Sunday, 14 August 2016

Roadside treasure

Poppies growing on wasteland among the olive trees.
One of the real pleasures in living for part of the year in rural France, is exploring on foot the many little roads and pathways that cross the countryside.
Breathing deeply: the scent of broom in full flower.
For not only do they take you to places you would never otherwise go, but you are accompanied in such style – by the roadside flowers.

Earlier this summer, an Aussie friend staying in Les Arcs-sur-Argens remarked on the variety of flowers and herbs growing in the fields and beside the roads and footpaths.

We arrived in May this year  to poppies of all variety of red, orange and pink unfolding their petals and bobbing in the breeze from rock faces, railway lines, pieces of disused ground and under cultivated olive trees.

The poppies – which I especially love – Lined the roadways wherever we walked.
Tiny flowers on the rock face along the gorge.
Yellow broom, also in flower, scented our path.

Then in June they were replaced by cornflowers that bent and waved their heads in the wind like a constantly moving sea of blue.

After the cornflowers came the intricate little white crocheted doilies of the Queen Anne’s Lace (or ‘Cow Parsley’ in southern England), pushing up wherever they could find room, but especially in an old vineyard among the sadly untended vines.
Then just before our return, the same field turned yellow as the white flowers produced an abundance of pollen and the entire golden carpet came alive with the buzzing of bees.

Even our trip to the Gorges of Verdon was marked by the little flowers pushing up between the inhospitable rocks along that precipitous drive.
Sometimes you find an 'added extra' on your path.
One of my most precious memories – something I could not photograph – was a very special scent.

It made me appreciate the fact that the people of Provence – famous for its exquisite perfumes – must grow up surrounded by this olfactory treat.

While walking down to the hypermarket, I saw a workman mowing the edges of the road. I love the smell of newly-cut grass, but instead of that particular scent, I caught the full panoply of freshly-cut herbs.

The roadside herbage is incredible – rosemary, thyme, fennel, occasionally a spike of lavender, other herbs I could not identify – but the scent really is as powerful as if you were holding a fresh bouquet of Herbes de Provence.
The delicate Queen Anne's Lace.
And whether you are walking on a tarmac roadside, or strolling along the gravel path up and over the hill towards the next village of Taradeau – or bush-bashing your way along tiny goat tracks from the Font du Loup up to the giant electricity pylon high above the Argens valley – you can be certain of finding something inexplicably beautiful at your feet.

You just have to follow your nose.


  1. Yes we forget about the smell of places when we're sealed up in our cars looking out the window, but it's the scents that really take you back to the experience.

  2. Oh the memories, the way the flora just finds a place to grow and gets on with it! A beautiful blog about a beautiful place, thanks Jan xxx