Provence

Over the Easter weekend I met Laura at Heathrow airport and we continued on towards Marseille, the biggest city in the Provence region of southern France. We had plans to visit my cousin Viktor who currently works in the city, and we wanted to get in a few days of cycling and hiking.

We began our trip with a day in Marseille, then three days of cycling, hiking and canoeing further north near the Verdon gorges, and then returned for a final day of hiking near Marseille.

Exploring a non-touristy area of Marseille.
Climbing up to Notre-Dame de la Garde.
Looking out towards the Chateau d’If on the small island. This is the castle where the fictional Count of Monte Cristo was imprisoned.
Looking towards the south east and the Parc national des Calanques.
Sailing boats exiting the harbour.
The Mucem.
Walking inside the buildings’ interesting exo-skeleton.

After a full day of exploring Marseille, we took a train to the town of Manosque, rented some bicycles and headed towards the Verdon Gorge. We hadn’t done much route planning, and after a few hours of cycling on roads with steep climbs and more traffic than we had hoped for, we decided to stop in the Lower Verdon Gorges area.

This decision proved to be an excellent one as we discovered the village of Esparron de Verdon. I imagine the area is very busy in the summer, but when we arrived the local campground had only just opened for the season, and everyone was extremely friendly.

Steep climbs.
Overlooking lac d’Esparron – an artificial lake created in 1967 by damming the Verdon river.
Esparron castle.
On our second day we did some hiking in the dry landscape.
Eventually we arrived at the village of Quinson.
Lovely local signage.
Wandering the streets of a quiet Quinson.
Much of the village looked quiet, waiting for tourist season.
The Vigipirate security alert contrasts sharply and sadly with the local concerns about wind and cats.
Inside the church.
A beautiful white horse roamed the grounds of the castle.
Manosque on Easter Monday. When we first passed through on Saturday, this alley was a bustling marketplace.
Wandering the narrow streets of Manosque.

After our brief three day adventure we returned to Marseille and embarked on a long day hike through the Parc national des Calanques. A calanque is a narrow rocky inlet specific to the geology of the Mediterranean – perhaps comparable to a small fjord.

This was some of the most spectacular hiking I had ever done. There was a large variety of terrain all accessible by public transport from the city. A section of hiking between the Calanque de Morgiou and the Calanque de Sugiton was especially dramatic and well worth a trip. I imagine these areas can get quite busy on the weekends, but we had good fortune of visiting on a slightly rainy Tuesday. My camera battery infuriatingly died just as we started this hike – but fortunately Laura had her phone so we are still able to bring you some pictures:

Overlooking the Cirque des Walkyries from the Plateau de l’Homme Mort.
Thanks Viktor for being an excellent host and guide!
Hiking towards the Calanque de Sugiton.
Calanque de Sugiton – too chilly for a swim today.
A fantastic trip!

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