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: Transatlantic

Up in the air …

FRISCO — I’ve loved flying ever since I can remember, partly because my dad was a pilot who always raved about the magic of breaking free of the bonds of gravity. Along with the freedom of soaring far from earthly troubles, there’s the added bonus of seeing the Earth from what is, for most people, a rare perspective.

For me, the thrill of looking down on familiar places from high above has never worn off, so when I get on an airliner, my heart always beats a little faster when the great jet engines roar to life on the runway. Flying in mid-summer is even better, because on the northerly transatlantic routes, it doesn’t ever get completely dark, so you have a chance to see a big slice of our incredible planet passing below.

And a couple of decades of practicing environmental journalism help provide a context for the views. Passing over Greenland, for example, and seeing the darkening snow is a reminder that our planet is melting down quickly, and seeing all the giant wind turbines in the German countryside shows that there is a way to avoid climate disaster, if we only get serious about choosing a renewable energy path.

 

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!

EPA to regulate airline greenhouse gas emissions

Twilight above Boston from a Jet Blue airliner.

The EPA aims to regulate airline greenhouse gas emissions.

Airplane pollutants seen as threat to human health

Staff Report

FRISCO — With greenhouse gas emissions from commercial airliners growing quickly, the EPA this week said those pollutants pose a threat to human health and welfare. The agency will start a measured process to regulate those pollutants, in line with pending international agreements.

Aircraft are the largest unregulated source of transportation emissions, and emissions from aviation could triple by 2050 if left unchecked. Conservation advocates say the EPA’s endangerment finding opens the door for the agency to propose tighter regulations than the international limits currently under discussion at the International Civil Aviation Organization. Continue reading

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 8,837 other followers