A Vagabond Travel Day With Sheep in Provence

by Sheron Long on May 30, 2013

Blocks spelling "Wing It," showing the value of vagabond travel

Wing it and find the surprise of the unknown.
© Sheron Long

Off the Beaten Path, Life Is Full of Surprises

It never fails. The day I decide to wing it and wander away from the travel itinerary is the day that etches the best memories in my mind.

Maybe it’s because I’m here in France where being a flâneur (stroller, wanderer, vagabond in a good sense) is valued, much like an art form. Maybe it’s because the unexpected surprises of life put a bigger smile on my face.

No matter, in many an “Oh, I see” moment, I’ve learned that making space for vagabond travel days is essential to a well-planned itinerary.

Wall-to-Wall Sheep

Yesterday was no exception. I wandered into our village and noticed a crowd gathering on the street. Something told me to forget about the quest for croissants and take up a position.

It was the Transhumance, the day that shepherds take their flocks from the lowlands to the highlands where food is more plentiful this time of year. Can you imagine the sight—3,000 sheep in the street?

Sheep moving through Saint-Rémy-de-Provence and showing bystanders that life is full of surprises

Border collies and shepherds led the flock into town.
© Sheron Long

Before you saw the massive amount of wool, you heard the sheep coming. They baa-ed and bleated their way through town.

Sheep moving through Saint-Rémy-de-Provence and showing bystanders that life is full of surprises

Noisy sheep with loud bells!

The troop progressed, some showing off horns and pom-poms. I gawked at the wool that went wall-to-wall, and I loved the surprise of it all!

Sheep moving through Saint-Rémy-de-Provence and showing bystanders that life is full of surprises

The flock filled the street in our village with wall-to-wall wool.
© Sheron Long

Aside from the annual procession in Saint-Rémy, other parades of animals—sheep, cattle, and horses—are part of the celebration of Marseille-Provence as the 2013 European Capital of Culture. Transhumance events continue through the region until June 9, 2013, when they culminate in a large parade through Marseille.

Off the Beaten Path

In such public parades, however, I realized that the sheep were coming to me, somewhat out of place on a street. Surely, there was a way I could go to them for an even more authentic experience.

I could feel wanderlust taking over, and the plan for the next couple of days was shot.

Armed with wheels, feet, and a wing-it attitude, I began to explore the back roads of Provence in the rain, looking for wide open spaces that could house the troops of sheep as they made their way through the region.

I ran across shepherds participating in sheepdog trials, helicopters flying overhead to document troop movement from the air, bivouacs of horseback riders, and pens of big and baby bulls.

But it was on unknown land where the road ended past the Étang des Aulnes in Saint-Martin-de-Crau that I found what I was looking for—a troop of sheep munching away at the end of their day and delivering quiet baas to punctuate the rhythm of the rain.

Sheep grazing in Provence, seen on a vagabond travel day and showing that life is full of surprises

Sheep ending their day in the rain, unaware of villages and processions
© Sheron Long

I stood in the rain and took it all in, feeling now like I had the fuller picture. Then the shepherd, dressed in a robe of old, raised his left hand, a sign to his faithful border collies to take the sheep home. They were gone in an instant, it seemed, and it was one I’m glad I didn’t miss.

Provence shepherd, seen on a vagabond travel day and showing that life is full of surprises

A shepherd in Provence with two border collies and other faithful herding dogs
© Sheron Long

For more on how travel makes us happy, see this CNN travel article by Winnie So. 

Comment on this post below, or inspire insight with your own OIC Moment here.

 
Comments:

One thought on “A Vagabond Travel Day With Sheep in Provence

  1. These photos could have been taken fifty years ago, a hundred years ago. Somethings don’t change. Isn’t that great?

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