Montagne Sainte Victoire et notre premiere soirée

Today we climbed Montagne Sainte Victoire, the inspiration for many of Paul Cézane’s paintings. At it’s summit, 1011 meters above sea level, is the Croix de Provence along with a chapel and refugee.

I wonder if Cézane climbed the mountain… You’d have to assume he did, I can’t imagine he sat there in his studio in Aix-en-Provence painting the thing without at least wondering what the view was like from the top!

It was probably the most intense walk I’ve been on in recent years. Not difficult… but for someone who doesn’t do much hiking it was pretty full on. Billy (a French guy who stayed with us in Newcastle a few years ago) lives in Aix and suggested climbing the mountain… Although he hadn’t yet done it himself!

We started our ascent around 11am from a car park next to a dam that supplies all the water for this area. The climb wasn’t too steep, but the path that winds up the limestone ridge is covered in small sharp rocks that really increase the difficulty. You need to concentrate on every step to make sure you don’t roll your ankle or slip down. I think the 700,000 or so people who climb the mountain each year make the rocks quite slick as well.

After 2 1/2 hours, with rest stops increasing in frequency and duration, we reached the top. It was so cool! There’s a little chapel built there, apparently the first chapel was built in the 13th century… but this one was 18th, I’ve no idea how they carried everything up! Along with the chapel is a refuge (free & simple accommodation for anyone who wants to climb the mountain and stay overnight). A little bit higher at the actual peak is a 19m high cross, the Croix de Provence. Very impressive… and a destination for pilgrims for many centuries.

We had a great little picnic outside the chapel; Some Rosè, baguette, ham, cheese, olives and bananas. We didn’t make it back down to the car until 5:30pm and Billy & myself enjoyed a quick dip in the lake to refresh our tired muscles, the water was pretty cold but it felt so good! Our legs are really sore tonight but it was all worth it to sit at the top… conquering mountains is a really special feeling. I think I like it a bit more than Elyse, maybe there is something masculine about conquering nature?

In the evening we went along to our very first, legitimate, French soirée. Billy’s housemate is studying political science at a school in Aix and they just finished for the summer. There was a rooftop barbecue/party and they were kind enough to invite us along. It was fantastic, felt almost surreal being on roof top balcony looking down on all the terra-cotta tile roofs stretching out into the distance… Nothing stands out except for the cathedral and bell towers. It’s so gorgeous with the sun going down and all the people were really keen to chat to us and hear about Australia and everything we’ve been up to on our holiday.

Another fantastic day 🙂

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