Colorado Springs writer finds similarities between North Fork, France region

“An American Provence” by Thomas P. Huber, University Press of Colorado, 224 pages, $29.95.



(University Press of Colorado, 224 pages, $29.95) by Thomas P. Huber

The North Fork Valley in Delta County and the Coulon River Valley in Provence, France, are worlds apart, at least as the crow flies.

But Thomas P. Huber, a geography professor at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, manages to bring the two seemingly far-flung regions together in his book, “An American Provence.”

In its pages, the Huber points out that there are numerous unexpected similarities between the two regions.

“When I am in Hotchkiss or Paonia, I cannot help thinking about Provence; when in Provence I repay the compliment by using these places in western Colorado as my comparative landscape,” Huber writes. “Both of these places are political and cultural outliers. Neither place is central to the life of its society at large. Rural Provence might seem sophisticated to those from the McTowns of the United States ... but to the French the Coulon area is not even a mere afterthought compared with Paris, Bordeaux, Lyon, or even the Cote d’Azur on the southern Provincal coast.”

Huber goes on to compare the light, agriculture, valleys and climate, and finds remarkable similarities.

Beyond the obvious physical similarities in topography, both are known for their organic farming, both can have harsh, if not brutal winters, and both have similar weather patterns the rest of the year.

“The landscapes of the two valleys have one critical thing in common, the reason they are near-clones of each other in the broader dimension: they are both human-scale places,” he writes. “The towns and villages are all easily walkable, the fields are small and individually tended, the trails are suitable for walking and biking, the food comes from local farmers as much as possible, and the wine is a personal statement from the vintner, not a corporate artifact.”

The point of the book is more than some mere academic study. In it, Huber shows that if two seemingly unrelated areas can have so much in common, what other similarities can we find between different regions of the world?

Understanding that brings people closer together.

“I hope those who pick up this book and enjoy its contents will be people who are, most of all, curious,” Huber writes. “Curious about a lot of things and eager to find out how different places became different and perhaps to learn that they are not so different if one looks at them with the right questions in mind.”


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