Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Sea and stone

Do you remember when I was first assigned to this particular town in France, and I google-imaged it, and smirkingly showed off pictures of stunning rock cliffs jutting from the sea into the sky? That's where I went today.

The formation is called a calanque in French, and it's like a fjord -- a narrow inlet of sea surrounded by very steep stone cliffs. To visit the one we saw, you first walk through the botanical gardens. I don't think any of the plants I saw were native to both New Hampshire and Provence, and since it was a botanical garden, some may not have been native to either. One of the other language assistants, who I went with, recognized a few plants: one that's used to make tequila; one that can heal cuts; one that produces fruit.

You keep walking along a cobble-stone path that becomes surprisingly steep for something so civilized. The path is shaded, sometimes by trees, sometimes by cliffs. Along the path are caves -- perhaps old cellars, but some perhaps were natural formations. The area apparently used to be a river delta, and so the cliffs are years of sediment. Water is stronger than stone, here.

Finally you reach the top, a little notch in between two peaks. It's like this:

The little scoops cut away from the cliff are natural, as far as I know; it's like when you make a sand castle, and the waves start eating it, and chunks fall off the sides (except, in this case, in slow motion).


So that was not exactly a proper calanque, I think; it was just the nearby cliffs. We went to a real calanque next, where you could sit on the beach in between the cliffs and gaze at this:

Pebbles, most a bit too big to skip, cover the beach. If you stand where land meets sea, you will slip, wave by wave, 'til stones bury your feet and water splashes your knees. The waves are small, but you hear them move: The inhalation before the crest; the breaking against the rocks, or the hollow clap against the cliffs; then softer, the clatter of pebbles being pulled back out to sea.


  1. Boy, it's a rough life you live, Bubbles.

  2. C'est pas mal....Study hard Sam and you too can "work" in exotic places like big sister... otherwise you'll end up in the Sahara like dear old dad.