* Between The Sea (the Med) and The Alps -- {Pronounce: ontruh la mair eh lay zalp}

Thursday, February 12, 2015

A woodsy walk

A woodsy walk 01Did anybody else set some personal improvement goals for this calendar year?  If so, how successful have you been sticking with the plan, now that we are six weeks into it?  I came up with a few things, and I'm pleased to report that I've actually done fairly well with them.  So far.

One of my goals was to be more physically active.  While I'm more capable of putting forth some effort, the sedentary Doc is perfectly content to play on his computer every waking hour if he could get away with it.  In the past, at least he traipsed all over airports.  So I came up with a walking schedule for both of us, and I thought I'd share some of my backyard with you.

You may enjoy clicking on a few of the following photos to see them in larger detail.

A woodsy walk 02
Wild rosemary in bloom
The idea is to take a little half hour walk three times a week.  Living on a crest, all local roads go down and end, so one has to walk back up the same road to finish.  That can get boring, but at least all the up and down is great for muscle tone.  We've now started driving to somewhere else on Sunday afternoons for a more serious walk.  Typically, the Doc scours Google Earth to find areas that interest him, which means I never have a clue just where we are going.  So far, it's been a great adventure, and we're learning about all kinds of areas we didn't know were there.

A woodsy walk 03
The Doc takes a walk
This week, we ended up just a few minutes from home, with the distant views the same as from our living room window.  We started off on this little trail right next to the main road, which led to another more major dirt road. 
A woodsy walk 04
Where will this expedition take us?

The view on our left hopefully shows a bit how the mountains have fingers leading down to sea level, with gulfs in between.  Notice that green roof right
in the middle of the photo.  We will see
it again later.

While the terrain is fairly rugged and
wild, we are still in close proximity to quite a bit of local habitation.  People tend to live everywhere!

A woodsy walk 05
Creative decor
A woodsy walk 06
When one isn't enough

One of the first fun things we came across were these obviously homemade entrance pots.  That's one way to get rid of excess rocks in your yard! 

We learned years ago that local homes weren't properly equipped without a concrete mixer (yes, we have one, too).  This home apparently needs two of them!

A woodsy walk 07
Levels and layers of nature

As we followed the road, constantly descending, this is the view we had.  It probably isn't what most people imagine when they think about the French Riviera. 

But we are only back less than 6 miles/10 km from the Med as the crow flies, while we started at about 1200 feet/ 365 meters high.

Notice the deep gulf between us and the finger on the other side.

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Typical scrub foliage
A woodsy walk 09
Stop and smell the rosemary
Most of the local vegetation includes various pines and oaks, but there are a few wild herbs, too.  It was really pleasant to find the very common rosemary in bloom, which seems to happen in February and October (I don't pay that much attention!).

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Thyme, thyme, where is the thyme?
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Why, it's pushing up through the tarmac.
It is also quite common to come across various forms of thyme just growing anywhere.  The wild is where all my garden thyme has come from, not any fancy nursery.  It grows on rocky hillsides; it even pokes out of asphalt roads!

A woodsy walk 10
Bay leaves in the wild
Another common herb in the wild is the laurel bay, and it's not unusual to come across them growing just anywhere.

So the next time you grab your can or jar of herbs for your soups or barbecues, you can think of me just going out into my garden or even nature to flavor my culinary concoctions.

A woodsy walk 13
Going up or going down?  This time, headed downward.
As we kept descending, we were reminded that at some point we were going to have to turn around and climb back up.  Circular routes are more fun, but we didn't have any map to show us if such a thing was going to be possible on this particular route.

But we figured that if this road was graded, it must lead to something interesting, even if just a house down in the middle of nowhere.

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Natural stone wall

Here is an example of the "pudding" the local ground is made of.  It seems to appear in veins, some of which are all over our property.  All these rocks are embedded in a concrete-like hard sand. 

A woodsy walk 15
Building a wall one stone at a time

While they hold the cut hillsides in place (most of the time,  but heavy rains will produce some spectacular landslides), we bought a jackhammer to tackle mastering our yard.

This property must have really ended up with a lot of pudding rocks.  This wall was really long!

A woodsy walk 16
Promenading in a big ditch

At the end of the graded road, we found a small water management plant!  We later found out that it was part of an 19th century canal to bring alpine river water down to the coast, a fairly massive feat. 

A lot of this canal seems to be buried, and that's what Doc Leo is walking beside.

The canal marked as far as we followed downward, as there was a limit to what we wanted to climb back up.

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Drainage from above . . .
A woodsy walk 18
. . . continuing to below

Along this route, we came across drainage channels for the heavy rains we get here.  On the left, you can see one currently draining over the covered canal. 

It was a quite narrow path here, so observing the continuing water path, shown on the right, did not give us a very secure feeling!

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Color, the promise of spring
A woodsy walk 20
Ancient refrigerator?

While most of what saw around us was just winter green, coming across this blooming valerian plant on one of the drainage channels was a real treat.

We also came across this abandoned concrete pit.  It's too small to be any kind of old foundation.  With no proof, I would say it could have been a refrigeration pit.  The ancients would fill these pits with water, then sink their food they needed to preserve with cold.  I'm not sure how they waterproofed anything, being before the age of plastic, but I have friends who grew up with this lifestyle. 

A woodsy walk 21
Will this lead to anywhere we'd like to be?

At the end of this flat path along the canal, we found another path leading upward.  Maybe we wouldn't have to just turn around and go back up the way we came after all.  There was no way in advance to know this trail was there, as it doesn't show up on any of our maps.

A woodsy walk 23
Checking out the strange humans
At the top of this path, we fortunately found ourselves back in civilization, and not that far from where we'd started.  Yay!  It can be risky coming up on the other side of a ditch, as we recently found out when we had a solid hour's walk to get back home!

This time, we came across the horse farm we'd parked near.  I thought you might enjoy how even the horses repose under olive trees around here.

A woodsy walk 22
Where it all began

From this other side, we could look back over to the side we'd started on.  Again, notice the green roof which also just happens to be right in the middle of the picture.

We passed that big house in the top right shortly after starting on our trek. 

You can't really see the big ditch we crossed to get to this side.

One thing that was rather interesting was the view we had before we got back to our car.  Here is the main road of our village, which is mostly spread out along one long road. 

A woodsy walk 24
View of our village from one end to the other
On the left, you can see the steeple of the church we live just below, while on the right, you can see the crane for the new construction of the complex where we have most town activities, including our dance class (a 20 minute walk).  Right in the middle is the town hall, where we go every month to the local art show vernissage.

A woodsy walk 25
Mediterranean skies
Coming from a major metropolis, and always living in fairly major cities, it has been a real experience for me to live in a fairly country village, right off the Med!

As for the walk itself, we went down  about 300 feet/90 meters and then back up in an hour and a half.

On a pretty wintery day, that was really a nice Sunday afternoon walk. 

Shortly after we got home, we were treated to this amazing sunset.


  1. This is great. You made the same resolution I did, to take longer walks and get more exercise. So we've extended our walks, can't say we get into the wild as much as you are, but we are moving around more, which is good. Fabulous sunset. Loved all your pictures.

  2. Sounds like a nicer walk than the last one! And what a seriously gorgeous sunset. My goodness. It is a fabulous riot of colors.


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