Thursday, May 23, 2013

Ochre Toned

Yesterday, after finishing my meal, I snapped a picture of the empty plate and announced "there's poetry to a finished meal!" Sort of a stupid, clichéd sentiment, but at the same time, it sort of fits the mood that has been creeping in at the edge of our vacation this last day or two. Sarah and I are starting to sense the end of our trip approaching and -through us- even the kids seem aware that we'll be returning home soon.

And, if you can't be a bit maudlin and fatalistic at the end of a vacation to France, where can you be? So...

This is actually the tail-end of tonight's meal of sausages, green beans with leeks, tomatoes, cheese, bread, olives and a little red and rose wine. We've been eating well since the market day yesterday.

Like the last two days, we climbed in the Clio and hit the road for what was supposed to be a half day road trip, but inevitably turns into a full day one. This routine seems to be working well, because the kids get some bonus nap time while we drive, Sarah and I get to talk to each other a bit (novel!) and we can explore some of the smaller towns and tourist spots scattered around us.

Initially we were planning on going to the Camargue today. The Camargue is the giant Rhone river delta to the south of Arles, known for it's pink flamingos, white horse and black bulls. But, the looming threat of mosquitos, a Roma festival and the fact that most positive reviews of it seemed to hinge horse back riding or biking (neither of which seemed practical with the kids) made us reconsider our plan this morning.

Instead, we set course for Roussillon in the foothills of Le Petit Luberon. Roussillon, aside from being a "Most Beautiful Villages of France" (literally, that's a designation, sign and everything), is also famous for its ochre quarries, where it's famous oxidized iron and clay sands are used to pigment paints, pottery and more.

The drive there, which was a little over an hour long, took us due east, into a different part of Provence. Honestly, while we've loved Arles, and enjoyed our explorations so far, I'd been left wondering a bit "what's the deal deal?" when it came to the scenery and countryside. Today, I discovered what the big deal was. Driving the Clio skillfully (yeah, I said "skillfully") through winding turns, up and down hills, Sarah and I were treated to an unending parade of vineyards, olive groves, rocky hillsides, small towns and villages perched amazingly on top of the previously mentioned rocky hills. To wit, Gordes...

Another of Provence's "Most Beautiful Village's of France." To help understand how scenic it is, that photo was taken from a moving car... and it would still make a pretty swell postcard.

Eventually (or as Stella might say "thankfully" since apparently 4 year olds are less impressed with olive groves and vineyards), we arrived at Roussillon. After a quick lunch of sandwiches (I'll let Sarah talk about he new favorite bakery in another entry), we started by exploring the village.

 Climbing the stairs towards Roussillon's "peak." Like so many of these hilltop villages, they basically boil down to one long, zig-zagging, stair/road-climb to a church and view point. But, it's a super scenic climb.
One thing that sets the village of Roussillon off from other nearby villages is that all the buildings are stained with ochre, giving them all that red-orange color.

After exploring the village itself, it was time to explore the surrounding country side and old ochre quarries. Just outside of town, there is a "Sentier des Ocres" where, for a small admission fee, you can follow a winding path through the "gold and blood" hills of ochre.

 The Ochre colored hills. I haven't been to the American Southwest  much, but I've read a number of comparisons to there. To me, it was sort of reminiscent of the red soil and green vegetation we saw in Hawai'i. Regardless, pretty striking.

 Going into this, Sarah and I acknowledged and accepted the fact that we could be coming home with some very orange kids. Stella, being a little more sure-footed and cleanliness-minded than Otto managed to stay presentable. Otto... well "Ochre-eyes Otto" had a blast rummaging through the clay and dust.
 Otto was definitely in his element. We'd kind of hoped that by taking him into the wilderness, he'd find less to fall off of and give Sarah and I mini-heart-attacks... but no, still plenty of ledges, steep steps and the like to try to run at and jump off of.
While on our Round the World Trip, Sarah and I perfected the couple self-portrait.... our family self-portrait is still a work in progress.

After exploring the countryside, it was time for one last "glace" before we hit the road for home. Stella, in particular, earned it by actually walking the entire trail on her own.

Stella opted for violet flavored ice-cream. Surprisingly sophisticated, and surprisingly tasty.
Oh, and finally, we got a photo of me with the Clio, our rental car. Proof of the 8th country I've driven in, and a mild nod to my favorite action movie character...

This will likely be my last entry for this particular trip, though I plan on doing a post-op where I talk a bit about packing and traveling with kids. So, for now, I will resign myself to enjoying the "poetry that comes with a finished meal" ...or however my lame phrase goes.

(And, remember, all roads lead to Avignon.)

1 comment:

Jenn said...

OK, so the self-family portrait could be better centered but it would be at the expense of communicating something important about how family life really is. It's a great shot!