Gorges du Verdon and the terror of the sublime

Added to the confusion and my anxiety was the fact that I realized we weren’t going to make L’Isle-sur-La Sorgue by 5pm (the time I’d arranged with the owner of our property), particularly as we wanted to go via the Gorges du Verdon – a dramatic section of Provence with narrow winding roads, giant cliffs and sheets of rock surging skywards, etc. Thankfully at this point in time Heather decided to move from the map to the GPS. We headed off, promising to return to Vence before we left Provence – even if it meant backtracking (in true Baroness Tours style).

The Gorges du Verdon was spectacular and it went on for a couple of hours. Soaring peaks and plunging verticals – the road went along cliff faces as well as under massive overhanging sections. The folds and direction in the striated rock layers heightened the feeling of drama and movement, and lots of huge rock slips on steep slopes were evident. (Heather talked about the ‘terror’ of the sublime, she’d had discussions about with some of her art colleagues and here it was. It is hard to explain. We feel overwhelming awe in the presence of such infinity – the agelessness and scale contrasts with our insignificance and brevity of existence, so brings with it a certain fear – the ‘terror of the sublime’.) Meanwhile back at the car…

Finally we found ourselves driving past lavender and canola fields with the late afternoon sun giving it that dreamy, hazy look. Garmin, the GPS, took us the scenic route. We discovered that while Garmin knew the names of the roads, the locals hadn’t bothered to put signs up, so at some intersections or roundabouts we set off in the wrong direction, either ending up in the back alley of some tiny town or circling it entirely again – doing a loop-the-loop – with the wipers occasionally going. (We became quite used to doing this!)

We were met in L’Isle-Sur-La -Sorgue by Valerie, the owner of our new little ‘home’. It is really old – at least 200 years Valerie told us – and sort of consists of three ‘rooms’ more or less piled on top of each other in 3 storeys. But it is very cute and charming and right in the middle of the old town so Heather concedes bumping her head going up and down the stairs regularly (some people would learn after one bump…) is fair payoff!)

Tina and Heather

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