Pic St. Loup, 658 meters of fun for the whole family!

We’ve photographed it…several times…different kinds of light playing off the mountain.

Lovely from afar, guidebook said the closest you can get is 4 km away…the rest is by foot.

Nah…let’s go take some more pics.

But the guide on our walking tour of Montpellier said, standing on the top of the Arc de Triomphe (they have one also, and she has the keys to the medieval (read steep) steps up)…yes she said standing up there looking over the entire city of Montpellier on one side, quaint French countryside on the other…that is the beloved Pic St. Loup.  Cherished mountain of those in Montpellier and the Hérault Valley, watching over our city.  The north face is a 90 degree angle straight up, but the south face meanders and is a lovely walk for small children and grandmothers alike.

Ok, I’m in.  I fall in between there somewhere.

Wrong.  I forgot for a moment that the French are a hardy bunch.  And I would like to meet her grandmother!

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Humanity

For this week’s photo challenge, Humanity, I choose to highlight one of the most delightful experiences where all kinds of people come together for a common pursuit…the weekly market. Being in small town, southern France at the moment, markets are all around us, the closest being in the town of Ganges, in the Hérault Valley, north of Montpellier.

Every Friday, hawking food and everything else you can imagine, there are artisanal bakers, butchers, fish mongers, cheese makers, olive producers, fruit and vegetable farmers, alongside people selling skirts, tops, sneakers, leather handbags, records and CD’s, incense, pottery, flowers and even one stall selling mattresses (HOW do you get that in/on your car?) and did I mention the live chickens, pigeons and rabbits?!

They are there week after week, sometimes making a sale that doesn’t even equal a Euro, and always with a very pleasant, “merci, bonne journée’.

Even if my pantry is full, I go to the weekly market…it is a grand celebration of life and humanity.

Tour de France, junior varsity team

The house we are renting comes with 2 bicycles, at our request.

It seemed like a lovely idea at the time…the French countryside, endless vineyards and olive trees, dry, sunny days that went on forever, and we two cycling leisurely, baguette and wine in our side bags.

Hold that image!

The truth is we are tired and sleeping late.  Breakfast on the terrace is full of fresh croissants, homemade jam, fruit, sheep’s milk yogurt, and dark, strong espresso.  By then the Mediterranean sun is getting high in the sky, the village cobblestones are warming up and voilà, who feels like getting on a bicycle at that point, I ask you? Continue reading

St. Jean de Buèges, France

There is a very small village in the Languedoc Rousillon region of France that is now our home for a month. Simply by putting our suitcases into our house we raised the local population from 109 to 111 for the month of September. Yes, very small village.

This is a necessary slowing down, a putting on the brakes that can only be done when everyone around you is doing the same…when the lifestyle dictates the road speed. It’s noon…go home and eat lunch…you may as well lie down a bit, too, because nothing opens again until 2:00.

Yes, the lifestyle posts the road signs…and we plan to obey every rule!

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Weekly Photo Challenge: FROM ABOVE

This week’s Photo Challenge, to photograph something FROM ABOVE, instead of straight on, from the side, or any other angle allows me to show you pictures of the thing I (unknowingly?) seem to photograph a lot…Food.

 

Hmmm…now if you’ll excuse me, I suddenly got very hungry!

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: UP

The Pic du Midi, in the Midi-Pyrénées of France, remains for me one of the most spectacular points on earth.  It’s beauty is how it scrapes the sky, and the stillness and calm that accompanies being UP 2877 meters (9439 ft) in the air.

 

Pic du Midi Observatory started its life in 1878…people Climbed to the top…with equipment! and completed construction in 1908..no cable car until 1952!  The extremely sophisticated telescopes and equipment at the top have been instrumental (pun intended) for scientists around the world, including NASA, and now that it is open to the public, accessible by a two cable car ride, it feels like a sanctuary in the sky.  People actually whisper, not to disturb the silence.

It is not the highest peak in the world, nor as famous as some of its cousins to the east…and perhaps that is the attraction.  Straddling the border between France and Spain, its telescopes peer deep into space.  One can overnight there, and I’m certain that is truly a ‘peek’ into heaven.

An aside…there Is a restaurant at the top of this ascent…no ‘golden arches’, rather a lovely restaurant serving either a two or three course meal, including wine. This Is France, after all…never mind that we are 9,439 feet above sea level, a proper meal is a proper meal.

Here is  video of the ascent from the village of La Mongie at the bottom all the way UP.  At minute 4:17 you can begin to see the Observatory at the top.

 

 

A DIFFERENT Kind of Tour de France

Whatever you may think of Lance Armstrong, the Tour de France, which takes place every summer in July, is an absolutely grueling endurance test.  Three thousand, four hundred, ninety six kilometers…that’s 3,496 km! (2,173 mi), pedaled over 3 weeks, up mountains, down valleys, through small villages and across France…I am exhausted every time I watch it.  These men cycle all year in preparation for, what I would call the ultimate competition of strength and perseverance.  I watch with great enthusiasm as I learn the names of the individual cyclists, pick a favorite team, open my fridge and reach for a bottle of cold water as the thirsty, pedaling cyclists reach for theirs, held out to them by a team member standing along the road.

City Hall, Bagneres de Luchon, Summer 2012, end of Stage 16

Proud Sculpture…Le Tour de France Dans Les Pyrenees

But I want to talk about a different kind of Tour de France…the kind not relegated to elite athletes or needing months, nay, years of training.  I’m talking about the Tour de France centered in the wine country of southwestern France, sharing a border with Spain along the Pyrenees, from the Mediterranean to the Bay of Biscay…

THAT Tour de France!   Continue reading