Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Our Very Rocky Day

 Our rocky day started with a visit to Rocamadour, a famous medieval pilgrimmage destination on a cliff featuring the chapel of the Black Virgin seen here in the altar.

Pilgrims climb the steps on their knees and there is a stone plaque posted with a list of the 'incontestable miracles' that have occurred here.

We saw a group of GIrl Guiides and Boy Scouts climbing the stairs on their knees - and those are stone stairs!
We experienced our own little miracle. When we first arrived, the church was swathed in cloud. 

Then, as we took the elevator down to the religious complex, sun broke through the mist and we had a lovely day. The church is nestled right into the cliff face with overhangs above:

There were more people attending church than we'd seen anywhere else, and there were more arriving. 

We then went back up to the chateau.

There were lovely views down to the valley below:

A rocky start to the day.  But it was to get rockier still.

On  the advice of friends Barbara and Jim, we next headed to Le Gouffre de Padirac. In this area, a cave roof had subsided, yielding a large crater. We took two elevators down into the crater and we were pretty impressed with its size. Here's looking up.

But then came the exciting part. We started on a walk in the cave following the path of the underground river. We saw some amazing stalagmites and stalactites as we went deeper and deeper into the cavern. "Don't worry', said the guide. "This cave will again implode and form a bigger crater, but that will be 10,000 years from now". Comforting.

Next we were delivered to some boats seating 6 people, with a guide punting us along the underground river (no photos here), taking us ever deeper into the cave. Here is a photo of a postcard (how weird is that?) of the boats:

The experience got ever more eery as we drifted in absolute silence along this river, deep underground. Here we were allowed to take photos (no flash), and I managed to catch a few of the more spectacular sights.

Most dramatic was a cascade of calcified steps, and some 'plate' stalagmites which neither of us had heard of before.

We then left the boats and walked further, up and down stairs. By this point, you have zero sense of direction, except for up and down. Looking at the stairs lit down below gives some sense of the dimensions of this place.

This was an awesome day - rocks in all their form. Yet there was more to come before day's end, as the next post will indicate.

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