I have an admission to make. I hate grey, dank weather; it drags me down and when it arrives, I find myself wishing the hours away, longing for bright days to return. I’m not someone who relishes the chance to hunker down in front of a fire, simply enjoying the opportunity just to sit and wait for the storm to pass. I quickly start climbing the walls and pacing the room, watching anxiously for the first sight of the returning sun.
I suppose that’s one of the things that I love most about this little corner of Provence. Of course, we do have days where clouds settle in the valley and catch in the trees & gullies on the flanks of The Luberon, turning the views into scenes from ‘The Land that Time Forgot’, but happily they tend to be few and far between and the rain doesn’t stay long.
That said, after the fierce heat and drought of last summer, we have needed the water, so I’ve had mixed emotions as the wind has shifted and the clouds have rolled over the Mourre Negre, before emptying their contents onto the parched land. I have quietly cheered at the sight, before the clouds have invaded every cell in my body and left me feeling as drab as the sky.
I mention this, as that was what we had for the first 2 days of this week; the steady, soaking mizzle more reminiscent of our time living on Dartmoor than our experience here and the weather saw us getting soaked on short walks, sending us to focus on the inside jobs that we are always putting to the bottom of the ‘To-Do’ list. So we finally got round to emptying out the ‘cave’ and creating piles ready for a therapeutic trip to the ‘Recyclerie’. It was time well-spent and we achieved a lot in a short space of time, but it still left us feeling the need to get outside again, as soon as the clouds lifted.
On Wednesday, we woke to a heavy frost that had coated the grasses and plants with a sparkling layer of ice, so after letting it thaw, we managed a little dash out around Roussillon on the bikes, but got soaked as we got caught in a very angry, seriously cold shower on the way home.
Yesterday though, we woke to freezing temperatures with bright blue skies and decided that it was far too cold for a bike ride so instead, we would take Millie on a walk that we hadn’t done before. I know I have mentioned the fantastic walks here in previous posts, but at this time of year, there really is nothing better than to put on the walking shoes, pack a flask and coffee-makings into the rucksack and take to the trails.
We have always fancied walking home from Viens, the beautiful village that sits high above the Calavon, on the border with the Alpes De Haute Provence and the weather yesterday was simply perfect for it. We were dropped off outside the village boulangerie by our eldest, slipping in to buy viennoiseries to have with our coffee on the way home.
After stopping for a moment to look over the viewpoint towards the snow-dusted hills beyond Banon, we wrapped our scarves tightly around our necks to keep out the worst of the wind and set off, with Millie, who was very happy to trot alongside us as we headed out of the village, along the track above the Mairie that took us towards the hamlet of Saint-Laurent.
As ever, the trails are well-marked and maintained, making for easy walking and this path took us along the ridge, through slumbering lavender fields and horse paddocks towards the hamlet. It was the perfect morning for a walk, with the plummeting overnight temperatures having frozen the puddles to slabs of ice, making the track hard underfoot, rather than slippy with mud, after the recent rain.
The views across to The Luberon were lovely and under bright blue skies, sheltered from the wind, we pottered along happily as far as Saint Laurent, where the path joins the little hamlet’s road, with views opening up along the valley towards Saint Saturnin and Gordes.
Dropping out of the hamlet, we followed the trail, marked with yellow and red stripes, crossing the little road and continuing along the track towards Saint Amas, watching for the striped markings on stones and trees to keep us on track. Millie was happily pootling ahead as we started to drop down through the woodland emerging into the hamlet, where I noticed the first signs of spring, with a few brave violets (protected from the biting wind) unfurling their petals in the bright winter sun. If anything makes me smile, it’s the first signs of spring colour peeping from between the leaves.
We turned right, walking through the hamlet, before following the stony track that took us up through some woodland, towards the road that runs between Caseneuve and Gignac. Thinking that we were about halfway home, we started to look for a suitable coffee-spot, finding a sunny place out of the wind, where we sat at the bottom of a tree with our faces in the sun, whilst Andy set to work making the coffee.
We had gone prepared, with a flask of boiling water, another of milk and our well-used Aero-Press, which means we can enjoy our favourite coffee, wherever we are. We had picked our spot well, as the wind was whistling through the trees to either side of us, but our little grassy seat was beautifully calm and we sat, listening to the birds, enjoying our coffee and munching on our pastries, whilst Millie lay contendedly at our feet, unsure whether there would be any crumbs for her to snuffle up, once we had finished.
In many ways, it was hard to drag ourselves away from the tree, our faces glowing with a mixture of wind-burn and sunshine, but we wrapped ourselves up, popped our gloves back on and continued up the trail, being blasted by the bitter wind again within the first few steps of moving on.
Joining the back road to Gignac, we turned left towards Caseneuve and followed the lane for a few hundred metres, before turning right again, heading through the fields, following the footpath towards Croix De Christol.
Walking across these open fields, we suddenly appreciated just how much we had been sheltered from the Mistral during the first part of the walk. Here, it was whipping straight off the distant snowy peaks and it was not only strong enough to blow the ears off a donkey, but cold enough to freeze the poor donkey to the spot too! It was brutally cold, making our ears and noses tingle and turning our cheeks rosy pink, but the icy wind brought with it an incredible light, which was worth the freezing temperatures and numb fingers.
Chased on by the wind, we may have quickened our pace a little across this open ridge, skirting the icy puddles and walking in the footsteps of many wild boars that clearly frequent the trail….
Before dropping slightly, into the woodland that sits above the Colorado Provencal, with its bright ochre cliffs visible through the bare branches….
Here, the trail follows this ridge, with the trees clearing at times, offering incredible views across the ochre cliffs towards Lagarde D’Apt, Rustrel and beyond to Saint Saturnin Les Apt.
By now we were on home territory and walking along paths that form part of our daily walks, so Millie trotted on ahead, comfortable that she knew where she was going, as we ambled down the last few tracks, with the Luberon spread out in front of us.
Arriving home, Millie headed straight for her favourite space by the fire and I set to, making hot chocolate, to start warming us up from the inside. The walk had covered just under 13 kilometres and we had been out in the fresh, bright air for a little under 3 hours. It was a superb route and I’m so pleased that we grabbed the moment to do it. It really was the most perfect way to pass a morning, that was far too cold and windy for a cycle ride.
You can see more of the walk here : A little video of the walk to tempt you
Or follow the route we took, on Komoot: The path we followed
I know most people long for the balmy summer days in Provence, when the fields are filled with lavender and the air is filled with scent and the screaming of cicadas ….
But there is a very simple joy to be had here in winter, when the area is peaceful & the skies are blue. It is the perfect time of year to explore off the beaten track and to get further under the skin of this incredible little corner of France.