Photographs Purchasing photographs Purchasing photographs Who is Ben Haller? Who is Ben Haller? About Cloud Photographic About Cloud Photographic

France, 2014 (Miscellaneous)

Keewi and I lived in France from late 2013 to middle-late 2014, and traveled quite a bit during that time. I've posted albums with photos from Lyon, the Camargue, Avginon, Nîmes, Uzès, Provence, Alsace, and Italy, as well as a collection of photos taken on hiking trips around France. This album is basically a grab bag of all the photos that didn't fit into any of those bins. So it's a little bit random, but overall perhaps it offers a variety of different perspectives on our lives in France. See Keewi's blog, Keewi's Adventures, for lots more information and additional photos.

As usual, the full-size originals are not posted here, so contact me if you want an original to make a print.
In these first photos, we are on a local wine-tasting trip to the Pic Saint-Loup region, just north of Montpellier, with a couple of friends. I think that might be Pic Saint-Loup itself in the background of photo seven. This was the middle of winter, 14 December 2013, but it was a lovely warm day.
We visited friends in Grenoble starting 10 January 2014, which was fun. To me, the town had an interest atmosphere that reminded me of both France and Switzerland – which makes sense, I suppose. The weather was quite gray; as I recall, we were told that that is typical there, because smog and clouds get trapped between the mountains that surround the town. Photo seven shows the poster for a great museum exhibit we went to, all about the people who have traditionally lived in the Alps – their culture and way of life. The next photo is from the archaeological museum in Grenoble, showing a rather dramatically illuminated archaeological dig within the museum itself. I think the next three photos are from that museum as well, but I'm not certain.
We escaped the gray of Grenoble with a day trip to Chamonix, a ski resort spot up in the mountains. The weather was perfect, and the mountains were exquisite. The first photo shows Mont Blanc, the massive mountain that stands at the corner of France, Italy, and Switzerland. In the second photo, you can see skiers descending down the adjacent mountain; what they were doing looked incredibly dangerous, but I guess they know what they're doing! For us, it was enough just to stand in the box in photo three. :-> In the last three photos, we are taking a little funicular train up the mountain a bit, with views out across the valley floor. There wasn't much else to do there, since we don't ski, but it was so beautiful that it was well worth the trip nevertheless.
These are from Narbonne, where we made a quick stop on 28 March 2014, en route to Collioure and Banyuls (see below), and did a walking tour. Narbonne is a very scenic city, with a canal through the middle and a beautiful cathedral. Unfortunately our timing was poor; we got there just after noon, and everything – churches, museums, everything – was closed until 2:00 for lunch break. So after doing our walking tour, we headed off, since we didn't feel like sitting around waiting for things to reopen; we needed to get to other spots before sunset. Onward!
Abbaye Fontfroide
This abbey, a little southwest of Narbonne, was our next stop. We took a guided tour with a guide who droned endlessly in French, but she didn't mind my splitting off from the group a bit to take photos. The variety of stained glass windows there was remarkable, so I've made a little collection of those here.
Cathar Castles
Continuing to drive southward, we encountered various old Cathar castles. The last six photos are all from one castle that was very nice, but I don't recall its name.
This is Collioure, a seaside tourist town that turned out to be the high point of this trip. The fort and other old buildings on the seaside were lovely, there was a good restaurant nearby at which we had an excellent dinner, there was a mini-train tour that took us up into the vineyards in the hills above town, and there were even some nice shops, including one with really nice hand-made ceramics. Touristy, but not icky; recommended.
Terres des Templier
These guys are the main producers of the dessert wine Banyuls; they are a sort of collective that buys graps from everybody locally and makes it into wines. A pretty large operation. In the second photo you can see a bottle of 1961 grand cru Banyuls on display. We tried to convince the guy there that it was the perfect day to open the bottle and have a taste, but he demurred. Photo 4 shows a map of the coast, with all the vineyards that they buy from, and photo 5 shows some of their enormous fermenting barrels. Then they have stacks and stacks of red-topped barrels outside, for aging the Banyuls.
Dali Museum
We popped briefly into Spain, to Figueres, to see the Dali museum there. Overall, Figueres was a depressing ghost town; I guess the economic depression has hit there very hard. The museum was fun; Dali is not my favorite artist, but there were some interesting works on display.
Fort de Salses
This is a fort that we stopped at on the way back to Montpellier. The exterior was interesting, so we walked all the way around the perimeter moat. It was a very gray day, though, and the admission price was ludicrously high, and we decided to continue onward without seeing the interior (there was no indication at all that the interior would be different or better than what we had already seen).
Before getting back to Montpellier, we stopped in at Minerve, one of the Plux Beaux Villages en route. The weather was still dismally gray, but perhaps you can still get a sense for how pretty it is, perched on the edge of a deep gorge, connected to the mainland only by a long, high stone bridge. Plus beau indeed. I forget the details, but it was beseiged and attacked with catapults at one point in its history, and one of the catapults is still perched on a hillside there, visible from a wall that was broken by the attack (photo three).
Here, to finish things off, are a few photos from our home in Montpellier. It had a large and beautiful garden in the back, where I enjoyed sitting and reading and watching the birds. The bird in the first photo is a hoopoe, quite a remarkable-looking bird but extremely timid. They would fly away at the sound of my camera shutter, even if I was a long distance away, so this is the best photo I was able to get.
Our house had a balcony on the second floor, just off the bedroom. Often the dawn light would wake me up, and I would stand on the balcony and watch the sun rise over Montpellier. That is one of my favorite memories of living there.
There was a breeding pair of falcons that lived in a window alcove of our building. I say "falcon" because that's what they said in French; they are in the Genus Falco, but they are in fact kestrels, in English. Anyway, that was really neat. They raised several chicks; one got pushed out of the nest by its siblings early on, so we took it to a rescue center where they raised it in captivity and then released it into the wild. In the first sequence you can see one of the parents visiting to deliver food. In the later photos, the chicks are growing up and eventually becoming independent; in the eighth photo you can see them eyeing something edible in the garden below, and one is flexing its talon – clearly visualizing how it would like to seize and eat its prey! Our landlord Martine and I used to watch them and photograph them in the morning when the light hit that side of the building.

These images copyright © 2015 Ben Haller. All rights reserved.