In artists’ footsteps : Cézanne, van Gogh, Pagnol & Giono



Walking in Cézanne’s footsteps near Aix


With its white limestone cliffs, 10km (6 miles) in length, and a drop over 470m (1,500 feet) on its south-facing side, Mont Sainte Victoire is a nature landmark around Aix en Provence. The mountain has not ceased to inspire artists, before and after Paul Cézanne. This one is probably the painter who has the most intensely immortalized the rocky mount, so emblematic of Provence. Trying to capture its ever changing contours, he painted almost 100 pictures of the mountain. You too, with your local guide, will have the opportunity to admire the numerous views of Mont Sainte Victoire along this trail, like the famous painter used to. 


Walking time : 3 hours
Rating : leisurely (stony ground)

Walking in van Gogh’s footsteps near St. Remy


During his five years in France, Vincent van Gogh spent one year in St. Remy de Provence, that lies only 12.5 miles from Avignon. It is in the old town that this beautiful hike begins and gets its name from the fact that it takes you to many of the places where the Dutch painter set up his easel ; he painted here more than 70 works, transfixed by the luminous nature sceneries. You leave the town through plains carpeted with vineyards and olive groves, before walking amidst a vegetation surrounded by an avifauna both typical of the Mediterranean nature of the South of France. As you climb up to the Alpilles crest, in the middle of a pine grove, you can soon enjoy outstanding 360° views. 

This nature walk could also have been called “Le Rocher des Deux Trous” (the Rock with two holes) because of a stone formation : at its base, two big holes, visible from far away, disappear as you are getting closer, before reappearing suddenly. Close to the finish, you pass near the ancient site of Glanum: there can be seen Greco-Roman remains of a city that developed 2,600 years ago.

Walking time
: 3 hours
Rating : moderate (steep and rocky sections)

Van Gogh’s Provence
(Photographs of sceneries that could have inspired the Dutch painter)

 In the footsteps of Marcel Pagnol
through the craggy hills above Marseille


Marcel Pagnol, who was one of the very first filmakers in the history of talkies, was also the first one who used to shoot films on location. Between 1933 and 1954, in a dozen of them, he shot most of the scenes in the rugged hills outside Marseille, where he used to spend his childhood holidays with his family. This hike through garrigue takes you to the location of three movies’ sets : the abandoned village of Aubignane (film Harvest), Angèle’s Farmhouse and Manon’s Cave. You then explore the landscape that some people describe as the ‘backdrop’ to his childhood memoirs ‘My Father’s Glory’ and ‘My Mother’s Castle’. But, in these books, nature is not a ‘backdrop’ : it is the main character ! And your local guide will try, by telling you of the young Marcel’s stories through hills with his friend Lili, to convey the sensuality of the writer when he describes nature. Watching the towering crags all around : Barres de St-Esprit, Tête Rouge, Taoumé or Garlaban, and smelling rosemary and thyme will definitely help.


Walking time : 4.5 hours
Rating : moderate (steep and rocky sections)


In the footsteps of Jean Giono in Montagne de Lure


This hike takes place in a part of Provence out of the tourist way. The south-facing slope of Montagne de Lure that nourished Giono‘s dreams is partly made of these highlands “where deserts are really desert lands”, as he wrote ; a limitless stretch of barren land, a region of shepherds, dry stone walls and wind ; a land of uncountable starry nights, where winters are harsh and soils stubborn. In addition to the tales about Giono‘s works, two other moments will probably remain engraved in your memories : the panorama from the ridge and the sight of the Chapellanes, this 150-year old dry-stone sheepfold, built of half a million stones without any binder. Giono‘ s world: truly a world apart.


Walking time : 4.5 hours
Rating : moderate