Thursday, 24 December 2009

France - part eight - the caves

After visiting Fort Liberia, it was time to enter the bowels of the earth - the Grotte de Grande Canelettes.
This cave system is incredible, but what's even more impressive is the sympathetic way they have opened it up to the public.
It's the closest I've ever been to actually BEING a spelunker (caver).

This is what you see when you go through the doors - a wonderland of soft lights and tunnels.
To give you an idea of size - that's Sue, framed in the doorway ahead.

The variety and quality of the formations really is mind-blowing.
There's no other word for it.
The way round is in two parts. On each route, the stairs are gently lit with LED lighting - green for in, and blue for out.
They are SO well positioned, that it almost looks as though they belong there.
Wherever you look, floor, walls or ceiling, there's an amazing rock formation of some kind. Some are HUGE, and some are so delicate, you marvel at them being made out of rock.
This 'stalactite chandelier' was just one of the exhibits.

This part of the cave was just 'mites and 'tites all over the place - incredible!

The lighting is done to give maximum effect, and boy - does IT deliver.

In some places, there is a mix of magnetic fields and air draughts that have been affecting the process of solidification for millions of years. This tiny, delicate formation is called 'the horse' (Le Chevaux).
Fine strands of rock, almost hair-like in their make up, have been blown and drawn over the eons to form this beautiful thing. One touch could snap it off.
Nature really is fantastic, isn't it?

In the low light of the cave, with a hand held camera, it was almost impossible to remain still enough for a long exposure and sharp picture, but this was the best I could do under the circumstances.
You can at least see the fine 'hairs' made of rock.
The long stalactites around it are called 'straw stalactite's (for obvious reasons).

Where the roof of the cave was at a gradient, 'curtain stalactites' formed in large numbers. A picture really can NOT do justice to these. With the light behind them, it was like looking through fine bone chine, and the colours are FABULOUS.

After the visit, Mannes came to the caves and whisked
us back to Brenda's house for the 'last supper'.
As usual, we started with aperitifs (and a beer).

Then, it was time form the star of the show - Rose de Pyrenees.
We cut it into small pieces, and flash cooked it on a hot plate
that Brenda put in the middle of the table.
Being a veggie, Brenda didn't take any of the meat - but Mannes ate with gusto!

Food of the Gods - I kid you not, the flavour and texture was amazing.


The main course was a lovely tuna bake with all the trimmings.
Then, it was time to say goodnight to Starry and Robi,
curled up on their own sofa for the night.

Next day, Brenda & Mannes took us back to Carcassone and the plane home.
As usual, they had MADE the holiday, and we are, as always, eternally grateful to them.
Thanks, Brenda & Mannes xx

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