Pont d'Arc Cavern
The Pont d'Arc Cavern in the Ardèche Valley is a nearly full-sized facsimile of the Chauvet Grotto, which was discovered (and closed to the public) in December, 1994. In an area smaller than the original, but in the same shape and layout, the sophisticated cave art and the artifacts are presented full sized, in the correct relative positions, and faithful to the originals "to the millimeter", based on thousands of digitial images, point clouds and other technical innovations.
The Pont d'Arc Cavern site includes the facsimile grotto, the Aurignacien gallery, an exposition, a cafeteria restaurant, walking paths through the garrigue and a view point of the countryside. Access is all free, except for the guided grotto tours (and the restaurant, of course).
No photography is permitted in the Cavern during the tour. Photos are permitted throughout the rest of the site, including in the life-size diaramas of the Pedagogique display and the Gallery Aurignacien.
The No Animals sign is self-explanatory; the No Shade is probably a warning that in the summertime, temperatures could be excessive for leaving your pets in your parked car.
We've taken the tour (one hour) through the cavern, and were blown away by the artistic quality of the paintings, the sensation of the cavern and the feeling that the original occupants had just momentarily stepped away, the explanations and the overall experience.
Entry price: 13 euros (2017); 10-17 year-olds half-price; under 10 free. Kids under 10 are free, but their place on the tour must still be reserved. Reservations can be made online (strongly recommended) - Pont d'Arc Cavern website - at the site (depending on availability).
A tour takes just under an hour. Guided tour groups depart about every 10 minutes. Each group member gets a wireless headset, with the appropriate language for each visitor. The guide provides explanations along the way via the headset and with a laser pointer; we couldn't tell if the guide was speaking directly or following a pre-recorded text (which would account for the various languages available). With everyone wearing headphones, there's little or no talking within the group, keeping down the noise in the cavern, and between nearby groups. The explanations are good, and constant.
The Aurignacien Gallery is a display of life-sized dioramas of Prehistoric countryside with a hunter-gatherer family and grotto painters, and the large fauna of the period, including cave bear, panther-like cave lion, woolly rhinoceros, wooly mammoth (our photo here), steppe bison and giant Irish Elk.
The explanatory panels are multi-lingual: French, English, Dutch and German. [Why those particular languages is anybody's guess.]
The gallery also has an educational room with lighted displays and interactive displays about the prehistoric period of the caverns, including great detail about the different types of artistic methods used by the people who created the fabulous cave-wall paintings.
(Chauvet Cave Art)
Expo - Museum
The Expo at the Cavern Pont d'Arc is an art exposition with a prehistoric theme, with free entry to all visitors to the site. During our visit, winter 2016-2017, there were many excellent displays, including the this depiction of prehistoric people and hunters by Ghyslaine & Suvaom Staelens. The Expo also had a full-sized (real) skeleton of an allosaure. This particular exposition runs from Dec 2016 to 30 June 2017.