Monday, August 17, 2009

The Mountains

For two weeks I had traveled the Côte d'Azur. My life was sweet. I went to nice beaches and the water was warm. I drank good wines. I had tasted wonderful food, but got food poisoning at a terrible restaurant, so my life was not so sweet 100% of the time, but I did have the best guide the world could offer in Alain. Never have I truly enjoyed myself on a holiday. There were not as many people as I expected, though there were enough. The weather was fine, but I have only one complaint. Having spent all that time going from place to place, still there was so much I did not see. I realize that more time is needed next year. When shortness of time is the only complaint you have from a vacation, then it was certainly a good one.
In the end, Alain wanted to show me something different. We drove through the mountains just behind Nice, close to the Italian border and into the Alps. These few photos can do no justice to what I saw. Much of the time I completely forgot I had a camera, therefore missing some incredible views. In a way, it is okay because it was very important to just experience it all naturally and first hand, not through the lens of a camera. I was also dumbstruck most of the time. The colors up there were extraordinary. The rivers were a clear aquamarine color. The rocks in deep blue-grey, black or red. The mountains in greys, blue and deep greens or gold. Streaks of white ice or patches of white snow appeared here and there. Clouds were enormous and casting great shadows which seemed to stretch miles. It was otherworldly, humbling and majestic. Wagner came to mind. We went through ancient gorges and saw what slow moving fjords left behind. Deep valleys where picturesque villages still exist. It is a beautiful, beautiful place.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Abbaye de Thoronet

The Abbaye de Thoronet is a former abbey which has been deemed an architectural masterpiece. In it's sheer simplicity, it manages to bring serenity and enlightenment. In a repeated arch, it narrates spirituality greater than many a grandly painted cathedral. Long the inspiration of architects like Le Corbusier and John Pawson, Abbaye de Thoronet is the pinnacle of "less is more". It is an absolute marvel.

Massif de l'Esterel

This volcanic formation is sublime. One passes it while following the coast on the way to Cannes or Nice. I was in awe. These red rocks jut up and form shapes like those in Chinese ink paintings, or da Vinci's far off landscapes. The red color contrasts wonderfully with the sky and the turquoise water of the sea. I was left somewhat speechless by the beauty of it all. I could not get a good photo though. I am not sure why, everything seemed ripe for a decent photo, but alas I came away with only these. Well, for the sake of photography I shall have to go back.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Red Rock

La Plage/The Beach

I can't swim, but I love being in water. A swimming pool is more managable for me than a vast body of water, still I love going to the beach. Perhaps it comes from growing up in a landlocked city like Dallas, but seeing the ocean reminds me that there is much out there in the world. We did not spend too much time on the beach, a day here and there and usually taking what we called the late shift (5pm-6/7pm) On clear days we could see nearby islands and on hazy days just their mysterious outlines, all in soft blues and violets like Duffy paintings. With the water warm and the sand hot, it was an easy place to be. People were usually quiet and respectful. Beaches are their own universe. You lay around in ways you would never in any other public place. You wear things you could never wear any place else. Also, you sleep on dirt. Still, there is something calm and civil about the beach. People, like other creatures, enjoy laying around in the sun. Seals do it. Snakes do it,okay not the best examples, but there is something pleasurable about feeling the sun on one's skin. Not too much though and always wear sunscreen!

Côte d'Azur

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


Aix was hot. We left relatively early in the morning, ran into traffic on the way in Hyeres and took an alternate route. On the way there we saw the mountains that Cezanne made famous on canvas. By the time we got there, I was soaking wet. The city itself is nice and flat, which was a change from the other cities we visited. The outer edges of the city seemed nearly deserted, but the center was bustling. We made our way through a market, bought a few things and searched for a place to eat. We had a nice, classic lunch in a very classic place. Alain described Aix as the Versailles (city) of the South and I can see it. It has that golden architecture that Versailles (city) has. There is a feeling of the ruling bourgeois, as in Versailles. The city is clean and relaxed. I liked it, but I have difficulty imagining enjoying life there full time. Like Versailles, Aix has a controlled atmosphere. It seems that everything and everyone is in their place. It photographs well. All is well behaved. Nice to visit from time to time but not sure about living there.

Various Villages and Old Quarters

These photos are of various villages and old quarters. Of course these are the most visited and scenic parts of any old city, but what I was surprised about was how alive most of them still are. They have shops sure, but you can tell there are people living above them. Not all is just for show. It is a reminder that some things do not change and how we are all fortunate for it.

Cacti Black and White