A few years ago, wandering through the internet maze on a very cold February night, I saw an image of an old stoney abbey in the middle of purple lavender stripes and decided I had to take that photo myself. I needed a motivation to get over one of life's hurdles I was dealing with at the time, and the goal of taking that photo was as good as any. A little bit of research revealed that the abbey was called Senanque and was located near Gordes, in Provence, a region in the south of France, known not only for lavender fields, but also vineyards and olive groves. Roman ruins seem also to be found all over Provence, the one that caught my eyes was the Pont du Gard Aqueduct, near Avignon. So it was decided, I will go to Provence that summer and take the photos of the abbey and the roman aqueduct.
It was also around the same time that I became more aware of a list that seemed to reveal itself at key moments, aka life's hurdles. It was not a bucket list, but more of what's left once one crossed an item from the bucket list, a random collection of bits and flushes, colors and sounds. The list seemed to have a life of its own where some older items were pushed out of the list, while other seem to last forever. Provence promised to offer plenty of opportunities to update the list and I was curious what would be the outcome.
|Pont D'Avignon and Palais des Papers, Avignon|
L'on y danse, l'on y danse."
I used to sing this song as a kid, little did I know that the bridge was real and one day I would walk on it, and even do a little dance. Avignon was the center of all my adventures in Provence. The most well-known attractions in the city are the above mentioned bridge and a big palace, known as Palais des Papes, both with interesting stories. The bridge goes to ... nowhere, it stops somewhere in the middle of Rhone, it kept being torn by water and its construction was abandoned sometime during the 17th century. The palace served as residence for the leadership of the Catholic Church which was moved from Rome to Avignon at the beginning of the 14th century. The popes were also wine lovers and they played a role in the development of the wine industry in the area, the most well-known wine being Châteauneuf-du-Pape made at a vineyard close to Avignon. The vineyard offers tours to enthusiastic travelers that want to learn everything about the different types of grapes (13) and soils (4) involved in the process of producing this wine.
|Lavander fields, Gordes, Provenc|
I did take the lavender fields photo -- the one with the Senanque Abbey was not the best. The year I went there it was a cold summer and the lavender fields were blooming late, at the abbey they were still green. I got a great photo of myself though in the middle of purple fields, the resourceful locals knew all the fields that were blooming so we drove to those, they also knew the right angles, you need to stay low, take the picture up, so the lavender seems taller that it was. It reminded me of one of the fashion photos seen in magazines where from the front everything looked perfect, but from the back the dress was pinched in different places to get that perfect fit and the model stayed in an uncomfortable position to get that perfect pose.
The photo with Pont du Gard, was much better, I got there late in the day, and it was not very crowded. It was one of the most impressive constructions I have ever seen, (and I don't mean just roman constructions). Up close, once I got to walk on it when I realized how big it was and I had a better appreciation of the amazing engineering skills and effort that took to build it, during the first century. Three tiers bring it to 160 ft (almost 50 m) height, the highest roman aqueduct. It functioned as a bridge after the fall of the roman empire.
It is hard to have genuine emotions today. The social media is full of photos and videos about every place you've ever dreamt of going to (with different flavors, funny, cool, sad, serious, informative and the list goes on); everything was seen, eaten, drunk, instagrammed, tweeted, youtubed. So, it seems rehearsed, when one runs, waits in line, takes the desired photo. I do the same; sometimes, if it's not too crowded, I stay still, no picture taking, and just wait for that something to happen, that stab to the heart, the little shiver, the tears in the corner of the eye. For all the beauty of Provence, and it's such a beautiful, beautiful place, for all the photos I have taken with lavender fields and roman ruins, for me that something was brought by a guitar player in the shadows of the Palais des Papes in Avignon, during a summer afternoon, and it is those few seconds of silence after he finished playing that made the list.
Places to see: Avignon, Aix-en-Provence, Chateaunef-du-Pape, Nimes, Uzes, Orange, Gordes, Arles, Roussillion, Les Baux-de-Provence Senanque Abbey, L'Isle sur la Sorgue market and much, much more.
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