Halfway up, the Alpilles in Les Baux served up stunning views of Provence. The valley was a green canvas on which shingle-roofed towns and winding roads were drawn. All these were framed by pale towering rocks misshapen by wind and water through the eons. I thought it was heaven until I read the overlook marker:
Standing at one end of the Les Baux valley, the Val d’Enfer, or Vale of Hell, exhibits its white sandstone cliffs sculpted by the elements. It gets its name from Dante’s description of “Hell” in his “Divine Comedy,” which was inspired by this very place. The gaping holes of the quarries, which have worked from ancient times to this day, amplify the strangely tormented appearance of this mineral landscape, carved into so many fantastic shapes.
This French folk song about dancing round and round on the bridge of Avignon had been fact-checked. The titular Pont Saint-Bénézet was deemed too narrow for such soirées. If anything, dancing would’ve taken place at the foot of the bridge. Our family dancercise sesh with the Zumbadoc, my Zumba instructor slash doctor brother, was not entirely out of place. He found a spot across a bed of lavender by Avignon’s famous bridge.
That this engineering and architectural wonder was built almost 2,000 years ago was no mean feat in itself. That it had survived largely intact to this day was the jaw-dropper. Like many extant Roman edifices around the Mediterranean, Pont du Gard in Southern France had remained a well-preserved monument up to our time.
The City of Light wasted no time showing its dark side. I got a full Paris treatment within 24 hours of my arrival. Friends had told me enough cautionary tales to get my guard up as soon as I got off the Thalys from Amsterdam. I went to Paris with eyes wide open, not to go sightseeing through rose-colored glasses. “Je ne vois pas la vie en rose.”
Female energy – girl power, as my favorite band of all time proclaimed – pervaded my visit to the Louvre Museum. Although the artworks I saw were created by men, their female subjects exuded different facets of the fairer sex. Among thousands of pieces in the world’s largest art museum, ultimately, these women depicted in sculpture and painting left a lasting impression on me.
Den Haag, the Netherlands / Le Puy-Sainte-Reparade, France / Casablanca and Tangier, Morocco
June 10 / 15 / 19, 2019
More than 3,000 kilometers from Amsterdam to Marrakesh. That was how much distance I covered in my epic trip to celebrate my 50th birthday and the 10th anniversary of my blog and alter ego – TTT (The Transcendental Tourist).
Three countries and 15 cities by land. That was how intimately I was acquainted with my itinerary as I traversed almost the entire stretch through railway and highway, but mostly on foot – save for one flight across the Mediterranean.