Thursday, November 01, 2007

nothing but sharp stones, similar to bones

Guillaume Apollinaire was stationed in February 1915 not far from where my father and I visited recently - the edge of Provence along the Rhone River between Martigues in the south and Vienne (almost to Lyon) in the north. To Apollinaire that country was "like a skeleton. It's just like a graveyard. Nothing but sharp stones, similar to bones." Charles Dickens steamed down (we went up) the Rhone from Lyon and got to Avignon, where we also stopped and walked around and through the medieval walls. Dickens noticed the distinct color and his remark, when fitted together with Apollinaire (even the tone is the same somehow), tells better than photographs what the pervasive coloring of the region is. If it's been sunny a few days (as it was for us, happily), I'm referring to a hue you can still see after you close your eyes. "The broken bridge of Avignon," Dickens wrote, "and all the city baking in the sun; yet with an under-done-pie-crust, battlemented wall, that never will be brown, though it bake for centuries." That just it, it seems to me. The sense one gets is of a under-done/not-quite brown. With limestone gray-brown, sandy orange, dull green-grey (a landscape with chestnut trees and maybe some olives), etc.

More photos from the trip.