Friday, 8 August 2008

dordogne (2) - brantome

Abbey at Brantome
Interesting day out at Brantome and the Grotte de Villars. Brantome is a popular place to start canoeing down the Dronne and it was amusing to watch novices trying to navigate the weirs. The town has a Benedictine abbey built by Charlemagne in 769AD and there is a pleasant mix of renaissance and medieval architecture. I did read it described as the Venice of the Dordogne but I think that is over egging it a bit.

The Grotte de Villars is a stunning cave system discovered in the middle of the last century. The stalactites and stalagmites form fascinating structures and patterns and the caves are still ‘live’ which means they are still being formed by the passage of water. No point hanging around to see the structures develop as it takes 100 years for a stalactite to grow up to 10cm. I was interested to learn that two abbots were involved in discovering the caves and the prehistoric cave paintings on the walls, some almost hidden by ongoing calcification. It reminded me that many clergy have played an important part in discovering and exploring the natural world and ties in with the article by Libby Purvis on Richard Dawkins that Jonathan Evens highlighted on his blog.

Very much enjoying the gite, though feel we are rather unfortunate in having arrived just as the owners, who live next door, have purchased a cockerel. He is much better at crowing early in the morning than his efforts with the hens. Time to dig out the recipe for ‘coq au vin’.
Grotte de Villars

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