Back to Nature Trip: Erika Roberts

Attending a trip for the Marchutz School of Art, I had an ideal day visiting the village of Bonnieux, hiking through Lacoste to Les Bories and touring the Abbey of Senanque. It was a “back to nature” experience where we studied natural architecture and foliage viewed from an artistic standpoint. We began our day touring through the countryside, the first stop was Bonnieux. The bus dropped us off about half a mile out from the village. We hiked along the road with our sketchbooks, trying to take in our surroundings. Bonnieux is burrowed within the side of a mountain looking out onto a deep valley. It is very pretty with all the buildings popping out of the side of the mountain. As we hiked towards the village we talked with the professors about the greenery, and how harmonious it was with Bonnieux. We also spoke about the colors of the valley blending artistically and how the entire village was forged from nearby stone. The focus of the lecture during the trip was to learn more about nature and to remove oneself from society.

We toured Bonnieux and took in how amazing the buildings were.  It was so tranquil, like a step back in time. The buildings were charming and aged; the old shutters and tiny doors made me feel as if I walking through a Disney movie. The village was similar to Aix in the way that it was historic, but so much better because it wasn’t a city. Here, the French people were friendly. I spent part of the afternoon soaking up the culture at a petite street café. The next destination was Lacoste.

We travelled through wine country, very pretty, until we came to a smaller village atop another mountain, called Lacoste. I really like coming here. It was out in the middle of nowhere, you feel like you’re so detached from the rest of the world. From here we began hiking into the forest, down into the woods we went off the path to find a clearing. The woods were dense; being out there reminded me of going camping. We had lunch in the middle of the forest, laying in the grass, and talking about nature. This hike was just the beginning, the group began going farther into the mountain on a nature excursion. We made our own path pushing through trees and brush. The art professor had said we would be “bush wacking” but I had no idea it was going to be that intense. It was fun though being in the true outdoors like that, it was unexpected, like going on a safari in the middle of nowhere. Eventually we came to a borie. Les Bories are circular homes made of stone. The stone isn’t cemented together at all; just the weight is holding the entire structure. It’s honestly amazing when you see one. The stones are coiled atop one another similarly to the shape of an igloo. We went inside the home and sat in a circle of silence. It was done so that you feel a connection with the space, like your absorbing it’s history. It was nice actually, you feel like you’re connected to the person that once lived there.

The last part of the excursion was the Abbey of Senanque Monastery. The monastery was really different. I’ve seen many cathedrals, but never a monastery.  The design gives the building such a presence. The design was intended to be simple, a place of worship and peace. And the interior is very simple, but the size of the space makes it amazing. The rooms are so large that your voice is amplified. You could be talking in one corner of the Nave and someone all the way in the back would be able to hear you because of the way the space carries your voice. In the beginning we had a period of silence to take in our surroundings. Every room in the monastery led to the courtyard. It is located in the center and lined with columns and a rose garden with a fountain. That was my favorite place; I would be able to sit there all day if I could. Outside of the monastery are the lavender fields where the monks would work. But inside, is the best. When you’re walking around you feel secluded from the rest of the world, the building really does make you feel peaceful. It is something you have to do to believe.

Looking back, I really enjoyed the trip. It was a little intense with the “bush whacking” but I felt like my awareness grew, as if I knew nature better. I felt like we were on a soul searching mission through the forest.  It meant more to me maybe more than other people because I am so consciences about green design and sustainability so I really liked hearing about the historic architecture and the materials. It was what I hope to accomplish as a designer, to bring simplicity back. I’m glad I went on the trip.

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