Springs: Fontaine de Vaucluse and Fontcaudette


Here in Provence, the landscape is shaped by the limestone hills. The limestone is quarried to provide stone for the houses and walls and the hills also act as a giant reservoir. Rain is absorbed by the limestone and partially dissolves it to create underground pools and channels where the water flows downhill to emerge as springs.
La Fontaine de Vaucluse, pictured above, is the largest in Europe. Its water comes to the surface in a huge cavern after travelling for kilometres through the limestone hills. It lies in a deep blue green pool under a towering limestone cliff and seeps through the rocks at its lip to form the Sorgue River. The river races down the hill, increasing in size as more springs feed into it, to the village of Fontaine de Vaucluse and on to irrigate orchards before flowing through Isles- sur- Sorgues.

The water is clean and clear and rushes and swirls over gravel, rocks and brilliant green water weed. Huge old plane trees shade the stream and the path beside it where people walk up to view the cavernous source.image

Restaurant Philip is on a terrace beside the water. I love to sit right at its edge and look through the water to the gravel bottom and watch the water surge into this section from about five or six channels. Some ducks play in the current and upend themselves looking for food near the opposite bank. I can see every detail of their paddling feet. Long, thin, leafy plane tree branches overhang. All you can hear is rushing water.imageimage

On the other hand, the spring at Fontcaudette, pictured above, is tiny and trickles from a dark hole under a rock wall. It has been formalized a bit by some stone walling creating a small pond for the hameau, probably about five or six house originally. The water flows in a little channel through the garden of Les Romarins and down in to the vegetable garden below our hedge. There are a lot of black polythene garden irrigation pipes involved.

The difference between the two springs is just a matter of scale.

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