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An American Provence

By Thomas P. Huber

Publication Year: 2011

“I have talked about luscious wines and succulent fruit and exquisite dinners. But there may be no more evocative experience of the two valleys than the smell of new-mown hay in the fields at dusk. If a person were to close their eyes, they could not tell if they were in Provence or the North Fork Valley. That sweet, earthy odor is part of the beauty of these places.”—From An American Provence

In this poetic personal narrative, Thomas P. Huber reflects on two seemingly unrelated places—the North Fork Valley in western Colorado and the Coulon River Valley in Provence, France—and finds a shared landscape and sense of place. What began as a simple comparison of two like places in distant locations turned into a more complex, interesting, and personal task. Much is similar—the light, the valleys, the climate, the agriculture. And much is less so—the history, the geology, the physical makeup of villages. Using a geographer’s eye and passion for the land and people, Huber examines the regions’ similarities and differences to explore the common emotional impact of each region. Part intimate travelogue and part case study of geography in the real world, An American Provence illuminates the importance sense of place plays in who we are.

Published by: University Press of Colorado


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pp. 1-6

When I went off after high school to get a college degree, it was pretty clear that my father wanted me to be a professional of some sort—a medical doctor would have been best, but a dentist (like my dad) or even an engineer would have been acceptable as long as I could make a good living and people would respect...

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1. Places

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pp. 7-32

Because I am a geographer, I cannot stop looking at, thinking about, or visiting places. Perhaps some kind of genetic disorder compels me to go to places, to study places, to compare places. Other geographers appear to share my malady, and they tend to use the word...

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2. The Land

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pp. 33-54

What struck me so powerfully that morning in Hotchkiss and sent my mind flying to Provence was the way the land looked and how that view affected my memories and geographic instincts. There was the long east-west valley below me, with its...

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3. Villages

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pp. 55-88

he physical geography of place is the indisputable foundation upon which I have constructed the common vision of two like landscapes. But the human concentrations in the small towns and villages add a critical aspect to the two regions that is essential to our understanding and appreciation of their similarities...

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4. Wine

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pp. 89-110

Some people actually read those large, detailed tomes written about wine. These several-hundredpage volumes usually try to cover all major wines from around the world and look at every significant wineproducing region. Thousands of places need to be discussed...

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5. Food

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pp. 111-130

The sharing of a meal with friends or family is one of the most universal joys nearly all cultures possess. Something about a communal dinner, lunch, or even breakfast often brings out the best in conversation, interesting discussion, laughter, and thought. This might...

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6. Signatures

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pp. 131-140

uch of this book looks at the many similarities that exist between the two valleys—nearly the same climate, nearly the same landscape, nearly the same cultural, social, and economic commitment to a place. But each of these places, and really every place...

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7. Hiking

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pp. 141-156

I have just been looking at a hiking map for the Grand Mesa—the big, flat-topped, volcanic mountain that defines the northern horizon of the North Fork Valley. The map was produced by one of the world’s great geographic organizations, and I have nothing but respect...

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8. La Cheville (The Ankle) Incident

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pp. 157-166

Bastille Day, that celebration of “Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité.” Our special French July 14 dawned somewhat cooler and fresher than the hot, sultry days before. It was almost invigorating—well, as invigorating as the low nineties in intense sunshine can be. Up to this point we had...

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9. Landscape Miscellanea

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pp. 167-178

hen a book such as this is written, the big picture of a place usually stands out and is the dominant theme. That is invariably appropriate. But sometimes this larger view begs for some little-­picture scenarios that give the text a more human inclination...

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10. The Finish/C'est Fini

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pp. 179-186

I repeat Proust’s quote because it was an appropriate start to the book, but it is an even more suitable closing. The basic characteristics of landscapes have been outlined innumerable times and in various ways by geographers anthropologists, and landscape architects. But basically, a...


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pp. 187-188

E-ISBN-13: 9781607321514
E-ISBN-10: 1607321513
Print-ISBN-13: 9781607321507
Print-ISBN-10: 1607321505

Page Count: 224
Illustrations: 8 color photos, 44 b&w photos
Publication Year: 2011

OCLC Number: 763160595
MUSE Marc Record: Download for An American Provence

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Subject Headings

  • Landscape assessment -- France -- Coulon River Region.
  • Geographical perception -- Colorado -- Gunnison River Valley.
  • Landscape assessment -- Colorado -- Gunnison River Valley.
  • Gunnison River Valley (Colo.) -- Geography.
  • Coulon River Region (France) -- Geography.
  • Geographical perception -- Colorado -- Paonia Reservoir.
  • Paonia Reservoir (Colo.) -- Geography.
  • Landscape assessment -- Colorado -- Paonia Reservoir.
  • Geographical perception -- France -- Coulon River Region.
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