Follow the Yellow Brick Road…

We’re going to take a quick detour from Venice – don’t worry, we’ll return real soon, and I’ll share some excellent sweet Venetian addresses here on the blog.  Back from Italy, I found myself in France this past weekend, thinking only about seeing my in-laws, savoring la bonne cuisine de ma belle-mère (traditional French cuisine) and bringing back boxes of stuff I had left there.  But in the car on the way there, we forgot all of that – and could not take our eyes off of the landscape around us (attention to the driver!).  To our left, to the right and far ahead of us, it was all… yellow.

Colza / Rapeseed, French Countryside

All weekend long, I asked my family to think of one object – anything – to describe the yellow color to others.  Yellow like… <fill in the blank>.  Nothing.  Crayola doesn’t even have a shade this bright and powerful.  All I could come up with was a fluorescent yellow highlighter pen.  Think of the ink – or better yet, paint cans full of it – just spilling out over the French countryside, filling fields to all corners.  A color like this, of purely natural origin.  It takes your breath away.

Colza / Rapeseed, French Countryside Colza / Rapeseed, French CountrysideColza / Rapeseed, French Countryside Colza / Rapeseed, French Countryside

So what is it?  They are fields of rapeseed flowers (colza en français) whose black seeds give us rapeseed oil, perhaps more commonly referred to as canola oil (Canada oil).  It is a heart-healthy vegetable oil used for cooking, quite versatile in the kitchen, with a subtle nutty flavor.  More exciting (to me) than the oil though, were the endless fields we saw on our drive from Zürich to France, about an hour southwest of Paris in the region called Les Yvelines.

Colza / Rapeseed, French Countryside Colza / Rapeseed, French Countryside

I felt as if we were following the famous Yellow Brick Road of Dorothy’s adventure in the 1939 classic “Wizard of Oz.”  Only, our brick road was France’s autoroute A6!  The 700 km drive didn’t feel long since we were fully entertained with the scenery around us. The first leg towards the French border was filled with green fields, spotted with cows and sheep, and people walking with ski poles.  As we drove through Burgundy, it was pure yellow, a burst of color like when the film first went technicolor.  Vineyards here and there, and little stone houses looking as if they were dropped from above down on to the fields.  We then crossed the Morvan mountains and it was green once again, dense areas of trees reminding me of the Black Forest, but here the color was a vibrant lime green instead.  The mountains behind us, it was yellow again!  Mistletoe trees, horses and cows grazing in the fields, little villages with a church steeple stretching up above the roofs of houses. And that color, just beautiful. 

Colza / Rapeseed, French Countryside Colza / Rapeseed, French CountrysideColza / Rapeseed, French Countryside Colza / Rapeseed, French Countryside

Colza / Rapeseed, French Countryside

The period when the rapeseed flowers are in bloom is rather short, so if you have access to this landscape, I highly recommend taking advantage now, and enjoying the unique scenery.  Like we did below…

Colza / Rapeseed, French Countryside

… And back in Zürich at the local Coop, guess what is on promotion…?!  


Huile de Colza, Coop, Switzerland Huile de Colza, Coop, Switzerland

24 Responses to “Follow the Yellow Brick Road…”

  1. Amanda says:

    Gorgeous photos! Yellow is one of those colors that makes me smile!

  2. Kerrin says:

    I totally agree Amanda! And so does my husband — not only was he thrilled to be in France with his family… but yellow is his favorite color ! 🙂 Smiles all around !

  3. Lani says:

    FANTASTIC……a few years back riding on a train in France I saw these fields of yellow flowers and wanted to stop but nooooooo…..and so you have brought me back to the most wonderful, breathtaking view I saw. The photos that you have posted are so alive with can almost touch them. How fabulous….just fabulous….

  4. Jack says:

    Nicely done Kerrin…It’s amazing to me how these plants always come into full bloom right on the 1st of May. Did you happen to catch their ‘wonderful’ aroma?

  5. Kerrin says:

    Thanks Jack. I forgot that the beginning of May would have those yellow fields, so it came as quite the surprise. Next year, I’ll be ready! I understand colza is known to have a real distinctive and pungent aroma, but I didn’t really experience that. When you smell the flower up close, you don’t get that aroma in fact. I guess it’s just from afar, the field as a whole… what do you think ?

  6. michele says:

    i don’t recall ever seeing this color…AMAZING!!!! I did a bike tour in the loire valley in high school and i’ll never forget the fields of sunflowers.

  7. Jack says:

    The aroma…hmm… The best way to describe it…well, bad cabbage. I’m surprised you didn’t catch it, but then again there was so much of it around you and perhaps you just adjusted to it (a human defense I think). Anyway, the plant itself is actually a hybrid from the cabbage family and mustard family, with of course, strong aromas to match. Much of the flavor/aroma is lost in refined canola oil, but unrefined can still have quite a distinct pungency.

  8. Kerrin says:

    Hmm, mustard + cabbage. And bad cabbage at that! Ok Jack, that does sound less than wonderful! 🙂 So weird that we didn’t smell that. I mean, we were surrounded!! I even remember my mother-in-law putting her nose in one of the plants and wondering what it smells like – we all got nuthin’ ! hmph. But yes, maybe we were hanging out on those fields for a bit too long, ha ha!! 😉

  9. andrea says:

    Pictures so beautiful, it hurts. 🙂 I don’t think I ever put together that “raps” (german) were Canola Oil! All this time driving through those stunningly beautiful fields…. thanks for the teaching moment, again.

  10. Sarah Musi says:

    Those of us in the art world call that “hansa yellow” – a very pale and bright yellow with green tones. Most painters use “cadmium yellow” but that is slightly more orange. Beautiful pictures as always!

  11. Steve says:

    Those pictures are absolutely gorgeous. You captured the beauty of the scenery, and of course, the excitement of the yellow color. It’s like stepping into paintings, honest. That one shot of your family walking in the shade of the trees, with the brilliance of the yellow fields all around them, captures so many emotions, it’s pretty spectacular. Bravo.

  12. Kelleyn says:

    How clever! I never thought about the field upon field of these flowers as being the yellow brick road. I always wanted a picture of these fields, but never could get my husband to pull over so that I could take a picture of them. They really are beautiful.

  13. florence says:

    Jaune, yellow, amarelo, gelb,…J’en connais un qui a du être heu-reux!
    Je vais montrer toutes ces belles photos à son filleul.
    En tous les cas, ça sent bon la campagne!

  14. Niko says:

    Great pics! Ahh.. Europe.

  15. jkiel says:

    Thanks for clearing up one of our travel mysteries, when we were near Aigle a couple of years ago, we saw lots of fields like these, and tried to find out what it was…all we were told is that it was a “cereal” plant – whatever THAT meant! 😉
    Great shots, as usual too! Thanks!

  16. jen laceda says:

    I’m so jealous of this wonderful road trip experience! Yellow makes me feel happy!

  17. Julia @ Mélanger says:

    France is one of my favourite places in the world. Your photos are just amazing. Thank you for sharing. If I can’t holiday everyday, at least I can discover a few new places through you! 🙂

  18. Leigh says:

    Your pictures are so beautiful! I can just imagine what it would have been like to be there. Love all the Venice pics too!

  19. Catherine Bardrick says:

    Yes it truly is a vibrant and almost too lurid a yellow to be natural… yellow oil paint on an artist’s pallette is the nearest i can get too…great photos

  20. russ says:

    looks awesome! wow! would love to see that in person! keep up the great work kerrin

  21. Stéphanie says:

    Ah la la le Colza (j’ai l’âme poête ce soir tiens).
    Quand on en voit avec Naïs j’ai toujours la même remarque : “mamaaaaaaaaaaa, du colza, tu sais on fait de l’huile et de l’essence avec ces fleurs”… comme nous bougeons beaucoup c’est presque tous les jours que j’entends ça!!!!

    Le champ de colza jaune, le ciel bleu… de quoi rappeler de bons souvenirs de cuisine à M. ton époux;)

    Que deux commentaires en français??? :d

  22. katy says:

    I live in Luxembourg and can see some fields from my front door. I found your blog (which I’m now subscribed to) searching for info about the yellow fields – I did not know what k ind of crop they were. Your post was most informational and I used it to help me write my own. I love your blog and appreciate you sharing the addresses of your fav spots. We’re off to Grindelwald in a few weeks. I’m very excited.

  23. sno says:

    was looking for the name of the brilliant yellow flowers in the fields of france, and your post here provided me with the answer i was looking for – so i’ve linked you from my post to thank you for that! 🙂 merci beaucoup!

  24. Sharon says:

    Yes indeed, these fields are a beautiful–yet mysterious–sight. We saw them in May of 2012 and did not know what they were until arriving back home in the USA. I know a man from Switzerland and I asked him about it. He gave me the name of the flowers. I think they only bloom for about 2 weeks at the end of May.

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