Saturday 24 November 2012

Autumn Colours of the Luberon

Maybe this is one of those things we say every year, like I can’t remember September rain like this or this is the hottest month of July when every year the seasons pass and resemble each other, but this year I have never seen so much autumn colour in Provence! We will see if this is just a memory problem next year as I have taken loads of photos and so comparative documentation will be available…

Here are a few of those photos and I am sure you will agree the colours are astounding. I have not tweaked or enhanced any of the pictures they are as the camera saw them. For the techies out there I am using a Nikon D5100 with an AF-S NIKKOR 55-200mm 1:4-5.6G ED and an 18-55mm 1:3.5-5.6G both very standard lenses so although the camera is a goodun here is proof that it’s the subject that really counts.

This post follows the one by Ginger and Nutmeg on Fall Colours in Provence and it was seeing theirs that I was inspired to show you mine. (No double entendres intended). However I do apologise to them for my somewhat similar title.

So here we go.

Les Couleurs d’Automne du Luberon
Autumn Colours of the Luberon 

Plane tree in Lourmarin
As you drive out of Lourmarin towards Bonnieux on your left is a beautiful house with this magnificent plane tree next to it. Perfectly proportioned it reminds me of a huge burning torch.

The village of Bonnieux and the Cherry Orchards
I posted a similar picture to this one on Twitter. The Cherry orchards provide a warmth to an otherwise cold atmosphere, I was a veritable danger in my car, slamming on the brakes every time a scene like this one appeared around a corner!

The Village of Lacoste and more Cherry orchards
Lacoste faces Bonnieux and for this shot I had to come back when the light was in the right place. Once again the Cherry Orchards steal the show.
The Yellow Tree
I could imagine this tree being the subject of a painting. The fallen yellow leaves contributed so much light that this tree stood out from all the others with their redder ones.

Vines near Menerbes
Yesterday morning I had a rendez-vous at the Domaine de La Citadelle vineyard for a wine tasting and visit including the extraordinary Museum of the Corkscrew which houses a huge collection of corkscrews from around the world and throughout the ages. As I returned to my car the sun did its thing and provided this rather evocative lighting on the rows of vines.

Oppède le Vieux
I wanted to get a few photos of Oppède le Vieux but it was completely in the shade. This picture however still works because the variety of colours bring it to life. You can see the sun shining in the valley behind!

The village of Lioux
If you drive from Gordes to Apt via the village of Murs you will be faced with this splendid tableau with the village of Lioux and the incredible cliff that towers over it.

Cabanon Pointu
Around the town of Forcalquier and in particular around Mane en Provence you can find these dry stone huts known as Cabanon Pointus (literally pointed huts) in Haute Provence and Bories further South, in particular around Gordes. Having flown over the region many hundreds of times in Hot Air Balloons I have spotted many Cabanons hidden in the woods, and this is one of the many!

And there you have it! A few of my favourite shots showing this years Autumn colours and to follow a few more but without commentary only a caption, just for "le plaisir des yeux" (the pleasure of the eyes).

Vines near Gordes

More Cherry Orchards

The Village of Menerbes

Vineyard near Gargas

Thursday 15 November 2012

The Montagne de Lure - A sunset story

Autumn is one of those times of year when my camera never leaves my side. In the same way spring heralds the year to come with wild flowers, blossoming fruit trees and contrasting skies, autumn is the end, but nature doesn’t just fizzle out to nothing it goes into hibernation with a BANG! Everywhere you look it seems as though the trees are vying with each other, all the hues of red, brown and orange in a spectacular display that bring out the poet it all of us!
The first lines of Ode to Autumn by Keats, that I was forced to learn at school much to my dislike at the time, repeat themselves in mind “Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness!
                                                                    Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun…”

Thank you Mr. English Teacher (I can’t remember his name, but he was my English teacher at UWC in Singapore)

So yesterday afternoon I decided to go for a drive up to the summit of the Montagne de Lure, which is a 20 minute drive from my house. I wanted to photograph the forests on the way up and then see if I could catch the sunset. As I drove I was worried about arriving too late for the sunset so I skipped the forest bit and went straight to the top. I walked the last bit to the ridge which follows the summit, paused and then said WOW like I do every single time I get up there.
The Montagne de Lure viewed from the valley below, St Etienne side.
The Montagne de Lure is 1826 meters high, and is part of the same massif as the Mont Ventoux. Like the Ventoux it is mainly just loose shingle on the top, but being slightly lower, Lure has a bit more vegetation. The drive to the summit starts in St Etienne des Orgues and is 18kms. Halfway up you can stop of at the Chapel of Notre Dame de Lure built in 1166, the only person who lives there now is a hermit who my children call Jack Sparrow as he has his beard done in gray dreadlocks! I will add a photo later… The Montagne de Lure was a stage in the 2009 Paris-Nice cycle race and I was at the summit to witness Alberto Contador win with a time of 34 min 20 s and not a bead of sweat! The race will return to the mountain next year and I will be there again to see the arrival.

Once you approach the summit, you will come to a collection of ugly looking buildings, one is the restaurant/bar where you can have a bite to eat in season, though if you are in a hurry take a picnic lunch with you. In the winter this is as far as you can go if the snow has fallen in sufficient quantities and the two ski lifts are operational, don’t expect huge alpine runs here, but for taking the kids on a Sunday afternoon it’s perfect.
If there is no snow, as was the case yesterday, you can carry on to the top. I like to stop once you come out of the last of the trees in an area marked by a commemorative stone. From here you can walk up to the top and if you have small children, hang on to them, and only release them once you reach the ridge before the vertiginous descent of over 1000 meters down in to the Jabron Valley  on the other side. 
The summit of the Mountain (with a few patches of snow)
When you get here this is where you will say WOW, in fact usually people take a step back and use a slightly more colourful expression as you have before you one of the most spectacular views available in Provence.
The view north from the ridge
The same view with a bit of zoom

View to the west and the familiar silhouette of the Mont Ventoux 
So back to my Lure experience yesterday. As I walked to the top I spotted something moving to my right. Now I have already seen Chamois down the Jabron side, so I supposed that this is what it was and gently walked up to see. There, not more than 50 meters away was a Chamois, munching on the limited vegetation growing between the lumps of rock, it looked up in my direction (I was flat on my belly madly clicking away with my camera) and carried on its evening meal. 
The Chamois looking in my direction...
Later it walked to an outcrop, posed for me, and then, two Mirage Jets very low flying back to their base, close enough for me to smell the burnt kerosene vapours, flew over scaring the hell out of my furry companion.
The Chamois posing

The Noise
So that was my nature moment buggered up…

But now something else was happening, as I walked along the ridge I saw two cars park near mine. The two couples walked up towards the summit, pulled out blankets and laid down facing the sun, and waited.
By this time the light was that wonderful rich golden orange colour that lasts only a short while and usually I don’t have my camera handy, but this time I did, and I got a few nice shots.

Then I too faced the sun, and witnessed a moment that happens every day and no matter how often I see it its magic will never wear off. It has to be said that the sunset on the top of the Montagne de Lure is particularly stunning and in this case I think the pictures do all the talking themselves…  


The Montagne de Lure is spectacular in all seasons and a perfect place to escape the heat of summer. If you would like to know more or would like to include it in a bespoke itinerary of Provence, contact me using the link on the right.

Tuesday 13 November 2012

Photo of the Day - Autumn in Provence

Driving to the office this morning I was taken by the effect of the light on the mists floating above the village of Mane, coupled with the colour of the leaves it made a winning combo! Tell me what you think...
The village of Mane en Provence this morning