The Frogmarch

"I've got to pull up my stakes and roll, man." --Jean-Jacques Libris de Kerouac

Friday, August 31, 2007

Bleu, Blanc et Rouge

Listen up: I don't want to see your vacation photos, and you don't want to see mine. Look, it's nothing personal. I'm sure your trip was awesome and you had a great time and did some amazing things in Whereverthehellitwas, but honestly, looking at some snapshots of a place I've never been and probably won't ... almost always fails to transport me. You probably feel exactly the same way about my vacation photos, which is why I haven't posted any of our trip to Provence back in late May, even though it was a superb trip for us and one of the most enjoyable long weekends we've taken. But a recent dearth of image-heavy posts has left me no choice.

Still, I'm not going to subject you to a tedious play-by-play of the whole trip. All of these pictures come from one tiny town we visited on one afternoon. And I'm only sharing them with you because the place is so remarkable--this is a town called Roussillon, in Provence, even though it looks like Utah or New Mexico.

See, like many villages in Provence, Roussillon was built on a hilltop to provide some modicum of protection from marauding Visigoths, Saracens, Savoyards and tour buses packed with English tourists. This hilltop just happens to conceal the world's largest surface vein of ochre, a rusty-red mineral used for centuries for making red paint and dye.

As a result, the village itself is a mostly-uniform reddish color, making it quite photogenic, especially with the background of a brilliant-blue Provencal sky. That's it in the photo, and in that photo you can see the entire town--there's really no more to it than that. In high summer the ratio of tourists to residents is probably about 10 to 1.



The quarries are reached via a footpath at the base of the village. Centuries of ochre mining has left the quarries in bizarre sandstone-looking shapes. The loose dirt is red and finds its way into everything--if you go, don't wear white.

By the way, Roussillon is just a few miles from the similarly-beautiful Provencal hilltop town of Gordes, which we visted last September (blogged here).











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