Thursday, 24 February 2011

Fontaine de Vaucluse

           
            The River Sorgue flows green and glassy through Fontaine de Vaucluse. The green is extraordinary, a malachite composition of underwater meadows of emerald weeds, reflection of the deep greens on the steep valley above, and the ice-blue purity of the mysterious source that boils up from a pool beneath the cliffs, a pool so deep they say it has never been accurately measured.
                                                                 from The Lantern


The village is a dead end, a beautiful place where the river rises from a wall of rock. Held captive on three sides by fractured precipices that climb steeply into the sky, Fontaine de Vaucluse is the place that gave this part of Provence its name, from the Latin Vallis Clausa, the closed valley.
      
The stones breathe a tangible sense of antiquity. People have been drawn here since Neolithic times; a ruined castle perches high above. The Italian poet Petrarch (1304-74) lived here and wrote love sonnets to his Laura. An unrequited love, it was, that brought "a rain of tears”. Though a hundred years later, when the poet was being recognised as the Father of the Renaissance, his worship of Laura from afar was already being romanticised. And I’m not sure, but I think it’s possible that the water coming down from the mountain in this image could well represent the river at Fontaine de Vaucluse.

        Petrarch, Laura, and Cupid c. 1444 (from the Bibliotheca Nazionale Centrale di Roma)

But there are mischievous Provencal fables, tales told for centuries by the shepherds as they walked their flocks between the summer and winter pastures, that take a different view of Petrarch’s doomed love. A rather macabre slant, as it happens, involving the switching of plague-victims’ bodies in Avignon, and much more besides for the storytellers to relish on their interminable journeys. The tale of The Shepherd of Fontaine can be found in the collection The Provencal Tales by Michael de Larrabeiti.

Nowadays the paper mill driven by the Sorgue prints Petrarch’s words on single hand-blocked sheets, embedded with tiny dried petals, among many other tourist offerings. Along the side of the mill, a path leads from shops and restaurants up to the source of the river: the great bowl of spring water that is the only exit for the vast caverns of water in the subterranean basin that stretches from Mont Ventoux to the Lure in the east.


Looking deep into the greens and blues in the pool is like a meditation; you can get lost in the shifting dreamscape of colour, cold-clear and almost iridescent. This photograph was snapped with our basic little camera and simply cropped. I’ve done nothing to the colour.

Trying to describe the river here, as it rushes and then stills close to the weirs, I often feel inadequate to the task of capturing it in words, tasting the bitterness of inarticulacy, perhaps trying too hard. Better perhaps simply to sit and absorb the scene at one of the café terraces, where you can sip a glass of rosé while the timeless flow of extravagant sea-greens gurgles and rushes past your table. Then the pictures form, half-real, half-imaginary, and the words come too.

18 comments:

joanny said...

Sun and stillness looking down into the jade-green water, a mystical experience in that stillness of mind which is born out of silent contemplation. Beautiful story and photos

warm wishes,
joanny

vicki archer said...

Lovely Deborah.....and I am with you about the glass of rose...I always think it is is the sitting and the soaking up (not only of the wine...) of surroundings that make the memories. xv

RICHARD MOISAN said...

Tu as raison, Deborah, de mettre ce village en valeur. Il est très beau, très représentatif de la vraie Provence. On y prend grand plaisir, tant à l'intérieur du village, que dans ses environs.
Merci de nous le décrire aussi bien car tu nous mets l'eau à la bouche.
Bonne journée!

My Carolina Kitchen said...

We visited this area the last time we were in France and took a lot of photos. The river and the restaurants are very picturesque and we enjoyed the area very much. However, we did heed the good advice from a local and went early in the day before the rush of tourists.

Your photos brought back lovely memories Deborah.
Sam

Bunched Undies said...

We visited L'Isle sur la Sorgue on market day during our honeymoon. Loved the old mill there, lots of good memories. Thanks Deborah

✿ ♥ France ✿ ✿ said...

Le Vaucluse c'est magnifique merci pour cette photo

bookspersonally said...

What a gorgeous description to go along with the stunning photos. The color of the water is extraordinary!

Melissa Romo said...

So beautiful, both the writing and the photos. I visited the town of Peillon once, in the South of France, while I was living for a few years in Paris. There are just certain places in that part of the world that are so stunning. I'm looking forward to your book in the US!!

Leovi said...

Estupendo color verde y bonitas transparencias del agua.

litlove said...

What a gorgeous post - I love the evocation of Petrarch. There's something about rural France that feels so utterly timeless, one can easily imagine ancient times because they feel so close to the present.

✿ ♥ France ✿ ✿ said...

merci je viens de te faire un café

la Brocanteuse said...

I love your way with words, you write so beautiful.. thank you once again have a lovley weekend xo Colette ~ Afrique du Sud

Brenda Kezar said...

Oh my! I just want to crawl into your words and photos and take a vacation. Beautiful stuff!

Janel said...

The river and Petrarch's story are amazing! Thank-you for sharing.

le blÖg d'Ötli said...

Il y a plus de 20 ans, j'ai passé des vacances près de ce lieu. Je ne l'ai jamais oublié... Même dans la mémoire, il est magique. Et tes mots et tes images lui rendent hommage.

Becca said...

You paint the most splendid word pictures...

vanessafrance said...

I have never visited the Vaucluse. All I know of it is from reading Peter Mayle, probably no longer representative. The more I read your words, the more I know I must go there to see it for myself.

Lesley said...

Your writing just captivates me - so beautiful and evocative. Several years ago I visited Interlaken and stayed on the banks of the River Aare which was a gleaming mint green - you reminded me - thank you.
Best Wishes.

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