide each. Whoops! Not so fast, we turned back to have our audio guides changed from French to English! The exhibition told us a lot about the discovery of the caves, how they were first opened up to tourists and how they were closed in 1963 to try to halt the growth of mould and fungus.

The next part of the exhibition had three dimensional scale models of parts of the cave and showed where the paintings are in the caves and how they were painted as well as some background to the Cro-Magnon people who are presumed to be the painters. Some of the parts of the cave that were painted must have been difficult to access and would have needed ladders built to get there and to stand on to paint. Quite a feat with only an oil lamp or two.

We then went into a reproduction of parts of the cave with the paintings faithfully reproduced at full scale. This was really the heart of the exhibition and although it was only 5 sections it was laid out to make you feel you were walking through a cave. The paintings are stunning and this exhibit shows the use of the shape and texture of the rock to give a lifelike look to the art. The drawings must have been breathtaking in the flickering light of an oil lamp. Later displays showed how the animals would appear to move as the light picked out different parts of the image. For instance there are horses with heads shown in two positions as they toss their heads in the lamplight.There were many interactive exhibits that dealt with the painting techniques and the world at the time of Cro-Magnon Man as well as tools that were found in the caves. All told it was a good exhibit but on a hot day and in what was essentially a tin shed we were pretty well beat by the time we reached the end.

We returned to Cite on the Metro and we attempted to walk to the north side from Ile de la Cite but there was a large Police presence and the way around the shore or across the bridge was blocked. We could see a few signs down on the banks of the Seine and a largish crowd with banners protesting the Israeli presence in Gaza. We backtracked a little and headed east to find another bridge to Ile St-Louis and then the northern bank. It was only when we got closer to our destination that we began to think that a day of protests against Israel may not be a good day to be visiting the Musee de Shoah and Holocaust Memorial. There were guards with machine guns but it was all very quiet when we finally found our way through the security doors and x-ray screening. Such a monument demands respect and sombre silence. The vast expanse of walls covered in names of those known to have been exterminated by the Nazi Machine just boggles the mind. The list continues to expand as more are confirmed to have been transported to the death camps or summarily executed in the streets. The sight of the walls of names was enough for us without a visit to the museum section and we retraced our steps to the Ile de la Cite and past the memorial garden on the site where many Paris Jews were deported to the camps.

We crossed to the Left Bank and walked under the shade of the Plane Trees to Place Saint-Michel where the kids were again entranced by the bubble man and we had to try several photos of the bubbles in the sunlight and the kids chasing them. We then went back to the Irish Pub near our hotel for refreshments after a long, hot day.. This time we had a Kilkenny Cream rather than a Guinness and it went down very well after a day in the heat and the press of bodies in the Metro aswell as the heat and crowds in the streets. I think there are many, many more young travellers on the tourist circuit and their only interest seems to be using their 'selfie' stick to photograph themselves in front of one attraction or another. As soon as you get away from the usual haunts it can be quiet and peaceful again.

After our beer and a little recuperative snooze we headed back to Vins et Terroirs for dinner. Tonight our waiter greeted us with an apperitif of white wine and raspberry. Was he happy to see us back or was this normal practice on a Thursday night? I ordered Bouef Bourgignon this time and Margaret had Porc Mignon accompanied by the seemingly endless carafe of Vin Rouge. Both meals were excellent again and we finished off with Tarte d'abricot for Margaret while I had to try the Profiterole Chocolat. Mmmmm, mmm, but that wasn't in doubt, not here. We ordered expresso to complete our meal and they were sent along with a brandy for me and a Calvados for Margaret. I could easily get used to this French idea of meals!

The stroll back to the hotel took us past a few interesting shops. We have passed them before but each night you are in a different mood and different things catch your attention, whether it is a displayed item or the window dressing itself. I have no belief in the concept of an afterlife or of reincarnation but for someone who hates cities and crowds I think I must have been Parisian in a former life. I would hope I was storming the Bastille.


On Fuzzy Travel
Cro-Magnon people in exhibit
Opposing Bison
Paintings from the Shaft
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