Over the last couple of weeks we’ve got into a bit of a routine, going for a nice bike ride one day and taking Millie for a longer walk on the next.
It’s a great time of year to be here with the dog as it’s not too warm to walk, in fact most days are perfect. In another few weeks we’ll be taking her out at the crack of dawn before she spends the day on the stone floor in the cool of the cave, so it’s nice to be able to enjoy the trails and explore a little bit more now.
One of the walks is one we’ve done many times before, but we’ve always managed to do it when it’s either been pouring with rain, hard to see anything due to low cloud, or even on one occasion snowing. Not great for really stopping to take note of the various turns and junctions, but also pretty appalling for photos. As such I hadn’t realised just how incredible the views were until I did the walk in the sun this week!
Throwing open the shutters it was clear that it was going to be a stunning day, so we headed off to Simiane-La-Rotonde for the morning. The nice thing about any walk that starts in Simiane is that it is home to our favourite boulangerie and any excuse to head up there is always welcome….
…so we sat on the terrace, overlooking the lavender fields, just starting to show their sage-green leaves of Spring, listening to the skylarks singing high above whilst I enjoyed a coffee and pain au chocolat and Millie sat (ever hopeful of falling crumbs) by the table in the sun.
To be honest I could have easily forgotten the walk and just sat there for the morning watching the ebb and flow of customers and enjoying the sense of peace and calm that there always is there. But that was not the reason we had come, so we went into the village and parked outside the school, by the war memorial, which in addition to remembering the local dead, also marks the loss of 5 RAF crew who died in a tragic accident nearby. WW2 Bomber crash near Simiane-La-Rotonde
From here the walk starts by crossing a small green bridge opposite the car park and starts following a stony track that climbs quickly away from the village, one that requires sturdy footwear, rather than a pair of light shoes or sandals. The track continues on along the edge of the hill, offering stunning views across the valley and towards the low Alps, still covered with snow, in the distance.
It’s a lovely walk, passing first through low-growing trees, before moving into an area where the path is lined with Oak trees that still bear the dried leaves from last year, adding a colourful tint to the otherwise bare landscape.
Also here, in the middle of the path were the occasional wild-crocus flowers, struggling through the stones and pebbles, adding a splash of spring colour to the walk, but meant that I kept my eyes down as the last thing I wanted to do was to inadvertantly step on one and crush it.
Climbing up, sheltered from the breeze, it quickly got warm and the layers I had started with, were soon packed away in the rucksack and Millie slowed to walk by me, rather than running ahead, until all of a sudden she sniffed the air and shot off to one side. My immediate thought was that she had smelt something worth eating (perhaps we should re-train her to sniff out Truffles), but no she had sniffed out a small cement-lined pool, filled with sludgy water and was happily lying in it to cool off. … it’s fair to say she was an incredibly happy dog…
After following this track for just over 2km, the path finally stops climbing so steeply as you emerge into a big lavender field, with the ruins of an old farmhouse on the far side.
Set high above 800m these are lavender fields, rather than Lavandin that grows at the lower levels and form part of the Young Living enterprise that has its laboratory based in the Rotonde at Simiane, now a distant village below.
The path tracks around the left of the field, bending round behind the ruined house… and becomes a sandier trail that leads through woodland, past collapsed stone Bories, as it continues on between Lavender fields.
Here I was surprised to see small drifts of the Crocuses, sitting under the trees to the side of the path and also the glimpse of stunning dark purple Wood Anenomes peeking out from shady patches, a real sign that Spring is well and truly on its way.
Again the track skirts more Lavender fields, following the front edge, again with more spectacular views across The Montagne De Lure, deep into the Alpes De Haute Provence.
The Lavender here is slightly further behind that in the fields opposite The Boulangerie, with the soft green leaves just starting to appear above the remnants of last year’s growth….
The track bears to the left at the far end of the field, before meeting a tarmaced road, where we turned right, following it for about 100m, before taking a track to the right, leading through trees into another lavender field, where there is a collection of bee-hives to one side. When the stalls are selling local Lavender Honey it’s easy to see why they can be so certain that it is from Lavender flowers rather than general flowers.
The track bears round in front of the bee-hives, before taking another right and heading off on another path in front of an old ruined building. I can’t help but wonder who would have lived here when the houses were first built. It seems so remote now…
Yet again the views from here are truly beautiful, across the valley below and into the distance…. I can’t really believe that this is the first time I’ve actually seen them … I honestly had no idea that they were there at all and certainly no idea that they could be quite that stunning.
At the end of this field the path becomes very stony again as it starts to descend back down the side of the hill, you certainly need to keep an eye on where you are walking here as the surface is very loose in places. It drops down, passing through woodland which sometimes clears to allow wonderful views back down into Simiane-La-Rotonde, which sits on a rocky promontory far below, giving you a sense of how far you have climbed….
…eventually emerging at a crossing point, where there is a farm to the left, often with a field full of rather beautiful and very curious Goats…
It is also here that you will see the first signpost of the walk.Here you have 2 options, you can turn left, passing in front of the farm and following the path down until it meets the road, where you can turn right and walk along the quiet lane back to the village, or like us go almost straight across on the trail signposted towards ‘Simiane-La-Rotonde Tour de L’Esperon’, where the track (marked by yellow lines on trees) starts to climb gently again…
After a while you meet the stony track you first came up, turning left to head back down to the village, getting beautiful views across towards it as you walk down…
Then back to where we first started and for us a second trip to the Boulangerie, to sit on the terrace with a freshly pressed Grapefruit Juice and little cherry-topped biscuits, perfect refreshment after the 7.5km walk.
It really is the most delightful way to spend the morning and with Simiane-La-Rotonde there is always the option to stay to explore the village a little more, wandering through its narrow streets, admiring the view from the open terrace and visiting the stunning Rotonde that is open to the public…..Exploring Simiane-La-Rotonde
Alternatively you can pop along the road across the Lavender Fields in front of the Boulangerie and visit the Jardin de Valsaintes, a couple of kilometres towards Oppedette. A stunning garden, set around a beautiful little Abbey with an incredible history …. the gardens are beautiful all year round, but especially when the Roses are in bloom in late May and early June…Visiting Valsaintes
It really is a beautiful little corner of Provence, peaceful, unspoilt and well worth exploring …..