Morning photo: Cotignac

Provence light

A short flashback to a day trip to Cotignac, one of the classic hill towns in the Provence region of France, with cliff dwellings dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries. There was a quietness in the air in late November when we stopped by, with not a tourist (except us) in sight. It’s the first time I’ve visited the area in the autumn, and the light was just as magical as any other time of year.

Morning photo: Vive la France!


Our Europe sojourn included a side trip to visit family in southern France, and our arrival coincided with the murderous terrorist attacks in Paris, which left the country shaken but unbowed. Though far from the carnage, the people in Brignoles felt the pain of their countrymen. Saturday morning coffee talk at the cafés around Place Caramy was more hushed than usual, as locals and visitors gathered around newspapers and televisions to try and learn as much as possible about the events of the preceding night, while declaring solidarity with compatriots in the capital city. In Paris, Saturday brought a show of defiance from French citizens around the country, as they crowded into cafés and restaurants to show the world that they’re not afraid.

Morning photo: See forever


To me, one of the coolest things about traveling the jet age is the chance to see old and new landmarks from the air. As I’ve written before, I always try to get a window seat on long flights, unless it’s a red-eye. Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve been fascinated by maps. I remember tracing the paths of highways and the shape of coastlines, both familiar and unknown, on the dog-eared paper versions in my dad’s car, and following along as we traveled, anticipating the towns that were coming up. Air travel gives this game a whole new dimension. On a recent trip from Reykjavik to Frankfurt, I could see that the flight would take us near Amsterdam, one of my favorite cities, so when we approached the coast of Holland, I scanned the horizon. Sure enough, I was able to recognize the city from its network of canals that encircle the ancient central district like a spiderweb. For me, watching the scenery unfold from 35,000 feet is a free geography lesson. Call me a nerd, but I love it!

Morning photo: Sunday set

Provence light …

As a photographer, you can find good light almost anywhere in the world. But add in the charm of old, warmly painted buildings, the gleam of freshly washed cobblestones or the glow of evening streetlights in an ancient Provençal village, and it becomes pure magic. The small town of Brignoles isn’t a big tourist hotspot like nearby Aix en Provence, but it’s a great spot to hide out for a few days and settle into the rhythm of French life — early morning walks to a bakery for fresh baguettes and croissants, a mid-day Pastis under the awning, and an evening dance in the main square.

Morning photo: Just another pizza shop

French countryside

DENVER — With a little extra time between trains, I decided to walk the two miles between Gare du Lyon and Gare de l’Est, the two big international railway stations in Paris. The stroll, of course, leads past some of the city’s most iconic landmarks, including the Place de la Bastille and the Sacre Coeur Basilica, but what I like best is just walking along the broad boulevards, jumbled with cafes, moped shops, E-bike charging stations and, in one spot, a beautiful little pocket park with an outdoor pingpong table, players lining up to challenge the victor of the previous game. The city has calmed its traffic considerably in the past 10 years, so instead of choking on exhaust fumes and being deafened by an onslaught of noisy traffic, it’s now much more pleasant to get around on foot in this world city. The old Citroën 2CV is another classic French icon, so when I saw one along the rim road of the Gorge du Verdon, I couldn’t resist snapping a quick shot. You don’t see to many of them any more.

Morning photo: Gorge du Verdon

The Grand Canyon of Europe

During the last few days of this visit to the Provence, I finally had a chance to visit the Gorge du Verdon, where the Verdon River has cut an impressive path through the massive limestone plateau that characterizes much of the Provence region geologically. Along with all sorts of recreation, the gorge, through a trove of fossils and other evidence, has revealed many secrets of the prehistoric people who lived in the region. The canyon walls tower as high as 2,500 feet over the aquamarine water in places, and the winding roads along the rim offer great access to view points and to trailheads leading deep in to the heart of the canyon. Truly, the Grand Canyon of Europe!

Morning photo: Postcards from France

A week in Provence …

FRISCO —I’m not quite ready to move to Provence for year, but one could definitely tarry here for a few weeks or months, at least. There’s plenty to explore, and not just vineyards. Just off the shore of Hyéres is a group of car-free islands that have been set aside as a national park. It’s rare to find much undeveloped land along the Côte d’Azur, so taking the ferry across to Porquerolles was a chance to see what the area looked like before it was completely over-developed for tourism. More info later in a travel story, but for now, a few postcards.


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