Friday, October 15, 2010

Let's go around just one more bend in the trail...

After much dithering, Alan decided that he really did want to see the Musée Gassendi, which meant we needed to stay in the area until the afternoon. So for the morning we chose a quick, easy, two-hour hike… or so we thought.

We drove to and parked in the little town of Entrages, nestled into a little knob of a hill with horses in the field near by and cowbells ringing in the distance. The start seemed mild enough, but we climbed up and up and up and the path got narrower and steeper all the time. But if you could spare a moment from your feet the view was spectacular! Our goal was a small chapel called St-Michel-de-Cousson that was perched on the top of the mountain. But after an hour and a half (and the fact that we hadn’t brought any lunch and were still climbing up not half way back like we’d though) made us almost turn around. But we kept up the age-old saying of just over one more hill, just around one more bend, and finally our legs gave a gasp of relief as we reached the flat plateau and the chapel came into view. We could see mountain peaks even higher to the north and east and river valleys below us to the south and west; what a place to build a chapel! It would also have been a prime picnic spot… sigh. We’ve found that here we have to add at least half again as much time as they say it will take, whereas in the USA I usually expect to take only half the time. Not sure what that says about us…

I really want to call this town a hamlet...

We can finally see the chapel!

Mom and Dad reach the plateau,
and we are all thankful we didn't accidentally
climb up the mountain behind them!

We started down the mountain, Alan running ahead and up some alternate trails just to see where they went. We got to the car and headed back to town, eating our picnic lunch in a square before heading to the museum. After waiting forever for the lady to figure out the audio guide setup (which we weren’t really sure we wanted in the first place – I know it is better because you can have all the languages but I really would rather read a sign) we walked around the all the very nice exhibits, from Andy Goldsworthy to landscape photography to Gassendi’s study to a guy who collects dirt from around the world and makes neat rubbings out of all the colors. They also had a little are on the local nature, and so we finally got to identify one of the birds we had been seeing! We’ve not managed a photo of it, but we now know that it is a from the Jay family. It is tawny on its head and chest, with brilliant blue on the wings and black on the tips, white on its belly, and a black tail.
We stopped at this lavender field because it
had not been harvested; the plants look young,
so maybe that's why.
On the road again, we headed south to Moustiers-Ste-Marie to find lodging for the next two nights while we explored the Grand Canyon du Verdon. The town is wedged into a cleft in the mountains, with the Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-Beauvoir above it. Hung above the chapelle and the town, strung between to tops of the mountains on a 745 foot long chain is a star. Legend has it that it was the wish of a knight who returned from the Crusades after many years in prison that if he made it home he would hang a star above his town. He made it home; and the star hangs ever above, except for when the chain breaks about twice a century, when the town goes a few days before a new star is set in its place.

Moustiers-Ste-Marie with the star hanging above

Inside the town church - it was a very nice one.
Sunset turned the rocks red

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