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As world travelers and photographers, Henderson Productions joined forces with our friends from Poggio Amorelli B&B to explore culinary France.  Master Chef contestant Angela Perkins contacted chefs in five distinct regions and asked us to design and document the trip.   We knew it would be a journey for our senses: to see, taste, smell and touch France.   Above all else, we aimed to enjoy the adventure.  We are delighted to report those goals were met and more.   Along the way many chefs gave us permission to include their recipes to help you recreate some of our experiences.  We invite you to appreciate the bounty of their gifts.           Bon Appetit et Bon Voyage.

We took a detour into Foix for a downtown stroll and found a great junk shop where Angela added to her copper pot collection and a coffee break.   Then wandered into a natural grocery, butcher and bakery.   We ate lunch of warmed croque monsieur – fresh bread and cheese melted on top- while we drove to Niaux and the caves.

The turrets on Foix Castle tower above the town

The Rough Guide to the Pyrenees suggests at least six possible explanations for the painted caves of the Pyrenees including the most recent suggestion in 2006 from a specialist in paleozoology that the handprints and geometric shapes were completed by adolescent boys too young to hunt.   “They were responsible for much of the cruder, unfinished animal outlines, the graffiti-like sequences of dots, dashes and arrows, as well as doodles of female human genitalia – exactly what young males would be obsessed with.   Older male hunters executed the more masterful pictures purely for fun, and to celebrate the beauty of their prey.”    Hmmm.   Interesting.

These caves are dated to 10,800 BC with at least two hundred years of graffiti since it was discovered.   There are written references in the 17th c to some of the paintings of Niaux.    And they were painted.   Our guide, Jacques, told us they have been drawn first in charcoal and then brush painted with various minerals to make either the black or the red images.

Bison cave painting at the Niaux Caves

Mostly they depict either animals or geometric dashes and dots.   The most glamourous of this cave are the ibis, bison and horses in the Gallerie Noir – or black cave – a solid 800m deep into the caves.  It was periodically treacherous and certainly damp as we carried our own heavy lantern flashlights up and down – occasionally squeezing through some tight passes and more often ducking to protect our heads.  Two of us had matching bumps from the adventure!

Once in the highly acoustic 40m high Gallerie Noir, Jacques shown powerful lights in several scenes of drawings and answered questions before turning off all lights and having us sing in the dark to experience the acoustics.