So, I’ve got a number of blog posts planned for future weeks detailing what, specifically, I’m doing here in France, what I’m eating, what I’m drinking, where we’re working, et cetera. But I thought at first I’d just try to pass on a little bit of this world on the other side of the pond, just in terms of what stuff looks like. Every time I’ve been to Europe, I’ve been struck by how different human civilization is over here than at home, simply by virtue of having been “civilized” for a longer period of time. For instance, in America, you never see castles just hanging out on the mountainside. Here, they abound. There’s practically one around every corner, always perched loftily on some hill several hundred meters above the valley, idly deteriorating into shrubbery and moldy stones. From afar, you can see them as they were meant to be seen – seemingly impenetrable structures that evoke images of unspeakable wealth and power.
But once you reach them, you realize the truly destructive power of nature. In only a few hundred years (incredibly short on the geologic time scale), these castles have been entirely reclaimed by nature. Only the crumbling stones remain as a testament to their former glory.
Another difference: Here there are far more flowers. There are whole galaxies of them, an entire universe of swirling, multicolored clusters of flowers. Either I’ve completely overlooked the presence of these flowers for my entire life in America, or they’re simply far more ubiquitous here. I remarked upon this fact to Julian, one of the kids in my host family. His response was simple. “Duh. It’s spring.” (In French, of course.)
And of course, because I’m so taken by them, I can’t resist bringing them home to brighten up our somewhat spartan living quarters.
The towns and cities are different, too. Everything’s built closer together, or right on top of each other, which makes for a much more efficient use of space. You can still go next door to get to the baker or the butcher shop, but it’s no more than a fifteen minute walk to the vineyards in any direction from the city center. .
And then, of course, there are the vineyards. The countryside. The gently rolling hills, the omnipresent, vibrantly green trees, the mountains in the distance. The wide-angle lens scenery. I don’t have a wide-angle lens (or even anything other than an iPhone, right now), but I did my best to capture the pristine, simplistic beauty of the countryside.
Of course, it’s not like we don’t have those things in America, either. Especially in Oregon, I was surrounded by so many ruggedly beautiful sights that sometimes driving through the Willamette Valley, it was difficult to keep my eyes on the road for wanting to drink it all in. But the beauty here is different, somehow. It’s less wild, and at the same time less civilized – by which I mean, perhaps, that the difference between the towns and the countryside isn’t as stark as it is in America. It’s like there’s not as much conflict between nature and human nature here. The two can co-exist more peacefully.
Finally, here’s my favorite photo of the outdoors that I’ve taken so far. I saved it for last because it’s not really exemplary of anything French or European or exemplary of anything at all, perhaps. It’s just a pretty picture.
Disclaimer: I absolutely edited all these photos. I’m not very good at shooting in color, and the iPhone gives a pretty limited scope at that. It’s not very good at capturing the colors I’m seeing with my eyes. So, yes, I did digitally edit them and, in some cases, I used Instagram filters to mess with the lighting in ways I can’t do otherwise.