Autumn Colours Galore

29 Oct

It is 3.30pm on a very wintry Sunday afternoon here in the Var as I start to write.  We moved our clocks back one hour today to standard time and must have accidentally adjusted the thermostat for all of Provence as well!  It was 0˚C down by the pool at 8am and even now it is only 7˚C with a brisk breeze on top.  Ouch!  It was 16˚C at 8am yesterday so this is a bit of a shock.  We have had the fire going since 11am.  Our friends in Normandy, Dave and Carolyn, said they had sleet and snow yesterday so I guess winter is really on the way.

We bade farewell to Han and Rens this morning.  Their time with us has gone by swiftly and we have thoroughly enjoyed their company.  I do hope Han gets his book translated into English so we can read it.  It is the story of a Dutch  military officer who was sent to England during WWII to feed information back to the Resistance.  Han is a historian by trade and this was a retirement project that he had a passion for.  I hope we will meet them again one day.

Han and Rens ready to leave Les Fadons. Yesterday it was 16˚C in the morning but today it was zero! And it was breezy adding an extra chill. They will drive back to their home in The Netherlands in two stages, stopping for the night in Troyes.

Sue, Françoise and Denis have just left here after a fantastic lunch of pumpkin soup, fresh homemade bread and quiche all prepared by Leanne.  Françoise had brought me back a very special single malt scotch at the end of her summer guiding work in Scotland and we opened it today before starting lunch. At least Françoise, Denis and I sampled it; it was great and not like any single malt I have had before.  It is matured in Burgundy casks and is made by the smallest distillery in Scotland by a total staff of three men.  The distillery is called ‘Edradour‘.  If you can find any of it (which is probably unlikely) you should try it.

Now to get back on track and start from the beginning of the week.  The weather turned very wet on Sunday night/Monday morning.  I had to drain 100mm of water from the pool because it had reached the top.  There was a big thunderstorm at about 5am, enough to rattle the windows and the fillings in your teeth.  Then it started again at 9am.  The guy finally arrived to install the new controller box for the bore pump which has been out of action for over 4 weeks, and no sooner had he set it up than he turned it all off and told us not to turn it back on until the storm was gone.  Fair enough I suppose since it was a lightning surge that probably killed the last one.

On Tuesday morning we left Han and Rens in charge of Tutu again and headed for Digne-les-Bains via the Gorges du Verdon.  I took plenty of pictures, a selection of which are below.

North is up. Started tracking at Aiguines then we headed East towards Castellane. The rest is obvious. The pins give a very rough idea of where I took photos. As I zoom into this in Aperture the pins split out to give more and more detail until you get to individual photo locations.

We did not get too far from home before we started to see the intense autumn colours we were looking for. This is at Aiguines, above the entrance to the Gorge du Verdon at about 800m AMSL, compared to 80m at Les Fadons.

This magnificent view is over the chapel and château at Aiguines and beyond to Lac de Sainte-Croix. Notice the fog in the valleys; it was a bit of a grey start to the day after rain overnight.

Tunnels du Fayet at the east end of the Gorges du Verdon. The openings in the side provided great views back into the gorge.

Views like this one.

The village of Trigance at the east end of the gorge is where we stopped for a late lunch. It was very quiet.

While eating lunch in Trigance in a desserted square this little guy was putting on a charm offensive to try to get a share.

It looked like a postcard to me!

Views like this were all around us on the sector from Trigance to Castellane.

The best of the autumn colours were as we approached Castellane. There is a chapel on top of that bluff overlooking the town.

Another colourful shot at the same location looking up a side road.

The route between Castellane and Digne passed through some fairly mountainous terrain with interesting road features like this. Looks peaceful? Forget it! Every car, truck and motorcycle gives an earnest blast on the horn(s) as they approach the portal. It’s like being downtown.

After clearing the mountains the road followed this river for a while and there just happened to be a quiet bridge in the right spot for a few pictures.

Looking back to the mountains.

The offending bridge.

At 8.15am these guys were busy in the main street of Digne-les-Bains pruning the plane trees before the leaves fell off. It was a very slick operation – these guys didn’t waste any time.

In some so-called ‘medieval gardens’ in town we found these bright orange cape gooseberries. This garden also had a collection of herbs including lemon verbena that smelled very strong.

This wall of fossils is located just north of Digne and is on the roadside. The sign gives all the details – see below.

This example was about 150mm across.

I am hoping this sign is readable on-line. Here is some text I found on a website… “Nearby Digne-les-Bains is the Dalle à ammonites. This spot offers a great place to find ammonites. The ammonite slab of Digne-les-Bains is a remarkable natural site. It consists of a rock stratum containing a large number of fossilized ammonites. This site is located approximately 1.5 kilometers north of the town of Digne-les-Bains. This slab tilted at 60° is composed of limestone. It has about 1500 ammonites of which 90% are Coroniceras Multicostatum dating from the Sinemurian (Lower Jurassic). These ammonites may reach a diameter of 70cm. You can also see the nautilus, belemnites, scallops and other bivalves. The estimated thickness of the deposit is 20cm, developed over a period of about 100,000 years.”

… because it was there!

On the way home we stopped at a produce vendor who had 3 long trailers parked outside with every type of pumpkin/squash you could imagine.

You might recognise this vista from back in July.

This one also looks a bit different now.

Near the entrance to the Gorges du Verdon there were about 6 paragliders. These were above the tall peaks to the north of the bridge and some of the 6 landed while we were watching.

As well as a series of still shots of this one landing I took some video of a couple of others that turned out quite well.

On Tuesday afternoon Jorien, Han and Rens’ daughter, and her partner Reinhourd arrived to spend a few days.  On Thursday Reinhourd and I set light to one of the three fire heaps I had built up during the summer fire ban.  Nothing like a good fire!

Overnight on Thursday it rained with a vengeance and it continued for most of Friday.  Consequently the river swelled significantly.  These pictures start on Friday afternoon.

This was taken at 17h39. It had been raining last night and in the morning and the water is almost at the top of the barrage (dam). The water colour is also a dull greyish brown. Also note that the logs that had been wedged across the chute on the RHS are gone! This has just happened 20 minutes before. We thought they were stuck there for life but the water just swept them away.

This was taken at 18h04. Look how much the level has dropped in 25 minutes but also how intense the reddish-brown colour is in the water.

This clearly shows the strong flow through the chute and the lack of logs.

This was taken at 18h10, so well after the peak flow but shows how rough the water is. Compare this to some of the photos from a few weeks ago when there was a trickle of water down the centre of the chute with moss-covered rocks and logs on either side! And most of this change happened in less than an hour.

Now almost 24 hours later the water has dropped ~400mm.

It was cold enough, but only just, to light the wood burner in the cottage on Friday evening.  Jorien and Reinhourd left for Nice and their flight back to The Netherlands at midday on Saturday.  Their’s was a very short visit but it was lovely to be able to meet them.

That brings me to Sunday and that you already know about so I guess I am done.  Enjoy and feel free to submit comments.  Until next time…


2 Responses to “Autumn Colours Galore”

  1. Holden October 29, 2012 at 00:19 #

    Those gooseberries are amazingly beautiful!

    • bikernz October 29, 2012 at 08:05 #

      Yes, I probably should have picked one and tasted it but I generally don’t like to touch things unless I know for sure.

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