Sunday, April 30, 2006

and with the second half

On the third day of my trip, I walked to Poet-Laval, a crumbly and charming town. It, like Baume-les-Messieurs and Chateau-Chalon, is classified as one of the most beautiful historic villages in France. Indeed, it's rather lovely.

Another gorgeous day, wandering along back roads and forest paths, getting a bit pink on my shoulders.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Provence: france, but better

As I mentioned, the first time I came to France, the majority of the trip was spent in the south. We saw the country at a really heady, gorgeous time in June, when all of the lavender and poppies spread out on fields.

This time, I was a bit early. Luckily, there were just as many flowers - they were just found on trees, instead of the ground.

So, these are my first two days on the trip. Most of day One was spent on the train or wandering around Montelimar, a wholly unremarkable small french city, just the same as any other unremarkably small french city. Dieulefit is a seriously small town -- in the middle of nowhere, but somehow picked to survive as a upscale touristy town. Granted, it's pre-tourist season, so it was pretty quiet. On that day, I took a long walk (around 7 hours) to another town. It, of course, was a gorgeous and senic path. Unfortunately, I lost my GR (grand randonee) markers about halfway there, so four hours were on pretty-yet-hum country roads.

Here are some of the things I saw:

(a final note...I'm not exactly sure why, but this is one of my favorite pictures that i've ever taken. right as i got the shot, even, i thought, 'oh yes. this one is good.' so thank you, picture, for not disappointing me.)


Reason #1 I wish I had a car: so a four hour trip took four hours, not an entire day.

My four day trip was lovely, even though two of them were spent in transit. I have a lot of pictures, but I'm feeling lazy and tired - from both the travelling and the moonshine we drank at a combination birthday/going-away dinner with some friends.

Off now to a local spa (really!) to have a swim and enjoy the saunas. Until I have time for a longer update, I'll leave you to enjoy the greatness of my new sunglasses, bought for 50 cents at the thrift store in town. Oh, and there's a 10th century roman church behind me. Oh, france!!

Monday, April 24, 2006

last one

I'm posting everything today, as I'll be out of town the rest of the week. I'm making a short solo trip to Dieulefit, a small town located in the low mountains of north Provence. I plan to spend three days walking, plus forcing a bit of reading at a cafe while sipping pastis in the evening sun. The first time I was in France, we spent the majority of the trip visiting Provence and the Cote d'Azur. I fell in love with the former, as so commonly happens, and I'm very excited to return.

On sunday, I spent the afternoon at the Houville's house, chatting and knitting on the porch; enjoying the wearing of my new [house]dress, my latest thrift store find, and Spanish espradilles. They have a gorgeous view off the back porch, plus a yard full of flowering trees. Heaven.

In the evening, the twins joined us for a picnic at a nearby lake. Pascal had taken me here before - a small place known only to locals. Incredibly beautiful and quiet.

Oh, and I heard a cuckoo! It sounds...exactly like a cuckoo clock. In france, cuckoos are the harbinger of spring, like robins are for us.


wrapping up saturday...

If it's not already clear, this region in France is very rural and very old. There's a few very distinct areas within the Jura, all relating to elevation. Around my town, at the lowest elevation, a lot of the land is kept as vineyards and cow pastures. Slightly higher up, there's no vineyards, still lots of pastures, but more forest. Any higher up, it's almost entirely wooded - logging, in those parts, is the main industry.
In any area, though, the landscape is most important to the people living here. It's lushly damp and green in the forests, the ground and trees carpeted with thick moss. Huge boulders sit along paths, studded with fossils. There's rolling hills and tall cliffs; caves and waterfalls and natural springs.
So, on saturday afternoon, Pascal and I took a little trip to a small cave. It was probably only 15km away from Poligny, up on the plateau, and marked only by a sign along the small country road.

There are a few tours a day - on ours, it was around 15 people, plus us, and another employee. The man leading the tour (the one in the middle) was clearly in love with that place, all of the stalagmites and bats. He spoke very slowly, too, so I was actually able to understand everything he said....well, once I figured out that "bald mice" means 'bats'.

The cave wasn't very big- three large chambers only - but it was clear much more wasn't accessible to us. The best part came at the end, when we stood in the chamber showed below. He turned off all the lights, then began a recording of "Also Sprach Zarathustra", with lights turning on one at a time, in time with the music. At the end, as the final chord reverberated in the air, I started clapping, saying "Ouaaaaaiiiiiiii!" (meaning, "yaaayyyyyy!") I was the only one. I watched 17 heads swivel towards me, then stare blankly as I quietly put my hands at my side.

We kept driving around after that, stopping once in a town to see the church. This one surprised me, as it looked very un-french like. In fact, it looked downright American, in that German-protestant tradition. I nearly hoisted the starts and stripes above, that's how plain and restrained it looked!

We drove over to the end of a reculee:

Then stopped in Baume-les-Messieurs for a beer:

On our way home, we passed by one of the few flocks of sheep kept around here.