I was one of the unlucky travelers that was caught in the wake of last Wednesdays eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland. This was a particularly nasty eruption, as far as aircraft go, because it occurred underneath a glacier. What this means is that as soon as the eruption occurred, the melting glacial water poured into the crater and turned the magma into tiny glass particles; which then rose up in the eruption plume. Volcanic ash is not a good thing for aircraft in any of its forms, but as tiny glass particles it was particularly bad, since once taken into a jet engine, they act like tiny abrasives on all the moving parts, which could lead to a cooked engine, which could lead to a very cold swim - or worse. So, that's what all the travel commotion in the US/Europe corridor has been about for the last 4 days.
I was over in the far Eastern side of France, in Annecy, for business reasons. I was going to fly home on Saturday out of Paris CdG; after taking a train from Annecy to Paris on Friday night. Enter the French train strike! My train was canceled, and just when I getting ready to get irritated about that, they closed CdG due to the volcanic eruption. Then they closed, London, then Frankfurt, then Amsterdam, then Nice, then Milan, etc., etc. Not a great prognosis for getting back home anytime soon.
But the Spanish airports were still open (there's always a solution, the challenge is to find it)
So, there was an airport, now we needed a plane. Commercial flights were out, but we found another alternative that looked viable. Next topic; how to get across France and into the nearest Spanish airport; Barcelona? The answer, 9 hours by car.
So, off we headed from Annecy to Barcelona; first South, then West. Three cars, nine people. As we proceeded, I realized that we were going to be traveling through Jean-Paul's (jbbfly) (aka "J-P") area of France; Languedoc. Armed with my trusty BlackBerry camera phone, I decided to snap a couple of shots to show you what the area looks like. Granted, the options for photoing this area were not great; particularly since my photo vehicle was the dirty windshield of the car that I was riding in (I was riding "shotgun", so my view wasn't too bad).
Here we go and, up front, I'm going to ask Jean-Paul to please post some better pics of his area and to clarify anything that I state that is incorrect.
Here's what I was leaving; Annecy:
Cruising down the A9; about 130 kpm. Here's the sign for J-P's area; as you can also see, we were heading as quickly as possible to Barcelona. [Click on the pics to get a larger image from Photobucket]
The area, for me, was somewhat flat and hot. This was mid-April, it must get pretty hot there in the Summer months. We weren't close to the Mediterranean, since the A9 is pretty much of a straight shot across the South of France an into the Pyrenees Mountains that separate Southwestern France from Spain (I guess you can also count Andorra in the mix).
Here's a little shot of the countryside; trust me, you're going to have to squint and use your imagination to get much out of these camera-phone pics at 130 kpm:
Here's another; they had what looked like some nice fruit trees just coming into bloom:
And, of course, what would France be without the noble grape? There were many vineyards planted right up against the highway. Seemed like an ideal climate to me. With appellations like: Gres de Montpellier, Terrasses do Beziers, Terres de Somminiers, etc., I really wanted to partake in the local wine fare; but, no time to do it. Look real hard, this is a tough one to see:
I messaged J-P as we were cruising though his neck of the woods; I would have loved to be able to stop by to meet he and his wife, Tiana. But, we both reaffirmed that we'll do our best to get together to fish some time this Spring/Summer. I've heard a lot about Chub and Dace, now I need to hook into one, or two, or three.
But, as Robert Frost said in his Poem Stopping By the Woods on a Snowy Evening
, "I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep". And was that ever the truth; I arrived back in the US last night at 2:30AM!
We'll do it J-P, your area looks nice to me. I did pass over one or two small rivers on the A9, and I think I may have seen a rise!