Fall in France
Color is not the only signal that autumn has arrived in central France. The smell of wood smoke becomes pervasive in the areas just outside town, early-morning frosts form on the windows. At work, the first chilly day means a cold day in the office as the radiators clank and wheeze their way back into action after the long summer. People in the street shiver in winter clothes (even though the temperature is still in the 50s or 60s [12 - 18 C]) , woolly scarves wound around their necks up to the bridge of their noses, heavy layers of sweaters and pea-coats covering the rest.
It's harvest time, too, and as people have been doing in this corner of France for thousands of years, there are celebrations of the season -- agricultural fairs, wine festivals, and village balls.
All of these things are hard to represent in a post like this. But, in any case, it's the colors of this time of year that make the biggest impression for me. That's why this week's photo essay is a simple, quick tour of the deep heart of France just to see how beautiful this region can be once autumn comes.
This is one of my favorite scenes: it's morning in the Cantal -- the mountainous region at the southern edge of France's Massif Central. Heavy fogs hang in the valleys until mid-morning.
Of course, it's also harvest time for many of the products of this rich agricultural region. By now, most of the sunflowers are gone completely, but there's a moment in early autumn when the vast fields look a little sad at the change of the seasons.
Many of the ivy-covered stone houses in central France turn orange, then a deep fiery red as the nights get cooler. This is a house in Salers, the well-preserved medieval city in the southwest corner of the Cantal.
(It's also one of France's official "most beautiful villages", and home to the famous Salers breed of cattle.)
The grapes have been harvested, and the vineyards of the Cote d'Auvergne change with the season, too.
Not every element of nature seems to be in synch with the program, though - in Salers, I loved this single cluster of hydrangea flowers holding on to its summer color after all its neighbors have changed.
... as is the nearby lake formed when the Truyère river was dammed up in 1959. (And if you're traveling in the region, Gustave Eiffel's brilliant Viaduc de Garabit is just down the road.)
(The abandoned Chateau d'Alleuze is here, too, just a few kilometers away from the lake and the Viaduc.)
Some of the best fall color, though, can be found further north, in the volcanic Chaine des Puys. Here, for example, is the majestic Puy de Dome, rising to 4,806 feet on the horizon near Clermont-Ferrand.
This is how autumn looks at the Chateau de Tournoel, at Volvic, just northeast of the Puy de Dome:
Further west (in the Dordogne), this scene near Les Eyzies reminds me that people have been experiencing the annual burst of color here for 30,000 years or more. It's interesting to reflect on what the people who lived in and around the cabe complexes at Lascaux and Combrailles might have thought was happening to the world around them as the temperature dropped and the golds and reds of autumn appeared.
Of course, the changes aren't confined to the countryside. Here is a view of the Place de Jaude in the center of Clermont-Ferrand. The black lava church is Saint-Pierre-des-Minimes, a convent church begun in 1630.
... and we conclude, having come full circle, in the Cantal, where the Puy Mary is one of the most striking peaks in the southern range of the Massif Central.
Do you have a favorite place or a favorite memory you associate with autumn in France? Please tell us about it in the comments section below. And while you're here, please take a second to click on your preferred social-media button(s) to share this post with someone else.
2 thoughts on “Autumn Color From the Deep Heart of France”
Poetic post. Lovely.
Thank you very much for your comment!