Provence, through the lens

Warning! May contain lavender!
The holiday got off to an inauspicious start, weatherwise anyway :
It seems the rain followed us from Ireland.  We had thundery and, at times, torrential downpours for the first two days.  
It turned out to be perfect weather for a spot of dégustation (wine tasting), though, and we set of for Pierrevert, on the other side of the Grand Luberon, and one of our favourite producers of red wine, Domaine de La Blaque.  The weather improved en route :
but we kept our minds on the job in hand and eventually arrived at Domaine de La Blaque.  This place was really busy, with a steady stream of tourists popping in to sample and buy.
We did our tasting, contributed to the local economy, put the boxes in the car and headed back towards Céreste.  A walk was in order, seeing as the rain had stopped, so we did a short (one hour) loop at the top of the Grand Luberon.  It was through forest all the way, so there were no spectacular views, but it was quite steep in places.  It seems that, for once in my life, I’m fitter than the Long Suffering Husband!  You can’t tell from the picture, but he was actually gasping in this photo on the right!  Speaking of Long Suffering, it seems I am destined to be the Long Suffering Wife on this trip.  The LSH has been keen to photograph lavender fields for a few years now, and finally we are in Provence at the right time.  While he clicks away with his super-duper camera, I could sit in the car like the sainted Long Suffering Wife that I am, but instead, I’m practising with my new Nikon Coolpix P300.  
There was this field, with the perfect little Provencal building at the far end, which he had earmarked since our winter visit.  I took shots from several different angles, while messing around with depth of field,
Focussed on the building
Focussed on the foreground

and I discovered that my little camera doesn’t really like to play with depth of field, it likes to put as much as possible in focus,

Mostly focussed on the foreground

 but I got some nice shots, although a BLUE sky would have been nicer than light grey.

Mostly focussed on the foreground again

Since then, every time we pass a likely field, brakes are applied, and he leaps out, studying angles, light and whatever else is involved.  My forte is strolling into the middle of fields…

 …to get a different perspective on things

These last two are my favourites, I think the blue sky and the very dark lavender helps.

Same field, different angle.  I love the colours.

In general, the plan for our whole holiday is to do loads of walking, starting early in the morning because it’s very hot by the middle of the day.  So far, we’ve only managed one early morning walk.  We went up La Gardette, a small hill (400M high) behind Céreste, one of our favourite walks while we were living here.
There’s the field of sage at the start (it looks a lot like lavender but a different colour)

Then there’s the lookout over the valley where Flurry and Gigi lived for the winter – you can’t see the road we used to hack on, with all the foliage on the trees!
Now:

Winter (slightly different angle):

I quite like this shot, taken while the LSH recovered after a steep climb (he was pretending to take a photo, while sneakily allowing his breathing to return to normal)

and of course there was the view of the Grand Luberon from the back of La Gardette :

Still more lavender, wild lavender this time, so not so thick and clumpy

but still sufficient for a small brown dog to hide behind.

I didn’t know my camera had a macro mode, so I’ve been playing with that too.  Flowers (the pink and white one reminds me of sweets, I think they’re called Campino)

and this cool bug :

Today, we visited the ancient fort at Buoux – well worth a visit. It’s being excavated and somewhat restored at the moment, but you can still wander around and look at everything.  It dates back to the 12th or 13th century, and was clearly a very important point of defence.  It sits perched in a rocky hilltop in the middle of a gorge, surrounded by cliffs, mountains and forests.  The view to the northeast has the most cliffs :

Entrance archway :


The biggest building was, of course, the church :
Church entrance

These holes are fascinating – they are thought to be ancient grain silos, possibly pre-dating the fort itself.  They were fitted with wooden covers to keep the rain out.
How on earth did they make those holes with only hand tools?  They’re pretty deep!

Who needs an RSJ?  This piece of timber has been here for hundreds of years!

These steps are where there used to be a drawbridge, into the very last piece of fortification.  There are three defensive walls, each with a moat, protecting the final donjon, or fortified tower, which is protected by a sheer cliff at the far side.

There’s a secret flight of stairs, too – not so secret anymore, though, there is a sign directing you to them and they are marked on the visitor’s map too.  They really are incredibly steep – for the first time in my life, my knees were complaining about what I was asking them to do.  I was glad to get to the bottom!

The whole thing has a real Lord of the Rings feel to it – Rivendell, perhaps?
Buoux is also a very popular climbing centre, this photo is for my brother… spot the climber :

And finally, there was this old friend looming in the distance :

Mont Ventoux, which looked over us as we covered the first 200km of Le Big Trek.

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