In France and much of Europe, hiking or randonée is a significant part of the culture. There are walking trails for all levels that crisscross the continent. The longer trails form part of the GR system or Grande Randonée, there are over 60,000km of trails in France alone. Here is a great resource guide book.
Ginger and Nutmeg love hiking, but they never expected to start the season in January, when they were introduced to the International Hiking Group of Provence. G&N made it to as many of the scheduled Tuesday hikes as they could fit in to their busy European exploration agenda.
Each hike was unique, the scenery beautiful and weather at times unpredictable. All of the hikes offered opportunities for some laughs along the way. Some of the favorites are highlighted below:
Foret des Cedres – A rambling walk through a cedar forest in the Petit Luberon. The trees were first planted in 1861. Today, the cedar forest stretches for 250 hectares. This January hike was a chilly start with temperatures hovering around the freezing level and lots of low-level cloud. It did not seem to be a fantastic day for hiking until they broke through the clouds! It was a remarkable day for pictures with views over a giant, fluffy “duvet” of clouds.
Colorado de Provence – A hike that should not be missed. However, a current, detailed map or knowledgeable guide is essential as there are numerous opportunities to get lost. The hike starts just outside the town of Roussillon and offers a magical combination of pigmented rock formations in a blend of hues. There was one little problem with this hike. Ginger and Nutmeg were both so stunned by the beautiful surroundings and photo opportunities that Jade was allowed to wander a little too far ahead. A bit of trepidation ensued, back-tracking, heated discussion…in the end, she was safely back at the starting point.
Col de Sormiou – This hike was described as one of the more challenging. The trail-head for this hike is located on the outskirts of Marseille. The first section of the hike involves a few steep scrambles. A gradual descent in a limestone walled valley ends at a tiny bay, with plenty of room to eat lunch on the beach. The return route to the cars follows the cliffs along the Mediterranean – stunning!
Le Tour du Mont Puget – Nutmeg is always shocked at how accessible the hiking is in France. The trail-head for this hike was the parking area at L’École Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture de Marseille. The walk started literally from the faculty buildings on broad walking trails and eventually single track. There were some steep ascents to a lunch spot with magnificent views of the Mediterranean on a sunny day. The views are unquestionably worth the effort!
Saintes-Maries de la Mer (nature reserve) – This is an easy trail, suitable for all levels and can be done in 3-4 hours. The walk follows the marshes of the Camargue. These brackish waters are home to thousands of birds including; herons, seagulls and pink flamingos. The group had lunch on a tidal flat. Timing the tides is important, as there was a wee bit of “walking on water” (or wading) on the way back. Clearly – this hiking group delivers! A walk and a pedicure!! A thoroughly enjoyable day.
Maussane, Les Baux de Provence – An easy hike 3.5-hour walk, through the back-roads of Maussane. The hike highlights included views of the golf course, some spectacular private properties, glorious gardens and the height of spring flowers. Lunch was in an olive grove.
Murs, La Combe de Vaumale – A loop hike that starts and ends in the small village of Murs in the Luberon. The village sits atop a small hill, with beautiful stone walls. The information on the hike was clear – no dogs allowed due to climbs using ladders and chains. With that, Jade was left at home. After a considerable descent, the group entered into a dry, narrow gorge where the path headed steadily uphill. There were several points that required scrambling over rocks, and a few areas where hikers had to use the fixed ladders and chains. The hike is certainly an achievement for those with vertigo or a lack of climbing experience. After a lunch stop, the walk was a gentle stroll back to the village through cherry and apricot orchards.
Here, are some of our favourite photos from the above hikes and a few more, click for Hiking Gallery.
- ⅔ Cup Unsalted Butter
- ⅔ Cup Brown Sugar
- 2 Large Eggs
- 1-1/2 Cups Oatmeal, Old fashioned
- 1-1/2 Cups flour All Purpose Flour
- ½ Teaspoon Salt
- ¾ Cup Dried Cranberries
- ¾ Cup Nuts (pecans or walnuts), coarsely chopped
- Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C)
- Using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar together in a medium mixing bowl until light and fluffy
- Add eggs, mixing well
- Combine oats, flour,baking soda and salt in a separate mixing bowl
- Add to butter mixture in several additions, mixing well after each addition
- Stir in cranberries and nuts
- Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto non-greased cookie sheets
- Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown
- Cool on wire rack
- Makes approximately 2 dozen cookies