Carrières des Lumières

We were down in the south of France last September towing our caravan, Guillaume. One of Francine’s favourite entertainments is the Carrières des Lumières show at Les Baux de Provence in Les Alpilles.

Time for a few explanations. The French have something called a Crit’Air sticker for vehicles to show how clean, or otherwise, the exhaust emissions are. The stickers are cheap (about 4€) but can take a while to arrive in a foreign country. You do, however, pretty quickly receive an email with a temporary equivalent that can be printed off and used until the genuine article arrives. There are, I think, six levels of emissions and some towns have restrictions on the levels that are permitted. I hadn’t applied for a sticker ‘cos I thought we wouldn’t venture anywhere near a restricted zone.

However, once in the south, we spotted that there was a Crit’Air zone around Montpellier. (They are prone to change.) To get Francine over to Les Baux de Provence we’d have to cross Montpellier on the autoroute. I couldn’t imagine that the autoroute would be affected by the restrictions but I wasn’t certain and we chickened out. Poor Francine. Once back home I did apply for our car’s Crit’Air sticker which took about a month to arrive.

Now here we are with Frodo, our motorhome. We got him home just a week before setting sail to France but I immediately applied for his Crit’Air sticker. The email duly arrived with the temporary permit which I printed off. On the day before our ferry, we were making final preparations. I was about to put the temporary permit in when, surprise of surprises, our postman turned up with a French letter. 😀 I was amazed, the good ol’ French had managed to deliver it within a week, this time.

Frodo being legal, we made the journey to a campsite we know at Maussane-les-Alpilles, mainly so Francine could visit the Carrières des Lumières. The French love their son et lumière [sound and light] shows, which are usually nighttime shows around old monuments with actors and recorded accompanying sounds. The Carrières des Lumières shows are similar but are held in an old bauxite mine. The mining left huge, almost white, flat surfaces, including the floor, which make great projection surfaces. Each year the creators come up with sequences based on different artworks which they animate and project to accompanying music. This year there are two sequences: the Dutch Masters from Vermeer to Van Gogh, and the much more modern Mondrian.

Our campsite is just 4.5kms from the carrière. Having our bikes with us, we thought we’d cycle to it. The weather had other ideas, though. The campsite plan shows the direction from which the mistral blows; this is to help campers choose appropriate ways of pitching. As we know, the mistral blows down from the north. Sure enough, the mistral began to blow, gusting to 70kph. Our 4.5kms would be all uphill going north, so not only would we be cycling uphill, we’d also have a 70kph mistral in our faces, force feeding our gasping mouths with assorted insect life. Mind you, coming back down could be great fun.

PXL_20230623_102427584-013 miles? We decided to walk instead and set off a bonne heure at about 09:30. As expected, the walk took about an hour. We bought our tickets and enjoyed the show. We had to watch the Van Gogh section a couple of times ‘cos it gets Francine all emotional. It’s quite like the way one used to be able to stay sitting in a cinema and watch the film over again. It is quite unsettling walking on a slightly uneven floor with pictures moving over it. Here’s a few attempts at representative pictures which hopefully show something of the scale of the experience.


Scarce SwallowtailAs expected the wind-assisted walk back downhill was much more enjoyable. I intentionally hadn’t lugged my camera uphill but we did see several Cleopatras and Scarce Swallowtail butterflies on our return journey but they had to go unsnapped – we just enjoyed them. Cleopatras, incidentally, are like our Brimstones but with a large orange patch on the fore-wing upper side; quite delightful. Afterwards, I did snag a Scarce Swallowtail in the campsite so have that as a consolation prize.

Posted in 2023-06 France

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