Aix-en-Provence: Mt. Sainte-Victorie

Aix-en-Provence: Mt. Sainte-Victorie

Rob and I decided to go on a little adventure today. We woke up very early, bundled up against the frosty day and took the L140 Bouches-du-Rhone bus to Vauvenargues. Which all sounds complex, but is only 5 miles to the east of Aix-en-Provence. Our goal, to hike to the top of Mt. Sainte-Victorie (the same one Cezanne loved painting) and back in time for Rob to get to work.  The tiny town of Vauvenargues was adorable and very quiet when we arrived.

After listening to the bus driver argue in French with another passenger about the best place to get off and hike – we weren’t sure we were in the right spot.  A handy map showed that we could get on the GR9 Chemin des Venturies trail just below town.

Along the way, the trail was helpfully marked with color-coded paint on various rocks and trees.  I think we chose one of the steeper routes to the summit. Beautiful views of the valley on the way up.

I was amazed to see wild rosemary and thyme growing everywhere along the path in addition to pine trees, holly, all kinds of berries and box. You could just set these two bushes on fire, put a chicken on top and have yourself a gourmet Herbs du Provence meal.

Still climbing. It was starting to get much colder and windier near the top. We could see the chapel and the cross pretty clearly.

Voila! We made it to the Notre-Dame-de-Ste-Victorie in about an hour.

It’s still an active church in the warmer months and a favored pilgrimage spot.

You feel SO high up from the views around the church.

But you’re not at the 1,011 meter summit just yet.

Time to hike to the cross.

We saw our first other people of the hike at the very top. A young French couple, they took our photo:

It was so, so cold but we stuck around for a bit to take photos of Provence, Marseille, even the ocean in the distance.

Quickly snacked on some bread, cheese and sausage in the church courtyard before heading down on the Barrage de Bimont trail to the South. This is the more popular route up, so we thought it would be a piece of cake.

Instead, it was miles and miles of sharp marble rocks the size of golf balls and footballs that mercilessly tore up our ankles. Very pretty though, with the lake to the right. That’s all rosemary around Rob.

By the time we crossed the dam, we were in a race to meet the 1:34 bus back to Aix-en-Provence. Sore ankles or not, we weren’t missing that bus! The park around the dam was full of french hunters  in bright orange vests and their dogs, also in vests and with bells on their collars. We made it to the bus with just 5 minutes to spare and rode back to town just in time for Rob to start his work day at 2:00.

I rested my weary ankles reading Two Towns in Provence by MFK Fisher and eating olive-flavored potato chips. After a hot shower, I was ready to venture into town again. The streets were filled with kids being walked home from school, young couples with the girls carrying cellophane wrapped bouquets and lots of little dogs out for a night of shopping with their owners. They were setting up stands and carnival rides for for the Christmas festival that starts next week on Cours Mirabeau.

Explored old bookstores and took advantage of a sale at Monoprix to buy some French gifts. When I left the store, I was overjoyed to see that they had turned on the holiday lights for the first time! At least I got to see the lights if not the whole festival.

Walked through the city and found a couple more plazas that were already lit up. Energized by the decorations and finding myself exceptionally hungry, I stopped at bakery to buy a selection of pastries for dessert.

The palmier barely made it inside the apartment!  The cream cake and apple tarte survived until after we had dinner with the rest of the chicken, potatoes and cauliflower.

Off to Vance tomorrow for our third and last apartment before going back to California. I’m going to miss Aix!

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  1. Anne Evans at 1:38 am

    What a lovely trip! Thanks for sharing it. 🙂