You find yourselves walking amidst a foreign landscape, like cowboys in a Colorado setting. Any moment an angry pack of indians could leap over the dark red mountain top and descend on you. The sun beats down on this exotic landscape and reveals fifty shades of ochre. But you’re not in Colorado. You’re in Roussillon, France.
It doesn’t take much of an imagination or knowledge of the French language to discover why they call it Rouge–illon when you approach this Provencial Pearl. Or rather terracotta gemstone. Like so many of the other charming villages of the Luberon valley, it sits atop of a small mountain. Patient, persistent and pleasantly it overlooks the lush, green valley and can nod its head to its enamoring neighbours: Gordes, Ménerbes, Lacoste and Bonnieux. It’s a delight to sit here yourself and enjoy a view on the side of a cup of coffee. No wonder it has been designated one of the Plus Beaux Villages de France.
This scenery is truly to fall in love with and it’s quite understandable, that the region has been declared Parc Naturel Régional du Luberon. One of the consequences of being a Natural Park is, that new economic activities may only be developed if they are sustainable. Good news for the environment, the local people and travellers like us, who appreciate an unharmed, natural landscape.
Fifty Shades of Ochre
Roussillon is famous for its rich deposits of ochre pigments found in the clay all around the village. From the end of the 18th century until 1930, there were large quarries mining the ochre, and thousands of people worked here. Today, the mining of ochre is prohibited in order to protect the sites from degradation, but you can visit a previous ochre factory, that has been formed into a Conservatoire – a museum and workshop.
The best way to experience the fifty shades of ochre however, is to walk Le Sentier des Ocres, the Ochre Trail, that winds 1.5 km through a landscape, that looks like Colorado. It’s 2.5€ to visit, but it’s worth the cost because the money is used for conservation of this unique landscape. So that our grandchildren also can walk amidst these red hills and fantasize about indians…
And I promised 50 shades of ochre, right: