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: Lake light

Day trip …

Just an hour away from Linz, the Alps rise, an impressive wall of limestone peaks towering above the rolling countryside of Upper Austria. Glacier-fed streams have carved deep gorges through the soft rock, and valley bottoms are punctuated by stunning lakes. But all is not well in this fairytale landscape. By some measurements, Austria is a global warming hotspot, and that spells trouble for the country’s glaciers and lakes. In a country that uses hydropower extensively, big changes to flow regimes in rivers and streams could have a huge economic impact. This summer’s drought and extreme heatwave in Austria was one of the worst on record, and many alpine glaciers visibly wasted away under relentless summer sun. Many lakes are expected to warm by 3 degrees Celsius by mid-century, with massive ecosystem changes in store. Learn more about climate change impacts in Austria here.

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.

Morning photo: Market day

En Provence …

BRIGNOLES —Spending a few days in a small, non-tourist town in southern France isn’t all bad. In fact, it’s pretty darn good to hang out and try to blend in. So in the evenings, I wander to the main square and listen, trying to let the melodic language flow back into my brain before trying to start up a basic conversation. I need to brush up quick — my friend, Pierre, is 93, and he still has a lot he wants to tell me, starting with the age of Napoleon, right on through to the hot debates about immigration policy, which is playing out here in a big way, as the tiny community rapidly diversifies with an influx of people, primarily from northern Africa.

But Saturday was market day, so we left politics aside and enjoyed an early morning stroll to the town square for a quick shot of very black coffee, then to market place beyond, where vendors from around the region offered up a bounty of fruit and vegetables at the peak of the harvest season. Enjoy the sights of southern France!


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