Sainte Victoire: the loveliest mountain by a dam site

Ste Victoire & le barrage de Bimont
Ste Victoire & le barrage de Bimont


Facts and myths about this famous Provençal landmark abound:  Wikipedia, the Aix-en-Provence office of tourism, and any study of Paul Cézanne can tell you everything you need to know.

    I’d like to show you around one small corner of it…

on the D-10, Route de Vauvenargues
on the D-10, Route de Vauvenargues

   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.

site map at the barrage
site map at the barrage


   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.

map indicating the trail east of the dam
map indicating the trail east of the dam

    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.

crossroad 7km from Aix on the D-10
crossroad 7km from Aix on the D-10

   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!

le Château de St Marc
le Château de St Marc


    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.

le vieux resto
le vieux resto


    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!

0038-le champ des Tournelsols à la Ste Victoire
0038-le champ des Tournelsols à la Ste Victoire

    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...

0046-la Ste Victoire
0046-la Ste Victoire


    Most of the works on my website are available for purchase in my home.  In the upcoming weeks, I will be providing shipping options and local gallery information as it becomes available.  Come, have a look!


    Be sure to send me a line if you’d like to be on my mailing list.  Thanks for visiting!

0075-Sainte Victoire Sunrise stamp
0075-Sainte Victoire Sunrise by AprylZA
Design customized stamps on zazzle

Write a comment

Comments: 15
  • #1

    Elsie Collins (Monday, 25 May 2009 17:04)

    Hello Apryl,
    How lovely of you to send me your website page! Aix is beautiful, and Cezanne would be very impressed with your faithful impressions and photos of the mountain! Gorgeous, lush work!! And thank you for the videos! The chateaux trash pick-up video was very powerful! And what can one say about the throat of Florent Pagny? Bellisimo!!
    I too, am an opera lover! Grandpa was a Caruso junkie!! So, you are a transplanted American, oui? My ancestry, we have found, dates back to the Italian Renaissance through my grandfather Lorenzo Orsini. My Mom was Irene Orsini. I have researched the Renaissance when I was costuming the original opera "Michelangelo", by RI local composer Enrico Garzilli 2 yrs. ago. The Orsini's married into the Medici in 1497, when Lorenzo de Medici (il Magnifico) was betrothed to Clarice Orsini. There have been 7 Orsini Popes in 600 yrs.!! Even Mary Queen of Scots shows up on our family tree! Yeah, I still haven't been able to pick my jaw up off the floor!! Our last Orsini owned castle was lost at auction in the 1700's to Baron Odeschalchi. The medieval Castella Odeschalchi sits in the northwestern corner of Italy on Lake Bracciano, where Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes were married! One day I must travel to Florence to pay homage to the incredible legacy that is my Mother's brilliant heritage! Fondi, where my grandfather was born may offer the last 150 yrs. of research to reveal which branch of the Orsini he descends from. If it is the Rotondo line, then he would be a direct descendent of Clarice Orsini!! Now I understand better who I am, and where the endless flow of creativity springs from! Well, time to go and plant my flower beds for the first time this spring! It always feels like prayer when I'm on my knees in my garden!! My clematis are spectacular this year! Wish I had a place for wisteria! Be well, God Bless! Adieu bon ami!! Elsie Collins

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