May 13th- Once Upon a Time…

Today’s been my favorite day so far, and it’s only 3:00 PM. Hm going to write a bit now on our drive from Dordogne back to Toulouse, and then maybe a bit more on the train back to Paris tonight, if anything interesting happens, which I’m sure will be the case.
This morning we visited Lascaux to see the cave. It’s apparently filled with some of the biggest and most important cave paintings in France. We did- kind of- see the cave… We saw Lascaux II. Since Lascaux is one of the most important archeological discoveries in France to date, it is important to preserve it. Twoey (ha ha Little Shop of Horrors) is a nearly exact replica of the cave made from concrete and painted using the same methods and pigments as the original. It’s even underground.
They really put an incredible amount of effort into the copy… It took 11 years to build. We weren’t allowed to take pictures, even though the cave was pretend. Kind of a bummer. I saw Mary Beth sneak in a few though, so hopefully they turned out okay. Apparently the original cave paintings are close to 17,000 years old, or more. That’s insane! Other old cave paintings I’ve seen (just a few in class and on the Internet) tend not to be so detailed and beautiful. They’re also small and sparse. I was actually really surprised because “17,000 year old cave paintings” did not scream “advanced,” but it avtually really was. Honestly, I didn’t even realize how advanced people (or at least these ancient French people) were. They had lamps and different building and painting techniques and everything. Of course, Kyle tried to scare me because of a scary story I read last semester alone at work (great plan, I know) about a caved and some strange paintings he found. Would’ve worked if we had been in the real cave. It was easy to tell what the images were, and they spread across the entire cave ceiling and its walls- some overlapping each other. There were a variety of animals, including a unicorn, but no pictures of people (there was a bird man though). Nobody knows why, but perhaps they were forbidden from representing humans in their probably sacred art. Even though we couldn’t go into Lascaux, the cave trip was really, really interesting.

I like cows too

Visiting the market today was a huge stress. Nobody down here (not sure where… Bergerac maybe?) speaks any English, and hardly any of us speak French. Trying to get lunch for a kind of a picnic was kind of awful, and we only had a few minutes to do so… The language barrier was a huge stressor for me. Lunch was really great though. A picnic in the French countryside… Is this a fairytale?
Canoeing (they didn’t have kayaks) down the Dordogne made it seem even more like the day just jumped off the pages of a storybook. I had an experience that I can only describe as magical. There were beautiful little villages, towering white cliffs and beautiful green trees, birds were singing and flying around above the cliffs. Flowers and cotton were floating in the air and across the glasslike surface of the water. Elegant swans made their way past us… And then there were the castles. Stunning towers and beautiful stones made up the most amazing structures I’ve ever seen (minus cathedrals of course). Elle and I paddled far ahead of the group so we didn’t hear the beer fueled yelling and we just got to enjoy the beauty of everything. I couldn’t make this stuff up if I wanted to. It all felt as if it jumped right out of a fairytale or a storybook or a movie. I didn’t know there were places in the world so amazing. That canoeing trip was a life changing experience- there couldn’t have been a better day for it. I will absolutely never forget it. I’ve never felt so enchanted by anything in my entire life. It was surreal…
Help, I’ve fallen in love with an entire country…

While the Dordogne may have seemed like a fairy tale, Toulouse
just seemed like Disneyland, Subway and all.

I wish that I could write more about it. I wish I could share every detail, but it’s just too much for my vocabulary.

We all had a group dinner tonight; foie gras and some other bean thing with duck and sausage and bones in it. They’re traditional foods of southern France, I guess (we were back in Toulouse). It was quite the adventure in cuisine. The dinner conversation was all nice for the most part as well… Even if I may have gone a bit over the top with a sarcastic comment or two. They went a bit over most people’s heads and I got taken much too seriously. At least I didn’t say anything offensive, and we all were able to laugh about it right afterwards.

Cute, but too bad we stunk like river water and sweat and who knows what else.

I am bunking with Mary Beth, John and Amanda again tonight on the train back to Paris. It’s going to be a pretty fun night! I’m also apparently dodging the bullet- there’s some unknown drama happening… But I don’t have to deal with it at all! Perfect!
The train is moving and the lights will be out soon.

Currently living happily ever after,
Maddie

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