The Route de Vauvenargues (D-10) is the ancient route that runs along the back, sloping side of the mountain. If this cow path could tell stories, I’d like to hear more from the
troops of the Roman empire, medieval troubadours, the Allied Forces of WWII, and other assorted travelers!
Pablo Picasso lived in the Château de Vauvenargues for 3 years, and was buried here in 1973. The castle is closed to visitors, except by reservation only during the Picasso-Cézanne expo this summer. Tickets are available now from the office of tourism and the Musée Granet in Aix.
There are several hiking paths around the mountain. One of the most popular is the trail Imoucha. Les amis de Sainte Victoire, an association for the preservation of the trails and historic priory, has an excellent website in French.
It’s important to know if the mountain is accessible during the dry months of June through September. This may be available on the Provence Department of Tourism website, but it’s better to phone for the daily recorded message (in France) 0811 20 13 13 to find out.
You can also consult the National Park website before making your plans.
But that’s enough for the general information; I want to take you further on and deeper in…
Starting at the crossroad that will take you off the beaten path, 7 kilometers from Aix.... There’s a bus stop for those of you taking the RDT13 or a Proxy bus. Take a right turn
toward the Barrage (that means ‘dam’) and please be attentive for oncoming cars, bikes, hikers, fox and deer!
If you are on foot or mountain bike, you may choose to take to the woods on the path that parallels the road. This land is the property of the castle of St Marc, so please keep it tidy!
This is the link to the website for the community of Saint Marc Jaumegarde.
Here’s my YouTube tirade against the mess people had made of it; thankfully, there’s been a recent, impressive cleanup of the underbrush. So, here’s how much better it looks now. This undertaking of ‘le débroussaillage’ (check out the details under the ‘infos utiles’ page of St Marc’s website,) is intended to curtail the possibility of a repeat of the destructive forest fire of 1989.
If you compare the forest growth on the east, undamaged side of the mountain to the weedy, overgrown pines on the west, you’ll notice how much of the native oak trees were destroyed.
I was excited to discover another uncovered ruin… with antique litter, even!
Take a closer look at the old, native pines. For centuries, there was a thriving trade for the production of pine resin, used in making turpentine.
Keep your eyes open for assorted antique litter. This used to be a funnel to collect the pinesap. (Now, it’s Dada.)
Another fine reason to stay off the château property (to the right of the road) is that the local hunting club could easily mistake you for a sanglier (wild boar), or a sanglier could mistake you for a local hunter… I’m not sure which would be more deadly….
If you’ve made it to the dam, still in one piece, I will bid you adieu. How’s your French coming along? You can practice as you read more about le barrage.
Here’s another bit of local trivia and a tip: this small ruin, most noticeable as you return to the D-10, served as the canteen for the builders of the dam from 1946-1951.
Monsieur Mottura was the chef, and loved the area so much, that he purchased a plot of land and had a house constructed across the road.
His son, Fred, is the new proprietor, and the restaurant L’Oustau de St Marc is one of the finest in Provence. The food and service is outstanding! Please tell them that Apryl sent you!
We moved to Aix because of Tim’s job in 2000, and I had no idea what it was that I was coming into. I’d read and enjoyed Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence, but to me, this was probably going to be another 18-month stint.
After two years here, my children were settled for the first time in their lives, and I found an incredible connection to the international community. Aix-en-Provence has an open-mindedness that comes with being a university town, as well as having a timeless quality of steadfast unchangibility.
The discovery of this area came as a marvelous surprise to me. The blessings are new every morning, although it’s truly “the best of times and the worst of times.” It’s easy to see why Cézanne was inspired by this mountain.
Every one of my paintings is a new adventure in what Sainte Victoire has to offer. Here is a YouTube video of a few of my photos and paintings of the marvelous mountain...