Martin here… After nearly a month and a half dedicated to cultural sites, medieval towns, museums and the like, I could feel the strain of being away from nature growing. On a nearly daily basis, I was checking the river flows back in California wondering what the record season I chose to skip is looking like. Don’t get me wrong, the serious dose of culture has been amazing and I’m glad to have gotten the chance to experience it (more on this from Theo, eventually). It was just the balance, or lack thereof, with time in the outdoors that was off.
So, as we made our way south from Paris I could feel my excitement growing as I started to see rivers, hills, and open space out of the train window on our way into Provence. I had no idea what this portion of the trip would entail and didn’t have a chance to research the area until we were in it. A few quick searches on Google and I quickly found out that the whole region is crisscrossed with hiking trails, some of which were right out of our backdoor.
The first morning I managed to get out for a quick loop after breakfast and got up high enough to see some of the region’s topography. This was followed with a 7km hill-climb on a bike to lunch, chasing our host/watching him disappear up the hill in front of me. Turns out, walking everywhere does not necessarily keep you in cycling shape. However, the promise of a cold glass of rosé and a truffle pizza at the top of the hill kept me going.
There is a ton of limestone in the area and apparently some good canyoneering (no gear with us ☹) but one day-hike looked very promising: the Toulourenc Gorges. For those that know Zion, it appeared to be a mini Narrows from the pictures and with the weather calling for 36C, staying near the water sounded like a good idea. We set out on the drive to find the trail head and took the more direct route which only had small winding narrow roads for the last 30 minutes. Eventually we found the parking area I had read about and then spent a few minutes figuring out where to go (upstream of course). After a very warm kilometer on a road we found a bridge with access to the water. We quickly took to the blue-colored water and splashed our way up the gorge for a few hours. There were some very nice sections that slotted up but also a number of great swimming holes to hang out in. While this hike didn’t compare to the Narrows as some of the fine internet photography would have suggested, it was a fun day out similar to Arroyo Seco or splashing through the lower part of Orderville Canyon.
We drove the back roads on the return, winding through some great valleys and hill towns, and passing right below Mt. Ventoux. After many lavender fields and one closed road, we made it to town to reward our effort with a nice glass of rosé.
Continuing the active nature of this part of our trip, our hosts suggested a nice 11km hike to lunch the following day. The hike started with a fairly continuous but gentle 2000ft climb followed by a much steeper decent down to lunch; it was in the high 30s C (high 90s F) by the time we finished. The small hotel/restaurant backed right up to a large cliff. Our efforts were once again rewarded with a cold glass of rosé and some amazing cheeses.
After a few high activity days in nature, I could feel the balance I need starting to return. The next few months of the trip have a much higher ratio of time away from cities: We are checking out Morocco for two weeks followed by some time in the outdoors in Spain, a few weeks back to cities in Portugal and then two weeks in the Alps on the Walkers Haute Route.