One of the joys of travelling is being taken by surprise. In my case, it was the ochre cliffs of Roussillon that bowled me over. We packed a lot in on our trip around the Luberon in Provence, going to gardens, nature reserves, organic vineyards, and one of our stops was to be the Conservatory of Natural Ochre and Pigments. It’s not that I was sceptical, but I wasn’t expecting much. Yet I found this particular part of our trip to be one of the most memorable.
Ochre is a natural pigment found in the Luberon region of Provence – this is where the orangey-pink wash on Provençal houses comes from. Although today most of these pigments are chemically made, up until the 1960s it was extracted from quarries, leaving behind great canyons of reds, oranges and yellows. And while that explanation might not be the most inspiring, the canyons definitely are.
The vibrancy of the ochres are set against the deep blue of the sky and the bright green of the vegetation, making them almost too difficult to look at – the colours really do dazzle the eyes. There are trails all through the quarries and the sun and the shadows animate the landscape as you walk along, making it seem as if the ground is undulating. Although this is a popular tourist attraction, there are places where you can stand quietly and feel just how small you are …
To see more pictures of the Ochre Cliffs, go to cottages4you Facebook page.
Kathi Hall is the editor of Escape magazine for cottages4you. She loves travelling and being surprised by what she finds, she’s a fluent French speaker in her head but strangely mute when confronted with an opportunity to speak it out loud and she firmly believes in trying all local specialities – except for snails.