June 1, Saint-Émilion

The sky was clear and the sun was just driving off the last of the morning chill as we drove between the stone walls guiding us to Saint Émilion. Ignoring the tourist pay lots, we drove east and south around the town to the east gate at the top of the hill where we found free parking beside a vineyard just outside the gates. Walking through the gates felt informal, like coming in through the kitchen door rather than the more formal front door, the streets were empty and quiet. Looking out over the tiled roofs of the village, the stone walls of the church spire, castle, and taller buildings glowed honey gold in the morning sun. The streets, still mostly shaded from the morning sun were nearly empty. The tourist shops were closed, some of the restaurants were beginning to set out their tables and umbrellas for the day, and the wine houses were just preparing to open. A few tourists who had spent the night in a hotel were milling about on the street waiting for their mini- bus or taxi.  A few shop owners were unlocking their doors, a few others walked to work. A lone bicyclist still wearing gloves, windbreaker, and leggings drove up the hill, standing on the pedals and carefully negotiating the treacherous cobbles. From the other side of the village a cyclist/camper looking to be in his late sixties or early seventies, heavily laden with panniers and carriers front and back stopped in front of the Fleurs Presse Cafe hoping for breakfast, but was disappointed, finding only groceries and fresh cut flowers inside. Two men strolled down  the hill, periodically stopping at buildings and façades, the older seeming to tutor the younger. We too strolled down the hill, past endless wine shops and restaurants, as yet empty of patrons, towards the "front door" at the base of the hill. A little chilled in the shaded streets, we warmed quickly in the sun. It was peaceful, quiet, almost tranquil, the village just waking. When we reached the bottom of the hill, a local market was just being set up in a parking lot and the tourist parking was beginning to fill. We turned and walked back up the hill, staying just ahead of the first of the tourists, jealous of our time alone with the village. Back at the top of the hill we found a small bar, frequented by locals. We stopped for a W.C. break, coffee, and pastries. We found the W.C. through a small wooden door at the top of a stone spiral-staircase leading to the cellar and a low wooden door behind which was the toilet. Such was the design that you could bang your head on the way in, rest your knees and head against the door to recover, and then bang your head again on the way out. By the time we finished our coffees, the tourists were reaching the top of the hill and we returned to our van. Medieval Saint Émilion in the morning was special, we knew from driving past the lower entrance the day before that it would soon be crowded with tourists, so the empty streets felt different from the empty streets of the upper class retreats of Catalonia or the struggling tourist town of Marvais in Portugal. This was somehow intimate, like first thing in the morning with your lover or spouse, before the hair is combed, the face shaved or made-up, just the two of you, getting ready for the day. We left Saint Émilion to the growing tourist crowd and set off to explore the small villages, estates, châteaux, and vignobles (vineyards) in the surrounding area, looking for images that could capture the beauty and feeling of this verdant, rolling, land of small one lane roads, humble stone villages with their modest stone churches, massive estates with their large slate roofed mansions and immaculate outbuildings, small farms with their stone farmhouses, dilapidated sheds, and farm machinery scattered about the yard. All of this, in a patchwork of fresh green vines and small groves of trees created an impossible task, each image capturing only one small unique scene, utterly failing to capture the coolness of the breeze, the warmth of the sun, the smell of freshly turned soil or burning vine trimmings. Even so the quest was worthwhile, forcing us to engage the land, to think about what made it special and each time we photographed we created a trigger to remember the associated experiences that the camera cannot capture.
A Sense of Place:  Travel, Photography, and Photo-art
by David E. Moon
© David E. Moon, 2014  All rights reserved
Slideshow Slideshow Route Map Route Map
View across the Tarn from camp. View across the Tarn from camp. View across the Tarn from camp. View across the Tarn from camp. View across the Tarn from camp.

June 1, Saint-Émilion

The sky was clear and the sun was just driving off the last of the morning chill as we drove between the stone walls guiding us to Saint Émilion. Ignoring the tour- ist pay lots, we drove east and south around the town to the east gate at the top of the hill where we found free parking beside a vineyard just outside the gates. Walking through the gates felt informal, like coming in through the kitchen door rather than the more formal front door, the streets were empty and quiet. Looking out over the tiled roofs of the vil- lage, the stone walls of the church spire, castle, and taller build- ings glowed honey gold in the morning sun. The streets, still mostly shaded from the morning sun were nearly empty. The tourist shops were closed, some of the res- taurants were beginning to set out their tables and umbrellas for the day, and the wine houses were just preparing to open. A few tourists who had spent the night in a hotel were milling about on the street waiting for their mini-bus or taxi.  A few shop owners were unlocking their doors, a few others walked to work. A lone bicyclist still wearing gloves, wind- breaker, and leggings drove up the hill, stand- ing on the pedals and carefully negotiating the treacherous cobbles. From the other side of the village a cyclist/camper looking to be in his late sixties or early seventies, heavily laden with panniers and carriers front and back stopped in front of the Fleurs Presse Cafe hoping for breakfast, but was disappointed, find- ing only groceries and fresh cut flowers inside. Two men strolled down  the hill, periodically stopping at build- ings and façades, the older seeming to tutor the younger. We too strolled down the hill, past endless wine shops and restaur- ants, as yet empty of pat- rons, towards the "front door" at the base of the hill. A little chilled in the shaded streets, we warmed quickly in the sun. It was peaceful, quiet, almost tranquil, the village just waking. When we reached the bottom of the hill, a local mar- ket was just being set up in a parking lot and the tourist parking was beginning to fill. We turned and walked back up the hill, staying just ahead of the first of the tourists, jealous of our time alone with the village. Back at the top of the hill we found a small bar, frequented by locals. We stopped for a W.C. break, coffee, and pastries. We found the W.C. through a small wooden door at the top of a stone spiral- staircase leading to the cellar and a low wooden door behind which was the toilet. Such was the design that you could bang your head on the way in, rest your knees and head against the door to recover, and then bang your head again on the way out. By the time we finished our coffees, the tourists were reaching the top of the hill and we returned to our van. Medieval Saint Émilion in the morning was special, we knew from driving past the lower entrance the day before that it would soon be crowded with tourists, so the empty streets felt different from the empty streets of the upper class retreats of Catalonia or the struggling tourist town of Marvais in Portugal. This was somehow intimate, like first thing in the morn- ing with your lover or spouse, before the hair is combed, the face shaved or made-up, just the two of you, getting ready for the day. We left Saint Émilion to the growing tourist crowd and set off to explore the small villages, estates, châteaux, and vignobles (vineyards) in the surrounding area, looking for images that could capture the beauty and feeling of this verdant, rolling, land of small one lane roads, humble stone villages with their modest stone churches, massive estates with their large slate roofed mansions and immacu- late out- buildings, small farms with their stone farmhouses, dilapidated sheds, and farm machinery scattered about the yard. All of this, in a patchwork of fresh green vines and small groves of trees created an impossible task, each image capturing only one small unique scene, utterly failing to capture the coolness of the breeze, the warmth of the sun, the smell of freshly turned soil or burning vine trimmings. Even so the quest was worthwhile, forcing us to engage the land, to think about what made it special and each time we photo- graphed we created a trigger to remember the associated experiences that the camera cannot capture.
View across the Tarn from camp.
A Sense of Place:  Travel, Photography, and Photo-art
© David E. Moon, 2014  All rights reserved
Route Map Route Map Slideshow Slideshow
View across the Tarn from camp. View across the Tarn from camp. View across the Tarn from camp. View across the Tarn from camp.