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Climbing the Mountain Sainte- Victoire in Provence with David

Updated: Aug 21, 2023

Hello everybody. My name is David, and I’m English. I went on a French immersion homestay to Virginie and her family in July. Since I’m quite sporty, Virginie offered to go climbing the Montagne Sainte Victoire.

Climbing the Mountain Sainte- Victoire in Provence with David.
David at the Sainte-Victoire

I was very happy when Virginie asked me if I could write a few words about an excursion we did together. It’s a good way to practice my written French. So I am going to tell you about our excursion to the Montagne Sainte-Victoire using easy French.

Sainte Victoire Mountain: A Landmark of Provence

Sainte-Victoire is a well-known natural Provence landmark. One of the reasons for which it is famous is that this mountain was often painted by Paul Cézanne, the most famous Provençal artist, and that’s why I knew about Montagne Sainte Victoire before my week at Virginie’s house.

Climbing the Mountain Sainte- Victoire in Provence with David.
Sainte-Victoire Mountain - Cézanne

If you do not know the Montagne Sainte Victoire, I am going to describe it to you. It is a huge marble stone that dominates the surrounding landscape with impressive cliffs. The stone is all white, the ground is ocre and the trees are green, exactly like on Cézanne’s painting. It’s really a beautiful place.

For me, the idea of climbing is very attractive because in England I’m a very enthusiastic hiker. Besides, I will spend next week on the Saint James Way so I brought my walking boots.

Climbing the Mountain Sainte- Victoire in Provence with David.
Chemin de la Sainte-Victoire

mountain provence learn french

Weather forecasts indicate that it will be 38 degrees in the afternoon so we leave early hours for Sainte-Victoire. The Sainte Victoire is about thirty-five minutes from Virginie’s house by car. When we arrive, we see that we have to follow the red signs to reach the summit.

Very simple… But Virginie and I have a bad sense of direction… From the beginning, we take the wrong way. Indeed, we walk 45 minutes before meeting a nice man who points out our mistake. Fortunately, the view is beautiful so we are happy to be there.

Cézanne’s Refuge on Sainte Victoire

On the way, we come across Cezanne’s house: he used this house as a shelter when he was painting. I read the explanatory panel with great interest.

Climbing the Mountain Sainte- Victoire in Provence with David.
Cézanne’s Refuge on Sainte Victoire

We are finally starting to walk on the right path… The temperature continues to rise and the path is not very difficult. Sometimes, there are small steep sections but most paths are accessible to everyone (young and old).

However, because I want to exercise a little more intensely, I leave Virginie and walk faster to the top. It’s very hot and I sweat a lot!!

Sainte Victoire’s Priory

I arrive in front of an old priory where I take a short break to enjoy the beauty of Provencal life.

Climbing the Mountain Sainte- Victoire in Provence with David.
Sainte Victoire’s Priory

Reaching “La Croix de Provence”

Then I continue until I reach the Croix de Provence which marks the top of the mountain. On this picture, you can understand how high it is, and also appreciate the beautiful view.

Climbing the Mountain Sainte- Victoire in Provence with David.
La Croix de Provence

There are already five people: one man and four women. I introduce myself and start talking to them : there are two sisters named Elsa and Laurens and their friend, an American pastor named Teal, and two other young women.

These two women, called Sheherezade and Claire, have a very interesting job: they have to spend the summer on top of the mountain. They enjoy the 360 ° view all summer long to keep the people of Aix en Provence safe.

Climbing the Mountain Sainte- Victoire in Provence with David.
La guérite montagne Sainte-Victoire

Indeed, during the day, they monitor fires, and they scan the landscape and if they see smoke, they have to warn the firemen so they can intervene.

After 30 minutes, I feel like I have to get Virginie. So I go down following the red signs. But of course … as luck would have it … Virginie and I choose different routes!! That’s why we don’t run into each other.

I worry, but I send her a message with WhatsApp. Thankfully, there’s cell reception in this spot and Virginie replies right away that she’s just arrived at the top, and that she’s with Elsa and everybody. So I go back up very quickly and we take pictures together.

There’s a very nice atmosphere at the top: we welcome everyone who arrives with a big “Welcome!”. Most people are happy to talk to us. And why not? We enjoy the happiness of being together, the good weather…. As you climb the mountain, you share an experience together. No?!

However, our adventures are not over! Despite the success of the ascent, we still take the wrong way downhill: we turn right instead of turning left. Each mistake isn’t serious in itself but all added together, it starts to be long because it’s very hot and we’re almost out of water.

My Tip: Climb Sainte Victoire in the Fall!

We finally arrive in one piece after 6 hours of walking. Really it’s a gorgeous hike, but especially for people with a good sense of direction! :-) I think it may be a good idea to do this hike during the spring or the fall when temperatures are milder.

Anyway, I’m so happy to have done this hike with Virginie. I am sporty, and I enjoyed the challenge. It was actually my idea to leave Virginie to climb faster… there are always little mishaps like that, but it remains an exceptional day. It was a good occasion to practice my French, and discover a truly unique site. I will never forget it.

If you are coming for an immersion stay in Provence, I really invite you to contact Virginie in Provence. She will be happy to make you discover the different aspects of Provence: landscapes and scents, but also culture, gastronomy... while helping you to improve your French.


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