A small photographic journey through Thailand and Vietnam in November of 2017...
Hazy summer days are nearly gone, but today is a rare one when the sun is high and hot; beaming down on tiny bodies sprawled on the sand. Naturally, I’m reflecting on all the things one needs for a peaceful autumn season.
A little autumn checklist:
Winding roads led us to the countryside of France, bordering the alps and Ecrins national park where the mountains met the cascading waterfalls.
With French bread and cheese in our bags and a map in hand we navigated ourselves though a forest-ridden path between towering mountains. Not a person in sight. Only the calming sound of water rushing in the valley beneath us. The late spring warmth erased the last of the winter snow capping the mountain tops; turning the landscape into a lush forest of greenery. The peace that comes with walking in an expanse of nothingness is unparalleled. A journey away from the traffic-filled streets of Paris to the vast lands winding between the towering mountains will leave something tugging at your core, begging for more landscapes to immerse yourself in.
We came across a stunning curtain of water streaming down the cliff-side. Stumbling over and up the rocks which had fallen over the edge, we made it to the bottom of the cascade where the freezing mountain water pooled next to us. Nature at its finest. Remnants of winter remained on the mountains and in the dewy air, but the atmosphere smelt of spring and as the small wildflowers blossomed at our feet. It seemed the change of season was calling to the wildlife, too. On our journey back to the car we were greeted by two Chamois in search of food amongst the rubble of rocks, grass and melting snow.
We had found a last-minute Airbnb: a small apartment underneath a family villa which overlooked the farmland in every direction. It was a small drive from the centre of Gap, the closest city before an abyss of untouched nature. The fragile air of stillness was only interrupted when a group of elderly men began their Sunday afternoon game of bowls in the square by the cathedral. Our weekend had come to an end as reality beckoned us home. But with more nature practically at our doorstep it was only the beginning of getting lost in the beauty of unexplored landscapes.
I realised I was in another world as we traversed the scenic route behind the highway in the South of France and came across a gushing stream beside a tiny village. If you followed the water with your eyes you found yourself looking at a mountain towering over the landscape. Pure beauty in the middle of nowhere only found when you’re not searching.
An early start, a rental car and some Australians trying to navigate the winding roads of the national parks in France. After eventually conquering the roads we found ourselves in the medieval-looking town of Gordes, perched atop a green hillside. The streets were quiet and the weather was warm, the perfect time for gelato looking over the expanse of greenery surrounding us and out to the roads in the distance. We stayed the night in a little B&B with the friendliest French hosts who didn’t speak much English. Before settling in for the night we wandered into town in search of dinner. Nestled between a boutique and boulangerie was a small French bistro. The warming smell of seafood cooking in butter drifted across the room. Funnily enough, we made friends with more Australians eating on the table across from us.
The morning took us from the medieval hues of Gordes to the bright pink, pale yellows and light blues of Rousillon; a tiny town 20 minutes west. Protected since 1943, Rousillon’s absence of modern development is reflected in the old town charm that remains to this day. We arrived for breakfast, without realising it was 10am on a Sunday in France – the most notorious hour for stillness. The sunlight bounced off the cliffs as we enjoyed toast and coffee on the terrace of a café. It wasn’t until we left at 12pm that the small side streets were busy. We slowly made the journey back to the car, stopping to admire the colourful houses lining the streets along the way.
Another 30-minute drive south and we arrived in Lourmarin, the last home and resting place of French writer Albert Camus. The main road was lined with overflowing greenery leading to the maze quaint streets, hidden art galleries, boutiques and bustling afternoon markets. We stayed the night in La Fenière, a family run farmhouse hotel surrounded by a vineyard retreat, just 2km from Lourmarin village. The organic garden behind the house overflowed with produce and the kitchen promised ripe tomatoes, warm bread and local cheese.
The vast scenery of Luberon bathed in late afternoon light is reason enough to make the trip down south. But then there’s the abundance of fresh produce, good wine and the different personality of each tiny village scattered through the countryside waiting to be discovered.
The sun rose across the ocean, hues of orange and pink stretching out in front of our eyes and bouncing off the gentle flow of the waves.
It was late Autumn and a man swam in the water; a final lap before the winter chill made its way across the south of France. We had woken early to catch the sunrise, after making a promise the day before to watch a sunrise in every place we intended to visit across Europe (a promise which was broken many times and replaced with sunsets). The day break was picturesque, a vast expanse ahead of us dotted with colour – the perfect welcome.
The bustling town of Nice was drenched in Autumn sun as people sipped coffee on the sidewalk or wandered down the Promenade des Anglais overlooking the clear, aqua water. Mornings were spent strolling through the flea markets or picking pink flowers from the flower market. Tucked away in a small park near the monastery is Henri Matisse Museum; a collection of his sketches, paintings and creativity housed within a 17th century villa. A rainy morning here faded into an afternoon getting lost in the Musée d’art moderne et d’art contemporain. When the sun came back we resumed our travels: people-watching on the pebbled beaches and later escaping to the warmth of a seaside bistro for mule-frites and risotto.
Our days in the South of France took us from our small Air BnB in Nice, to the richness of Monaco and to the humble Village of Eze, which sat atop a hill. Eze was another world. Tiny alleyways of quaint hand-painted artworks created a maze throughout the town; getting lost was half the experience. Vines looped themselves around each other above our heads, a blanket of green where only the sunlight could peak through. Vines seemed to be a recurring theme for the humble hill-top town. We stopped at a café on the edge of the cliff where vines entangled the building, as if holding it together. Americano coffees, a warm baguette for the road, and a view I’ll remember for a lifetime.
Mallorca, Balearic Islands
Mallorca was a white-sand, blue doorway dreamland. As the sun rose we were flying into the island from Barcelona and the light touched the expanse below us, from the green fields to the blue beaches. Palm trees filled the city centre and every doorway was picturesque.
We arrived at Palma de Mallorca and made our way to our airBnB across the island in the tiny town of Esporles. Our Spanish host greeted us, along with her strange dog and a shy cat. We explored the medieval town by foot, getting lost in the streets only to turn a corner and realise we were back in the town centre only 5 minutes later. Orange trees surrounded the villas atop the hill and palm trees guarded the larger, white houses from trespassers. The town was a peaceful escape from the bustle of Barcelona, but a little out of the action in Palma's city centre. The 30 minute bus ride to the city wasn't terrible, despite the fact that missing it means waiting another hour for the next one.
The city of Palma was always buzzing with people in the streets. Wandering in and out of boutiques or drinking wine while people-watching on the sidewalks. Our first morning there we stumbled across a gorgeous side-walk cafe, La Molienda. Good coffee can be hard to come across in Europe; especially when you're used to your regular Australian soy flat white made by your favourite local barista. But our coffee tasted as good as the perfect coffee art on the top, so the small Spanish island had my approval.
It was February so the sun wasn't too harsh - the perfect temperature to sit outside and soak up as much as we could before retreating inside for another coffee and mapping out our next move. We had arrived with no plans, so I searched the web for the best spots to go and it wasn't long before I realised I wanted more time on the island. From hikes along the coastline to caves and underwater explorations, Mallorca had it all. But for today, Palma would have to do.
Tuesday night in Palma translates to tapas in the streets with the locals. As the day drew to a close and the boutiques lining the streets shut their doors, the hidden, hole-in-the-wall tapas bars opened theirs. Suddenly the street corners transformed into a festival-like scene. Groups stood with tapas in one hand and wine in the other, occasionally glancing at the football when a pause came in the conversation. We made our way to a popular spot and devoured a round of tapas and wine, before following the crowd and migrating to a new bar to do the same. Tourists and locals alike wandered the dimly lit streets finding new or old places before the evening came to a close.
Across the island you’ll find Porto Cristo, a haven of white sand and crystal clear, blue water. We explored the up-hill streets of the town and found a deserted look-out area to take in the views of the water beneath us. Families ran across the beach, in and out of the water and up and down the sand while old men fished on the edge of the cliff. The water was the clearest I had seen, as though I was looking through a sheet of glass into another world. Australian beaches will always have my heart, but this one was sure up there on the list, I thought to myself. We strolled around the edge of the beach, gazing into the vast expanse ahead of us: clear, aqua eventually melting into the deep blue on the horizon.
When reality came back to the forefront of our thoughts, we walked to the entrance of the caves across town. We descended into the depths where millions of icicles dangle, trapped in time and space. It seemed as if the slightest movement would end in shattered glass beneath our feet. The light was dim and orange, creating the illusion of being trapped in another world’s eternal sunset.
Mallorca remains in my fond memories. The days spent by the quiet afternoon coastline in Porto Cristo to the late night tapas tasting in Palma. We departed sadly, hoping to return in the near future to revisit the hidden boutiques and cafes and explore the worn architecture of the old town walls.