Monday, 6 August 2007

In the grip of La Grippe...or drugged-up wanderings in Perigord

Well, my excitedly-anticipated trip to the wonderful Vezere valley in south-central France didn't quite turn out how I'd hoped...

Deciding to fly from Southampton to Bergerac was a good move as it only takes me 15 minutes to get to the airport and you get to fly on a proper plane with propellers and everything. What wasn't good was spending 2 hours in the very small departures lounge with hundreds of other people (Mr Sartre was right...hell is other people) feeling gradually more ill by the minute.

The flight itself I don't remember too much of...I was asleep for the most part after reading approximately 1 page of The Silmarillion...except the bloody annoying stewardess with the bloody annoying Mrs Merton accent twittering on about feck all. I left the plane muttering expletives and left my book doubt whoever found it will not have the intelligence to appreciate just how flipping superb Mr Tolkien is...

By the time I arrived in Les Eyzies to meet the missus I was well and truly sick...and did not even start to feel remotely better until back in Southampton last Thursday, a week later. Therefore, my entire week consisted of munching all the anti-flu drugs I could get hold of and walking around in a haze.

The Vezere valley is one of the most important sites on the planet in terms of human evolution. OK, sites such as Olduvai Gorge and Lake Turkana have yielded the most ancient finds, but for truly modern humans, Homo sapiens sapiens, and our very near neighbours Homo neanderthalensis, this area is the spiritual home. It was here that the type specimen for the earliest example of our own species was discovered. I was somewhat amused to hear that Cro-Magnon man literally means 'Man from Mr Magnon's hole' after the bones were found in a hole belonging to a Mr Magnon.

Anyway, the whole of the valley and most of the surrounding region is littered with stunning cave sites, rock shelters and river gravel deposits which have provided archaeologists with unrivalled research material (tools, paintings, sculptures, bones etc) into ancient human populations from the lower palaeolithic right up to the last glaciation and beyond.

I think by far the most emotive are the dozens of cave sites containing sculptures, engravings and paintings, some of which date back over 30,000 years and many of which are of breathtaking composition. Before you die, visit at least one of these sites (I recommend Font du Gaume with its buffalos and pair of reindeer licking each other, or Rouffinac with its 100 mammoths) will be amazed..words can't do them justice.

Anyway, the reason I was in this area in the first place was because the wife was studying stone tools in the Museum. The plan was that while she was working I could wander the fields looking at wildlife and caves.
Hummingbird Hawkmoth on Buddleja

Scarce swallowtail Iphiclides podalirius on Buddleja

Small pincertail Onychogomphus forcipatus on gravel

Caper Spurge Euphorbia lathyris

Meadow clary Salvia pratensis

Field eryngo Eryngium campestre

Lathyrus sp.

Unidentified damsel...any ideas??

White-legged damselfly Platycnemis pennipes
Sympetrum sp.
Snail farming....tried them at a restaurant...would rather stick hornets up my backside in future.
Large skipper