Q. I plan to be in France in September and see the prehistoric cave paintings. What arrangements need be made in advance?
A. Of the 136 caves in France with prehistoric art, a score - primarily in the southwest - can still be visited. Because fragile works of art can be damaged by too much light, heat, humidity and carbon dioxide, a limit is set on the number of visitors. So it is essential to reserve a place, even weeks ahead, or more. Most tours are in French only; by calling ahead, you may be able to arrange for an English-speaking guide.
Tours are held primarily in the summer months. A few of the sites of interest - the first three are in the Dordogne - are these:
Rouffignac, near Perigueux, telephone (33-5) 53.05.41.71. This cave of multihued silex, predominantly red, contains 13,000-year-old drawings and engravings of such animals as mammoths, rhinoceroses, horses, bison and ibexes as well as undeciphered symbols and silhouette handprints. A small train takes visitors through the galleries.
Open April 1 to Nov. 1. Hours: July and August, 9 to 11:30 a.m., 2 to 6 p.m.; September and October, 10 to 11:30 a.m., 2 to 6 p.m. Admission: $5.30; those aged 5 to 7 who sit on an adult’s lap, $1.80.
Font-de-Gaume, near St.-Cyrien, (33-5) 53.06.90.80. The walls are decorated with more than 200 animals (mostly bison, horses and mammoths) and symbols 14,000 to 15,000 years old. Open daily from April 1 to Sept. 30 except Tuesdays and holidays, from 9 a.m. to noon and 2 to 6 p.m. Admission: $6.35; 12 to 25 years, $4.20.
Lascaux II, near Montignac, (33-5) 53.51.95.03. Opened in 1983, this is a recreation of art done 15,000 to 17,000 years ago, including a unicornlike animal and herd of black bulls. Closed Monday except July and August. Tours depart every 10 minutes. Admission: $8.70; 6 to 12, $3.60.
Niaux, near Tarascon, in the Ariege, (33-5) 61.05.88.37. A huge cavern known as the Salon Noir is filled with 12,500-year-old drawings, most of them depicting horses and ibexes, inevitably in profile and done in red or black. The tour is a difficult, 1.2-mile walk over sometimes slippery ground, with flashlights used for illumination. In July, August and September, tours leave every 45 minutes starting at 8:30 a.m. except for midday and run to 5:30 p.m. Admission: $10.90, children 6 to 12, $4.50.
Q. Are there tours of Harvard and MIT during the summer? We are planning a trip to Boston with a couple of interested youngsters.
A. Harvard offers two sets of two tours. Those for the general public leave the Information Center in Holyoke Center, at 1350 Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge. During the academic year, tours are held Monday to Friday at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. and on Saturday at 2 p.m. From June through August, they are given at 10 and 11:15 a.m. and 2 and 3:15 p.m. from Monday to Saturday; on Sunday, at 1:30 and 3 p.m. Information: (617) 495-1573.
Tours for prospective students meet at Byerly Hall, 8 Garden Street, from Monday to Friday at 3 p.m. and Saturday at 11 a.m. year round; on weekdays from April to mid-December, there is also an 11 a.m. tour. Information sessions start an hour earlier. On Saturdays, information sessions are held only from mid-September to just before Thanksgiving. No tours from Dec. 16 to Jan. 12. Information: (617) 495-1551.
At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, tours leave daily, except holidays, at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. from the Information Center (building -7-121) in Cambridge, at 77 Massachusetts Avenue. The tour is followed by a question-and-answer session for prospective students. Information: (617) 253-4795.
The 1997-98 edition lists more than 250 schools, with tour schedules, driving directions, lodgings and nearby attractions.
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