Thursday, July 7, 2016

Sainte-Victoire Hike

My wife and I had a break in Aix-en-Provence for a few days with one of her relatives. I took the opportunity to go for a hike on Sainte-Victoire for one of the days.

Sainte-Victoire is a famous mountain just outside Aix. It's an escarpement - the north slopes are gentle but the south face is a series of limestone cliffs. It was a favorite subject of Paul Cezanne's paintings.

This really isn't a good time for hiking in the area - it's too hot. Today was forecast to be 35 degrees (95 in old money). The most interesting hikes are on the south side, but I did one that climbed up the north side and set off early to minimize discomfort. The hike was hot but bearable; the landscape (limestone cliffs and plateau) was very interesting.

Some pics

Monday, July 4, 2016

Lima Charlie - my coolest ride so far!

I got to fly a Pegase sailplane today and it was very nice. It's a single-seater and, while it's not exactly a high perf beast, it's definitely more than a training 'mule'. 

Thin wings and retractable undercarriage reduce drag and increase performance. It flies very nicely in the air; the controls are light and direct. There seems to be less need to use the rudder to keep it flying symmetrically in a thermal than with other gliders I've flown. It was also very comfortable, with decent storage for water, food, camera etc (very unusual for a sailplane). I also liked having a beeping vario!

I had a nice flight of just under 4 hours, flying a nice little 100 km triangle. The sky was blue when I took off and I struggled for 15 minutes or so to gain altitude. But from then on there were some clouds and things got easier. Even better, I landed on runway 10 for the first time and it was quite a nice landing (at least, by my not very exacting standards...).

Some pics and explanations.

The Plateau of Valensole

I drive across the Plateau de Valensole to get to my sailplane club; it's a stunningly beautiful place. It's flat and open but the Alps (well, the Prealps) start right beside it. Wheat, almonds, olives and sunflowers are all grown there, but it is most famous for the lavender (strictly speaking it's lavendin, a commercial varient of lavender). 

It blooms in the summer months and has pretty much reached its peak. Especially in the evening, the scent of lavender and buzz of bees seems to be everywhere (lavender honey is excellent). The tourist season is also at its peak also and they all seem to want one thing - the perfect picture of them strolling in the lavender fields. You frequently see Asian couples dressed as for their wedding out in the fields.

One thing that is striking is how open it all is. None of the fields are fenced in, there are no 'No Trespassing' signs and I've never seen anyone get annoyed with the tourists. This is quite a contrast to what you'd expect to find in the States and it reflects very well on the locals.

A few pics.