Franck and I took two days off to travel to Millau, which in the (smallish) mountains located in the middle of France. It's a great place for paragliding, so we did that! Only one day but it felt really good, since that's something else I had to stop doing for a time. The lifts were a tad weak and I guess that the flock of paragliders looked rather dense, but still, I flew for one hour and then decided to go to the landing - as opposed to had
to go to the landing because of being too low - makes you feel like you won in the end!
Millau is a breathtaking place, a small town settled between dry, high limestone mesas and green lower hills. It's full of all sorts of birds, including vultures that were reintegrated twenty years ago. I remember going to watch them about that time, back when you had to go to the feeding place (an area where farmers were allowed to lay dead animals for the vultures to eat). Now they've reproduced and you can see them glide everywhere. I even flew with one for a short while. Magical! They're such big birds. I guess they're used to paragliders now and sort of pity us disabled flying people.
Sadly, I didn't take my camera with me while flying, but here are a few photos from before and after.
This guy is not trying to take off, only to keep the glider over his head, sometimes facing it, sometimes facing forward. The wing is a small one, normally used with skis to ski-and-fly in winter. It flies very quick and you can use it on the ground even when the wind is too strong for a regular paraglider.
We tried our own (larger) wings, but Franck had to hold me so I didn't take off unwillingly and fly backwards. It was rather funny, actually!
Here you can see our two paragliders bunched in the foreground. The blue one is Franck's and the yellow one mine. The pink helmet is also mine! That and the overlong braid make it very easy to recognise me when I'm flying.
In the backgroung you can see the recent motorway viaduct that crosses the Tarn valley south of Millau. It's higher than the Eiffel tower!
So that you can grasp the size of that thing, here's a picture I took the next day, showing the viaduct behind the city. The former pictures were taken from the green meadows you see in the background between the city and the viaduct.
And another one from the day of the flight. The take off is immediately over the city - the paraglider you can see flies between take off and landing.
And here's a vulture!
The following are photos from our first day walk on the Causse. A Causse is one of these massive limestone mesas. The one here is the Causse du Larzac, which is famous (in France) for an anti-military protest in the seventies. The two things on it were an army camp and alternative sheep farmers; when the army decided to enlarge the camp, the farmers and the ecological movement decided to protest, occupating the menaced areas. I just learned that my grandmother, who was an ecologist before it was trendy, bought a few acres of sterile stone there at that time as a way to help the movement. As far as I know, I and the other fourteen grandchildren must have inherited it :)
Oh, and the ecologists won. Now there's still the army camp and the alternative farmers who are still there are the ones who really know what to do with a difficult land. It's now one of the areas of active anti-OGM fight :)
Causse border and the cliff looking on the Tarn valley
Thorns, lichens and flowers.
Here's a panoramic view from the viaduct to the take-offs with the Tarn valley and Millau in the middle. I'm linking it because it's much too large for the post.Panoramic without captionsThe same with captions
The travel back home took some time because we chose to cross the Causse noir and use every small winding road we could find on the map. We may have seen two other cars in two hours, but the views were impressive! And we got to see wild daffodils :D
The problem was convincing Franck to stop to enjoy the view, walk around and take photos. And be back home before midnight, too! (or the wonderful 20 years old citroën BX might revert back to a pumpkin).
The Bramabiau cave. A very symbolic cave, don't you think?
The same with added phallic symbolism for balance :)
Note the beech trees everywhere. As soon as we had left the causse, the landscape changed completely from a dry Mediterraneal looking steppe to these wintery beech forests.
And in the beech forests were daffodils. Hello, Sara!
One couple of wild daffodils
And some more daffodils
Don't they look pretty, like tiny stars, or maybe the spirits of the forest inviting you in?
And if they're inviting you in, you'll have to be careful climbing!
And by the way, are they so nice, those forest spirits? Maybe they're trying to lure you into the roots and branches of the beech trees behind?
Maybe not so nice...
And then the big tree is going to swallow you.
Just kidding! Also, the species is Narcissus pseudonarcissus. I looked it up when I came back!
And two photos from home to finish...
The weather was looking better!
The reason we came back.
Sketches to come next, but not from our trip. Painting/drawing is an asocial activity when it lasts more than a few minutes, unless you're with other artists or you're willing to let people participate to the process. I think I'm still too shy and we were there to enjoy each other's company as well.