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)

In the footsteps of van Gogh from St. Rémy

During his time in France, Vincent van Gogh spent one year in St. Remy de Provence, near Avignon. This beautiful hike starting in the old town, is named after the visited places where the painter set up his easel: he painted here more than 70 works, transfixed by the luminous nature scenery. You walk outside the town through vineyards and olive groves that carpet the landscape. After climbing up through the woods to the Alpilles crest, you can enjoy outstanding 360° views.

This walk could also be named “Le Rocher des Deux Trous” (the Rock with two holes) due to two big holes at the base of a crag: seen from far away, they are then invisible for long, before reappearing suddenly, when very close. Just before the end, you pass near the Greco-Roman site of Glanum: there are visible remains of a city that grew up 2,600 years ago.

Walking time : 3 hours
Rating : moderate (steep slopes and rugged terrain)
Visits of Saint-Paul de Mausole and Glanum non included

            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, one of the very first filmakers in the history of talkies, was also one of the first who used to shoot films on location. Between 1933 and 1954, in a dozen of them, he shot many 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 two movies’ sets: the abandoned village of Aubignane (film Harvest) and Angèle’s Farmhouse. You then catch sight of the landscape that was the ‘backdrop’ to his childhood memoirs ‘My Father’s Glory’ and ‘My Mother’s Castle’. However, in these books, nature is not a ‘backdrop’: it is the main character ! And your guide will try, by telling you about the stories the young Marcel lived 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 the Lure mountains

This hike takes place in a part of Provence out of the tourist way. The south-facing slope of the Lure mountains 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