I have been visiting Provence every summer since 1999 (apart from 1 year when I had a bad case of pregnancy). I am always filled with a great sense of excitement as soon as I see Mont Sainte-Victoire appear on our drive from airport/train station to house. It is an incredible looking mountain and I am not at all surprised that Cézanne obsessed over painting it as much as he did. If I possessed any painting skills at all I would definitely give it a go. I certainly have a ridiculous number of photos of it.
Due to the hot weather in the summer, the mountain is mostly closed off to visitors. It gets very dry up there and there is a huge risk of fire. One year my brother visited and was able to climb across the entire ridge. It took all day and he must have been exhausted. I’ve always been quite jealous that he did it. One year we managed to find a slightly cooler day and climbed up a little way to reach a secret chapel hidden in the rocks. It was a lot of fun and the views across the vineyards were breathtaking. There may also have been magic rocks and dragon caves as part of that particular adventure.
This year we ended up visiting in May. The weather is still hot but nowhere near reaching the temperatures of the summer months. My Mum immediately suggested that we could finally give climbing the mountain a proper try. My parents have done it before and know a good route that would be okay for the children to join in. We wouldn’t be able to make the highest point, but there is a cross at one end of the mountain that you can climb up to without too much difficulty.
We all began with great enthusiasm. Actually, my son was mostly enthusiastic about the prospect of a picnic. The start of the walk is next to a very impressive damn. We could have happily stayed there for ages watching the swallows zip up and down the walls, but the mountain was waiting.
To be honest, it was waiting awhile. My son’s enthusiasm almost disappeared entirely once he realised the picnic would not be happening until lunch time. But, slowly we made progress…
Eventually, it got a bit rocky and the weather started to turn. We left my parents and son sat under a tree to prepare for the picnic and the rest of us continued…
Unfortunately, we realised it was going to still take quite a long time to reach the cross and my daughter was beginning to get tired now too. She really wanted to go further but we had to make the disappointing decision to stop.
In the end we made it to a cairn at the base of the final ascent. We added our own rocks to the pile and enjoyed the view. I know it wasn’t the top, but we really did climb a very long way considering we started next to that reservoir.
I wish I could have made it higher but I wouldn’t have enjoyed it nearly as much if my kids hadn’t been with me. I’m incredibly proud that we all got as high as we did and my son was so pleased that he could finally have his picnic. Not that you can tell from the picture. However, he did perk up for the walk down and even made up a large number of marching songs which everyone was supposed to join in with.
We also spotted a beautiful poppy field from the top and decided to drive around the next day and find it. Here are the pictures from both angles (the first one is very zoomed in):
Hopefully we can try and climb Mont Sainte-Victoire again soon. I love this place and this mountain and will quite happily continue to obsess over it as much as Cézanne did for a long time to come.