View from the trail near Courbons

View from the trail near Courbons

Signpost along the trail; we hiked from Courbons to Thoad on Day 1

Signpost along the trail; we hiked from Courbons to Thoad on Day 1

I signed up for this guided hike for the chance to see Andy Goldsworthy’s sculptures, but I was blown away by the spectacular scenery.  On Day 1, we hiked from the village of Courbons to Thoard.  Our destination was the tiny Chapelle Saint Madeleine, perched near the summit of a hill/mountain, which featured a wall sculpture by Goldsworthy.

The marked trail took us up over the hilltops and gave us awesome views of the surrounding snow-capped mountains.  It continued through a forest of beech trees; the fallen beech leaves provided a soft, but slippery, cushion of padding on the path.  I was challenged to keep up with the group, all experienced and hearty hikers, but I was exhilarated at the same time to be in France, on this hike — a dream coming true.

View at the start of the hike, up from the village of Courbons

View at the start of the hike, up from the village of Courbons

Mistletoe along the trail -- it was a common sight

Mistletoe along the trail — it was a common sight

Wildflower (windflower?)

Wildflower (windflower?)

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Trail through a beech forest

Trail through a beech forest

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Near the end of the day’s hike, we approached the tiny Chapelle Saint Madeleine via a gravel road that passed lavender fields.  The chapel, like many of the buildings in this area, had a tile roof of the most pleasing orangy colors.  The tiles were held down with stones.  Inside, on the wall where the altar would have been, was a recessed elliptical-shaped space large enough to stand in.  Goldsworthy intended this as an introspective space, a contrast to the vast expanse of the vista looking down into the valley just outside the door.

The road to Chapelle Saint Madeleine near Thoard

The road to Chapelle Saint Madeleine near Thoard

Our destination for Day 1, Andy Goldsworthy's wall art in this chapel

Our destination for Day 1, Andy Goldsworthy’s wall art in this chapel

Tile roof, exquisite colors

Tile roof, exquisite colors

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Andy Goldsworthy wall sculpture, Chapelle Saint Madeleine

Andy Goldsworthy wall sculpture, Chapelle Saint Madeleine

View down the valley from the Chapelle Saint Madeleine

View down the valley from the Chapelle Saint Madeleine

The days final steps, walking to the cottage Bannette, our farmhouse lodging for the night

The day’s final steps, walking to the cottage Bannette, our farmhouse lodging for the night

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