Showing posts with label Vercors. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Vercors. Show all posts

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Breathing my mountains

For the Nth time, this evening's main TV documentary showed me an album of glimpses of my extraordinary "back yard", the Vercors.

Click to enlarge slightly

I realize the extent to which I breathe constantly the atmosphere of these glorious limestone mountains that surround me. I must remain in their midst. I cannot ever leave them. That would be unthinkable.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Herbal and homeopathic products

Last July, when my Choranche neighbors brought me home from the hospital in Romans after my stupid accident [display], Tineke dashed into a local pharmacy and presented me spontaneously with a couple of products (previously unknown to me) capable of relieving the pain that would inevitably beset me.

The small plastic tubes contain homeopathic pills based upon an astronomical dilution of the European wildflower called Mountain Arnica… which looks a bit like wild daisies, or a small variety of the sunflowers whose seeds are such a delicacy for our mésange birds.

The big tube contains a gel, based upon the same Arnica wildflower, but not at all (so I thought) of a homeopathic composition. I tested both products, and found that the gel was particularly soothing, although I'm incapable of saying whether its effects stemmed from the 7 percent of mysterious Arnica tinctura in the product or rather from the 93 percent of other simple stuff in the preparation: essentially a carbomer of the kind used to manufacture home-made cosmetics, and an excipient composed of alcohol (ethanol), sodium hydroxide and distilled water.

One of the first people to extol the benefits of Arnica was the German mystic Hildegard von Bingen [1098-1179], known to believers as Saint Hildegard.

She proclaimed: "If a man and a woman are in love, and somebody smears Arnica on the skin of one of the two lovers, then, when the Arnica has dried, the man and the woman become so madly in love that they go out of their minds." Far more powerful than eating oysters, a kind of medieval Viagra…

More recently, my former neighbor Bob, who used to be a prominent rugby-player at St-Marcellin, told me that Arnica ointment was used regularly to treat players who got badly bruised in a match. Apparently, a guy who had been thrashed to pulp on the playing field only had to get smeared all over with Arnica and he would be fresh as a daisy. And after the match, the bruised rugby-player's girlfriend (according to Hildegard) would have been feverishly rucked!

I have an excellent book on medicinal herbs in our Vercors region:

One of the delightful anecdotes in this book concerns the fabulous reputation of Mountain Arnica in the Vercors (as elsewhere). This plant doesn't actually grow here, because it requires granitic soil (whereas ours is calcareous), but people have heard a lot about Arnica, and everybody knows that its yellow flowers look like daisies.

Wise local folk reasoned as follows: If the yellow petals of the Arnica plant can produce such medicinal marvels, then why shouldn't the yellow petals of daisies work just as well? Consequently, Vercors peasants have got into the habit of macerating Buphthalmum flowers (wild daisies) in alcohol, naming it "Arnica", and using it as a miracle remedy for bruises, cuts, sprains, etc. Does it work? Of course it does!

The Arnica-based pharmaceutical products that Tineke bought for me are manufactured by an old family firm named Boiron, located in nearby Lyon. And when I say "family firm", this is literally the case. According to Wikipédia (in French), the president is a man named Boiron, the administrators are his brother and sister and their cousin. And board members include this cousin's husband and their daughter. Maybe this kind of closely-knit corporate structure has enabled them to test their products thoroughly upon one another…

Be that as it may, I was thrilled to discover yesterday that the Boiron products have just hit the headlines in the popular and respected US Jezebel website [access].

This is amazing publicity for French export products. And it's so much nicer than the idea (no more than an idea for the moment) of selling Rafale jet fighters to India [display]...

BREAKING NEWS: Not surprisingly, the Pharyngula blog of the celebrated US biologist and atheist P Z Myers has shot down the Jezebel article in flames [display]. His quantitative evaluation of the infinitesimal active agent in homeopathy is well-known and undeniable. I liked certain remarks concerning Boiron's herbal gel. Nobody seems to know whether or not it's a serious pharmaceutical product. On the other hand, if you like it, and it doesn't seem to harm you, then why not carry on using it? That's pretty lukewarm clinical advice, but I can't see how we might obtain a more informed judgment on the product. Incidentally, I'm intrigued to discover that the printed paper from Boiron attached to their gel affirms that it is a "homeopathic product". Are they suggesting that the actual Arnica in their tinctura has been diluted astronomically, as for their pills? Frankly, I have to admit that I don't understand what is meant by this claim. But I hasten to add that homeopathy is not a subject that interests me greatly. Live and let live...

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Fellow full of surprises

Steve Jobs (who's not the man designated by my title) often seems to be saying that, if only web developers were to get profoundly involved with HTML5, they would soon discover that they can achieve all the tricks they once performed using Adobe Flash. Clearly, this is not the case, and I fear that it will never be the case. Look at this comical Flash site that I created, years ago, for a local friend: the above-mentioned "fellow full of surprises", who seems to have polluted his webspace with pop-up windows and publicity, which you can disregard.

There's no way in the world that you can create anything like that in HTML5. Incidentally, I'm particularly proud of the trick I invented to get the plane (borrowed from another Flash creator) to fly behind the flat two-dimensional image of the mountain. Here's how I did it. I simply created a front layer (closer to the viewer than both the existing background and the plane), ready to receive a copy of the visible face of the mountain. As soon as the nose of the plane touches the left side of the mountain, I activate this front layer, which effectively hides the plane. Then I remove this foreground layer as soon as the plane has totally emerged on the right-hand side.

The friend for whom I created this little animation is truly a remarkable fellow, named Luc Kaufmann. He used to run a small rural restaurant just up the road, on the other side of the village of Choranche, named Mandrin's Farm. On the slopes behind the restaurant, he raised pigs in an old-fashioned style, and this provided the pork served up in his restaurant.

At the beginning of the excellent film shot in the Vercors entitled The Girl from Paris (with Mathilde Seigner and Michel Serrault), there's a bloody scene showing a pig being slaughtered in a farmyard. The fellow wielding the slaughterer's knife was Luc.

When Luc informed me that he had become a ULM pilot, and wanted to set up a business that proposed joyrides over the Vercors, he had already abandoned his restaurants and his pigs, and was contemplating the creation of a fancy cliff-face bar in Pont-en-Royans, with a glass floor through which you could look down into the river, far below. At the last moment, however, the authorities concluded that, if a fire were to break out in such a place, the only way of escaping would consist of jumping from the windows and diving some twenty meters into the Bourne. Unfortunately, that was hardly the kind of emergency exit that might be authorized. So, Luc's lovely project fell through.

The latest news is that Luc has turned to hypnotism in a healing context with overtones of Oriental medicine. His austere website (quite unlike the little red plane) is prefaced by an intriguing quote from Freud: "In the early days, words and magic were one and the same thing." Like Luc and his constant quest for exotic projects.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Vercors bike business created by English couple

In the charming village of St-Jean-en-Vercors, Roger and Teresa have created a high-quality gite, called Vélo Vercors, for cycling enthusiasts who would like to ride through the magical landscapes of the Vercors.

[Click the photo to access their website.]

The Vercors is a fabulous place, which should ideally be visited in a leisurely style. What better solution than a bike?

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Seeing one another

Please excuse me for borrowing a couple of terms from elementary mathematics:

— A relation is said to be reflexive if it works in both directions. For example, "can see" is reflexive in the sense that, if John can see Mary, then normally Mary can see John. But "loves" is not necessarily reflexive, because John can love Mary whereas the sentiment might not be reciprocal.

— A relation is said to be transitive when its effects are, as it were, cumulative. For example, "is greater than" is transitive. If X is greater than Y, and Y is greater than Z, then X is necessarily greater than Z.

A few days ago, while watching my daughter and my dog scampering over the slopes at Gamone, I found myself wondering, for a few instants, whether "can see" might be, not only a reflexive relation, but transitive too. For example, if I can see simultaneously both my daughter and my dog up on the hillside, does this mean that they can see one another? This, of course, is a stupid question. Clearly, the answer is no. For example, you might be able to see two individuals in adjacent rooms, whereas their mutual vision is blocked by a wall. In other words, "can see" is not a transitive relation.

Here's a view of the circus of Choranche, as seen from my house:

Of an evening, I often see a bright electric lamp at the far end of the valley, at the spot where I've put a red dot. This lamp has always intrigued me, for three reasons. First, it's the unique source of light in this entire direction. (In other words, as soon as the Sun goes down, when the lamp is unlit, the entire scene of the photo is plunged in darkness.) Second, I've never been able to determine with certainty the precise place where this light is located. Third, the lamp is only lit at certain short periods of the year, which don't necessarily seem to coincide with holiday dates.

Behind the red dot in the photo, the massive rock wall that fills in the horizon between the cliffs of Presles and the slopes of the Bournillon is called Chalimont. On the far side of their crest, the vast forest of Herbouilly stretches out over the Vercors plateau in the direction of Villard-de-Lans.

Just beneath the red dot in the photo, you can see a curved line of clifftops, lying above the River Bourne, which tumbles down from a break in the Chalimont (hidden, in the photo, by the cliffs of Presles). In the middle of this curved line, some seven kilometers from my house (as the crow flies), the lowest point is a pass (for experienced rock-climbers) known as the Devil's Doorway. A nearby hole in the cliff is referred to as the Gaul's Cave. Besides, it's perfectly possible that human Bronze-Age cavemen might have used this place, two or three thousand years ago, as a base camp for their summer hunting season. And somewhere between the red dot and the curved line of clifftops, there's a sizable village, St-Julien-en-Vercors, lying alongside a major road that runs from the Bourne across to the village of La-Chapelle-en-Vercors (located behind the Bournillon plateau).

At the end of my article of 26 December 2009 entitled More fallen rocks [display], I explained that, to escape from Choranche, I have to choose a route up over the surrounding mountains. The other day, I left early and headed up towards St-Julien-en-Vercors, while saying to myself that I might find time to finally elucidate the puzzle (which arose for the first time in May 2004) of the lamp at the end of the valley. By chance, the first villager I encountered happened to be (I learned later) the most informed person in existence concerning St-Julien and its surroundings. As soon as I told him I came from Choranche, he said "I've never liked that village. No charm whatsoever." I found this frankness reassuring. There was no chance that this fellow would tell me bullshit. In fact, within a few minutes, we had become firm friends, and he told me everything I needed to know about the mysterious lamp. So, here's a summary of the affair.

The light comes from a forestry hut, high up on the slopes of the Chalimont, several hundreds meters above the village of St-Julien. The hut and a surrounding forest zone belong to a retired member of the French merchant navy, who lives down at Cassis, near Marseille. He and his wife drive up to the Vercors and stay up in the hut (accessible only on foot, and surrounded by snow at present) whenever the owner has to handle various aspects of the management of his trees. Since I left my name and address, the fellow phoned me up yesterday, introducing himself with humor as my "next-door neighbor". This afternoon, I used a telephoto lens to take a photo of what I believe to be his log cabin:

[Click the photo to see an enlarged version.]

It sure looks icy up there. It seems to be so far away, and yet this Siberian scene lies just at the end of my long-focal lens.

Now, let me return to the definitions of mathematical relations at the start of this article. I said that the "can see" relation is reflexive. So, since I can see the lamp of this log cabin up on the slopes of the Chalimont, then the occupants should be able to see the lights of my house at Gamone. When I asked the owner what he could actually see from his log cabin when he looked in the direction of Choranche, I was surprised to learn that he can apparently see many interesting places. If I understand correctly, of an evening, he can see so many lights that he's not at all sure which one is my house at Gamone. Usually, he has a clear view of the autoroute that leads south in the direction of the Mediterranean. Furthermore, on clear days, he can often detect a celebrated mountain range in the south of France: the Cévennes.

That last detail set me thinking. If I can see my neighbor up on the slopes of the Chalimont, and he can see straight down to the south of France, then what a pity that the "can see" relationship is not transitive... otherwise I too should be able to gaze down at the south of France. This, of course, is totally unthinkable. From Gamone, I can't even see as far south as the first village in the Drôme, Saint-Eulalie, which is no more than a kilometer away.

During the first half of the 19th century, the French engineer Claude Chappe invented and installed a vast semaphore system throughout France, which concretized the transitive nature of the "communicate with" relation. During the Napoleonic Wars, for example, a series of Chappe towers could receive and retransmit information so rapidly that a message could be sent from one side of France to the other in a quarter of an hour. Now, that approach would in fact enable my Chalimont neighbor to inform me visually, every evening, what the weather had been like down in the south of France during the afternoon. He could use his powerful lamp to send me messages in Morse code. In fact, this won't be necessary, because I've already given him, not only my phone number, but my email address. Still, I get a thrill out of thinking that, at Gamone, I'm a mere hair's breadth away from being able to gaze down upon Provence.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Exceptional individuals

A few days ago, in my article entitled Dark excursion [display], I referred to tragic events on the Vercors plateau in July 1944, culminating in a massacre at Vassieux. I might have pointed out that I went on that excursion for practical reasons: namely, that I've been working on a movie script concerning the martyrs of the Vercors, and that I needed to examine various aspects of the Vassieux environment.

Although my movie project will be essentially a fictional thing, there are constant allusions to real people from that terrible epoch. Consequently, I'm researching various local heroes of the Résistance. Among them, Pierre Dalloz was an architect and mountaineering enthusiast. He's the individual who first imagined that the vast Vercors mountain range might be transformed into a natural fortress and a haven for maquisards. The basic idea of his so-called Plan Montagnards was that armed French fighters stationed in concealed camps on the seemingly invulnerable Vercors plateau could be brought into action after an Allied invasion of Provence (likely to take place shortly after the Normandy landings) with a view to encircling all the Nazis in the south of France. The project of Dalloz was brought to the attention of "Max", which was pseudonym of Jean Moulin, the courageous French prefect who had been placed by Charles de Gaulle at the head of the Résistance movement inside France. And "Max" was in total agreement with the Plan Montagnards.

Yesterday afternoon, I had the privilege of meeting up with Guillaume Dalloz, Pierre's only son (about my age)... who authorized me to take photos in the house where the Plan Montagnards was conceived by his father. [It also goes without saying—but I'll say it nevertheless—that information and images in the present blog article are being presented with the explicit assent of Guillaume Dalloz... who even invited me spontaneously to carry out future filming, if need be, at their estate.]

After I told him about my movie project, Guillaume spoke to me at length about two exceptional individuals in his father's entourage.

The writer Jean Prévost, who visited Grenoble regularly because of his ongoing research concerning the great novelist Stendhal, had become one of the closest friends of Pierre Dalloz. When the resistance movements swung into action in the Vercors, Prévost set aside his literary research and became a combatant. On 1 August 1944, as Jean Prévost was strolling down from the Vercors towards the Dalloz estate in Sassenage, he was mortally wounded by a Nazi sniper.

No doubt the closest family friend of Pierre Dalloz was the great aviator and writer Antoine de Saint Exupéry.

On the eve of his mysterious disappearance in the Mediterranean on 31 July 1944, Saint-Exupéry sent his final letter to Pierre Dalloz. Here is my translation of the final paragraph of this moving document:

Here I'm far removed from the swamps of hatred [reference to the Allied headquarters in Algiers], but in spite of the kindness of the squadron, it remains somewhat a place of human misery. There's never anybody with whom I can talk. It's already quite something to have people with whom I can live. But what spiritual solitude!

If I'm shot down, I'll regret absolutely nothing. The future termites' mound horrifies me. And I hate their robot-like virtue. As for me, I was made to be a gardener.

Wow, what a promising gardener: the man who wrote The Little Prince. It's weird to observe that the two great friends of Pierre Dalloz—Saint Exupéry and Prévost—were killed within a span of 24 hours.

Apparently Saint-Exupéry was an admirer of the wife of Pierre Dalloz: the painter Henriette Gröll. Guillaume Dalloz—who has published a book describing his mother's works of art—showed me a painting of a Camargues bull that Saint-Exupéry bought in a market and offered to Henriette Gröll while they were visiting Aigues-Mortes.

Sipping whiskey with Guillaume Dalloz in his magnificent house, and enchanted by trivial anecdotes of this kind, I felt light years away from the horrors of the events of 1944 in the Vercors. In fact, the writers and artists of the generation of Pierre Dalloz had fought, alongside the rural folk of the Vercors, to preserve a splendid lifestyle of traditions, culture and adventure that the Nazis were intent upon destroying. It might be said that the barbarians actually succeeded in devastating this generation, to a large extent, through the elimination of exceptional individuals such as Jean Prévost, Antoine de Saint Exupéry and countless courageous maquisards of the Vercors. But their sacrifice has made this corner of the world a wiser, more profound and sacred place.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Dark excursion

It doesn't seem right to describe my drive up onto the Vercors plateau yesterday afternoon as "dark", because the landscape was covered in a thick blanket of snow, making the trees stand out as a throng of black skeletons, and the sky was filled with eerie blue light.

But my excursion was metaphorically gloomy, because I would be revisiting the village of Vassieux, associated with the Vercors martyrs.

As I often do when I visit Vassieux, I halted for a few minutes in the war cemetery, in front of the simple white cross of 12-year-old Arlette Blanc (whose surname means "white" in French), who symbolizes the tragedy that took place on this lunar landscape in July 1944.

When the Nazi occupation started to make life difficult and dangerous in Grenoble, André Blanc sent his wife and their four children up to his aunt's home alongside Vassieux: an isolated place in the mountain wilderness, which appeared to be perfectly safe. Alas, everybody in the family was slaughtered. In the ruins of the farmhouse, Arlette survived in agony for a week, alongside the corpses of her sisters Jacqueline, 7, and Danielle, 4, and their 18-month-old brother Maurice. She was found by Fernand Gagnol, the young village priest. Today, in the war cemetery at Vassieux, there are white crosses for every member of the Blanc family.

On 13 November 1943, Allied aircraft had dropped a small quantity of metal cylinders containing weapons for the Vercors maquisards. Less than a fortnight later, the Gestapo decided to take steps to annihilate the maquisards. In the spring of 1944, the brave maquisards were filled with hope and optimism. As Bastille Day approached, they even proclaimed, pompously and naively, the restoration of the French Republic in the Vercors. Meanwhile, they had started to prepare a landing field alongside Vassieux, to receive the Allied aircraft and supplies they were expecting. But on 21 July 1944, aircraft of a quite different kind landed quietly and unexpectedly at Vassieux: flimsy Nazi gliders crammed with armed storm troopers.

They rapidly slaughtered everybody in the vicinity, and burned down the village of Vassieux.

Today, Vassieux has been rebuilt, and young families—untroubled by the presence of ghosts—are delighted to live in such a calm and starkly splendid rural environment. Be that as it may, the owner of a cozy café where I dropped in yesterday for a beer told me that 95% of her clients, in the summer season, visit Vassieux to reflect upon the martyrs of the Vercors. Every pilgrimage to this place remains, to a large extent, a dark excursion...

Monday, October 20, 2008


Towards the end of the morning, I started to drive down towards Pont-en-Royans with the intention of posting a letter. No sooner did I reach the main road, a few hundred meters down from my house, than I saw a young guy by the roadside, with a backpack, trying to hitch a lift towards the village. I couldn't understand where he might have come from, because the road up towards the Vercors plateau has been blocked for ages, because of seemingly never-ending roadworks in the Gorges of the Bourne. As I pulled over, I noticed that he was using a portable phone to take images of my familiar mountain, the Cournouze. His destination, he told me, was La-Chapelle-en-Vercors. After a train trip from his home in Montpellier, he was dismayed to discover that there were no bus services from the Isère valley up onto the Vercors plateau. Moreover, the road was blocked, so he didn't know what to do. He explained rapidly that he was a so-called acrobatic worker: the experienced mountain climbers who haul themselves up on ropes to repair edifices such as church steeples, or to install metal nets on slopes where rocks might fall onto roads. He told me that he had to be in La-Chapelle for a practical exam concerning the evacuation of injured rock climbers. As we drove down through Pont-en-Royans, I was amused to see that he was in fact communicating constantly on the phone with his wife back in Montpellier, telling her how he was having trouble reaching his destination, but also describing with the enthusiasm of a mountain-lover the landscape through which I was driving him. He was such a nice friendly guy, and his excursion was so important to him, that I couldn't simply drop him off at Sainte-Eulalie, at the start of the road that leads up to the Vercors plateau. Besides, I'd been intending for weeks to drive up there to see the recently-opened three-kilometer tunnel. When I informed him I could drive him all the way to La-Chapelle (less than half-an-hour up the road), he was absolutely thrilled, and got back into excited explanations to his wife, informing her how he had been picked up by such a kind gentleman...

As for me, this was an excellent pretext to see the new tunnel, which has replaced a spectacular and dangerous cliff-hanging road, which my children and I have driven along on many occasions:

My passenger told me that his mother was Italian, and his father Tunisian. He had an enthusiastic Mediterranean personality. As we approached the village of La-Chapelle, he was taking photos of everything he saw, even signposts and roadside cows, and explaining excitedly to his wife that it was the most beautiful spot on earth. When I dropped him in the middle of the sunny village of La-Chapelle-en-Vercors, he couldn't find words enough to thank me, and suggested that surely some kind of divine intervention had led to such a fortunate solution to his problems. With or without God's presence, it's a fact that there were so few vehicles moving up onto the Vercors plateau today that he could have been left standing by the roadside for hours.

On my way back down to the valley (where I posted my letter an hour or so later than planned), I felt elated at having been able to assist this fellow and take personal pleasure, at the same time, in a bit of tourism. Above all, I was amazed and thrilled to discover that, thanks to the new tunnel, I'm truly less than 30 minutes away from some of the most magnificent mountain scenery you could ever imagine. If only I had a wife, I'm sure I would have felt like phoning her enthusiastically and telling her this great news.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Sophia's snow genes

This weekend, after rubble from the demolished rock at Choranche was cleared away [display], the road leading up to the Vercors plateau was finally opened. My daughter and I drove up to Saint-Julien-en-Vercors on Sunday, and gave Sophia her first taste of snow this winter.

My dog's Labrador genes went into action instantly, as it were, in the sense that Sophia was inebriated by the presence of the nice soft snow. She started off by rolling on her back in the snow, and then she got around to making sprints over a distance of fifty meters or so, as if the snow had transformed her into a high-speed husky. As I often say, a wonderful way of attaining happiness, at least for a few precious minutes, consists simply of watching a happy dog.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

For whom are roads built?

For drivers, primarily, of course. But country roads in France are used too by tons of cyclists, both with and without motors. I've even found myself waiting to overtake cross-country skiers who train on roller skates during the summer months. But the basic breakdown is between people who use the roads to earn their living, and others who are driving along it for purely personal reasons, maybe to go on a shopping excursion, or maybe for pure fun, as tourists.

In my article of 3 November 2007 entitled Deadly collapse of rocks in Choranche [display], I described a freak accident on the mountain road through Choranche in which a huge rock rolled down from the top of the slopes and fell onto an automobile, killing a father and his son.

Everybody knows that the spectacular limestone valley of the Bourne, from the ski resort of Villard-de-Lans down to Pont-en-Royans, is fragile and therefore treacherous, and it is quite possible that more rocks will fall down onto vehicles using the road. The authorities are aware that, if they invite tourists to use such a road, known to be risky, they could be held responsible for future accidents. So, there has been talk about condemning this road, even though this would be a great pity from a touristic viewpoint.

Fortunately (one might say), this treacherous road is also used by many working people, in diverse fields: truck-drivers, local farmers, tradesmen, etc. They're aware of the constant dangers when driving along this road, but they're prepared to accept this risk. If they weren't, they would no longer be able to earn their living. For these professional users, it's entirely out of the question that the road might be closed permanently.

So,we're in a weird situation. It's almost as if the authorities are saying to people: Don't use this road unless you're really obliged to, for professional reasons. It's dangerous. So, don't say we didn't warn you. In fact, the authorities can't really express themselves explicily in this kind of language. So, they simply hope that the message will get spread around by word of mouth, and that people will react accordingly.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Sunny weekend with Manya

This weekend, my daughter brought the sunshine and blue skies to the Vercors, which is rare at this time of the year.

Yesterday, we went out walking in the Coulmes forest, up on the nearby plateau between Presles and Rencurel. Sophia was excited by the autumn aromas of the woods and the scents of unknown animals.

My dog transmitted her pleasure to me. I'm never happier than when I see Sophia happy. And I often suspect that the feeling is mutual.

We had to be wary, though, because a hunt for wild boars was under way in the woods, as indicated by this warning sign:

We chatted briefly with several hunters, primarily to make sure that we weren't wandering into dangerous zones. Their replies were friendly but false, in a hypocritical sense. They never actually tell you to leave as quickly as possible, along with your dog... because that kind of talk, addressed to hikers such as us, would earn the hunters a bad reputation (worse than usual) with the authorities in charge of the Vercors nature park. So they give you the same instructions in a roundabout fashion. Specimen: "Be careful of your dog. The boar that we're hunting attacked and killed no less than four dogs last week." A half-truth, no doubt, but we got the message and turned for home.

In the middle of the wilderness, we came upon the ruins of a school:

The French Republic erected this elegant building in 1911. My neighbor Madeleine tells me that one of her aunts was educated there. After the Great War, alas, there were fewer and fewer inhabitants in the Coulmes, and the school closed down forever in 1928.

On the way home, in Rencurel, we admired this small stone barn, in a pure Vercors architectural style. Stone slabs form steps above the gables, enabling the farmer to climb up and push snow off the roof.

In the same neighborhood, we found a splendid old house in ruins:

After our sunny outing, we were happy to return to Gamone, for dinner alongside a log fire. Today, my home is attractive and comfortable. When I purchased the house in 1993, though, it too was almost a ruin.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Parisian girl in the Vercors

A few years ago, the nearby mountain range was the setting of a charming film about a girl, fed up with life in Paris, who decides to move to an isolated farmhouse in the Vercors and live off the land, caring for goats and transforming her property into a rural guesthouse.

People in the vicinity of Choranche are familiar with this film, and they're aware of the various nearby sites where it was shot, because many of us have friends who participated in the creation of the film in one way or another. For example, a guy I know well was commissioned to prepare a vegetable garden that is seen in the film, and this same fellow acted as the personal chauffeur of the great actor Michel Serrault during his stay in the region.

If I were certain that the English-language DVD would be accepted by Australian devices, I would willingly send a copy out to my relatives in Australia. Although the events of the film are far removed from my personal story, there are various subtle associations with my own flight from Paris to the Vercors in 1993.

The opening scene of the film shows a fellow killing a huge pig, in an old-fashioned rural fashion. The actor in question is a friend named Luc. He knew what he was doing in the film, because he used to rear pigs in a property just up the road from my place. Later on, Luc abandoned pig farming and became a ULM pilot, and I built him a website [display], on an unpaid friend-to-friend basis, concerning his commercial operations in this domain. Well, I was astounded to learn, a few days ago, that Luc has switched jobs once again. Having graduated from the French Institute of Ericksonian Hypnosis [look that up with Google], my friend is now advertising his activities as a professional hypno-analyst. I'm half-expecting to get a phone call from him, one of these days, asking if it would be possible to transform the ULM website into some kind of a hypnosis thing. If so, I fear there could be problems. We'll see.