En Plein Air, Pyrénées

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En Plein Air Painter, Gavarnie, France

En Plein Air Painter, Gavarnie, France

The Pyrénées are a rugged and majestic mountain range joining France and Spain together with culture.

An old culture of mountain villages, sheep, pilgrimage, Basques, tourism, hiking, skiing, and healing.

It is the home of Les Pyrénées Parc National   http://www.parc-pyrenees.com/ 

We visited Gavarnie in the fall after the busy season. The massive glacial basin of the Cirque de Gavarnie is an easy walk from the village. The cirque is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The national park not only permits sheep grazing, but it also honors the traditions of the mountain shepherds and culture of the movement of the herds from villages to the high mountain pastures and back.

We were able to be in Luz-St-Sauveur for the festival of the return of the herds. It was a day of music, sheep-shearing, friendship, singing, wine, and celebration. The mountain cycle was completed for another year.

Gavarnie is a small village that is very convenient for day hiking or longer mountain walks. There are mountain huts and well-marked trails. We got lucky with the weather and found beautiful, empty, mountain meadows with commanding views of the cirque basin and La Grande Cascade. The Cascade is the tallest waterfall in Europe and is fed by glacial melt water in the eastern part of the cirque.

These quiet meadows were perfect places for picnics. We could easily carry bread, cheese, yogurt, fruit, and a small bottle of red wine on the steep trails. The weather was warm and the breezes helped carry the sounds of the Cascade and the sheep bells from the high meadows across the canyon.

On our walk to a picnic site on the west side of the canyon we came across the painter in this photo. He had composed a beautiful scene from that stream-side vantage point. The old stone bridge made an interesting feature in the foreground and the blue sky of the Pyrénées complimented the lush green pastures and forest. The stream is the runoff from the Cascade. The Pyrénées are a beautiful and interesting part of France. It is a place to celebrate mountain culture. Photo: 1/350 s at f/3.4.

You can see more photos of France in the Photo Gallery at my website: www.earthmapphoto.com

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