Saturday, April 28, 2018

Scooting around in The Luberon, Provence

The Luberon, a rural area of Provence 70 kilometers north of Marseille, is a place much touted by all the guidebooks.  We had decided to based ourselves in Apt, because it is transport hub and the administrative center.  For once our timing was good, the summer bus schedule only started the week before.

Day 1: Bus from Marseilles to Aix to Apt,  walked to Saignon.
Day 2: Saturday market in Apt.  Bus #17 to Rousillon, walk to Lioux, back to Rousillon, bus back to Apt
Day 3: Bus #17 to Gordes, walk to Veroncle Gorge, walk through most of the gorge, short of Murs, walk back to Gordes to catch bus.
Day 4: Bus #18 to Oppede, walk to Oppede la Vieux, up the Petit Luberon, down to Menerbes to catch bus #18 back.

For baggers of hilltop towns, all the villages we visited or bused through are underwhelming.  There are restoration projects everywhere, though their former glories mostly elude me.  On the other hand, there were a few highlights.

* The Apt weekly Saturday market is very authentic.  Almost all the vendors were small and operated from tables.  Quoting John -- they sold things people actually need -- i.e. a lot food, in different stages of preparedness or unpreparedness, at all price points.  There was minimal junk, new or old.  There was a lady that sold only hair accessories and one or two sold bolts of fabrics -- we have only previously seen in developing countries.
* The Veroncle Gorge is very scenic and super fun with ladders and chains.
* Contrary to popular belief, we were able to get around on buses.  Though the buses are not so frequent for village hopping, hey served us well for walking.  Four out of the six rides, we were the only passengers, considering the new schedule just started a week ago, we hope they have more business later in the season. TIP: The regional bus company transVaucluse even has an excellent free pamphlet in French and English (and pdf) on how to visit the area "without a car".
* Every path/road we walked on seemed to be labeled, and fit in some larger scheme of network of trail for walking/biking.

Views from the bus from Aix to Apt with another friendly bus driver who spoke some English. Mont Ventoux is visible in the second photo.
On the bus from Aix to Apt, France

On the bus from Aix to Apt, France

After getting settled in Apt, Sun-Ling led us up to Saignon "just to get some excersie". Great views from Saignon.
Walking in the Luberon Valley above Apt, France

And the usual Table d'orientation.
Table d'orientation - Walking in the Luberon Valley above Apt, France

View from the Saignon viewpoint back to the village.
Walking in the Luberon Valley above Apt, France

Spring in Saignon. Is there anything as lovely as a purple flower?
Walking in the Luberon Valley above Apt, France

The Carpentras weekly market. Cozy.
Saturday Market - Apt, France

One day we rode the bus to Roussillon, a pink/red village touted by all the guidebooks, then walked NORTH through the vineyards to Lioux with its tremendous overhanging rock cliff.
Roussillon, France

Walking to Lioux, France

The last half of the walk featured a seemingly never ending uphill stretch of loose gravel which in fact was only about 600 meters in length.
Walking to Lioux, France

Then the downhill into Lioux is like walking on air. Lioux has a church, a small parking lot, a fountain, and 5 or 6 residences.
Walking to Lioux, France

Walking to Lioux, France

Walking to Lioux, France

Walking to Lioux, France

Walking to Lioux, France

We would have probably missed the ancient Roman bridge, the Pont Julien, 5 kms north of Bonnieux; however, a friendly bus driver drove out of his way a few hundred meters to show us - we were the only passengers.
Le Pont Julien - Roman Bridge - near Bonnieux, France

One day we rode the bus to Gordes. Another friendly bus driver dropped us off at the prefered viewpoint, instead of in city center. Gordes is best viewed from afar, there's nothing much to see or do in the town itself.
Gordes, France

Gordes, France

So we walked straight through town and headed a few kilometers east to walk up the creek bed of the Véroncle Gorge and its series of water mills.
Walking Les Gorges de Véroncle - Gordes, France

We had to squeeze through a couple of tight spots.
Walking Les Gorges de Véroncle - Gordes, France

Walking in the Luberon Valley, France

Climb up a few ladders.
Walking in the Luberon Valley, France

Walking Les Gorges de Véroncle - Gordes, France

And sorta rappel down a few rock faces.
Walking in the Luberon Valley, France

It was loads of fun and excitement following the stream bed up, and seeing the water mills.
Walking Les Gorges de Véroncle - Gordes, France

Walking in the Luberon Valley, France

Walking Les Gorges de Véroncle - Gordes, France

Plenty of good signage for this walk.
Walking Les Gorges de Véroncle - Gordes, France

Once out of the gorge, there were great views as we headed back to Gordes to catch the bus.
Walking Les Gorges de Véroncle - Gordes, France

Walking in the Luberon Valley, France

Walking in the Walking in the Massif du Luberon above Menerbes, France

And a glimpse of the rock cliffs above Lioux where we hiked the day before.
Gordes, France

Oh, there's a castle in Gordes (and a red Ferrari).
Gordes, France

And one last excellent view of Gordes as the sun shines from the west.
Gordes, France

Our final full day we first rode the bus to Oppede and walked up to the old town perched on the hill.
Oppede la Vieux, France

Then headed up, up, up the Petit Luberon for a ridge walk in the Reserve Biologique with views down to the Old Oppede.
Walking in the Le Petit Luberon - Near Oppede, France

I think Mont Ventoux is in this photo, but it was a very hazy day.
Walking in the Le Petit Luberon - Near Oppede, France

There was a cozy refugio (hiker's hut) as we reached the ridge.
Walking in the Le Petit Luberon - Near Oppede, France

Walking in the Luberon Valley, France

We did not expect this pine forest at the top. Nice!
Walking in the Petit Luberon above Menerbes, France

Or these leisure cyclists.
Walking in the Petit Luberon above Menerbes, France

The path down to Menerbes was steep and rocky.
Walking in the Petit Luberon above Menerbes, France

Walking in the Petit Luberon above Menerbes, France

Walking in the Petit Luberon above Menerbes, France

Menerbes was quiet, with some good views to the valley.
Walking in the Petit Luberon above Menerbes, France

Walking in the Luberon Valley, France

And bonus; we rode the summer sightseeing bus back to Apt.
Walking in the Luberon Valley, France

Apt, France





Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Very popular Les Calanques

The few Marseillais we spoke with all urged us to go to Les Calanques (mini fjords).  Of course, being a fan of all gorges, it's already high on our list.  We took bus M8 to the popular seaside town of Cassis, a convenient place to check off both Les Calanques and Cap Canaille (2/3 of the walk was on GR98). 

Les Calanques were every bit as beautiful as I expected, which also meant there were a lot of visitors.  There were people of all ages and shapes walking the trails, rather plunking themselves on the first spit of sandy beach they came, the American way.  For John, the outing was more anthropologically interesting.  If we had another day, we'd be investigating kayaking.

Rode the metro a couple of stops to pick up bus M8 to Cassis. Gotta love a metro that has an aquarium down beside the tracks at one of its stops.
Cassis, France

Bus M8 passed the Unit D'Habitation on the way to Cassis. Bonus.
Cassis, France

Cassis Port.
Calanques de Cassis - Cassis, France

Calanques de Cassis - Cassis, France

A small beach at Cassis, not a calanque beach.
Calanques de Cassis - Cassis, France

Following the trail to Calanque En Vau.
Calanques de Cassis - Cassis, France

Calanques de Cassis - Cassis, France

We are not alone. But the trail would get crowded then thin. Folks would stop to swim or to picnic and there are many places to do so.
Calanques de Cassis - Cassis, France

A young man offered to take our photo. Sure!
Cassis, France

The view from our lunch spot. Can you spot the kayakers and the 4 rock climbers?...
Calanques de Cassis - Cassis, France

...Or in this shot?
Calanques de Cassis - Cassis, France

Sun-Ling risks her life stepping out onto a ledge to take some panos with her phone...
Calanques de Cassis - Cassis, France

...while John stays behind to guard the lunch bag.
Cassis, France

Calanque En Vau Cassis, France

Calanque En Vau Cassis, France

We head back to Cassis after sitting for a few minutes at the official Calanque En Vau Viewpoint.
Calanques de Cassis - Cassis, France

Calanques de Cassis - Cassis, France

Back in Cassis, we head up to Cap Canaille which is billed as the highest sheer-drop cliff in Europe at 400 meters straight down. We walk on the road and it's a pretty easy 400 meter ascent in about an hour.
Calanques de Cassis - Cassis, France

The view to Cassis from about 3/5ths of the way up.
Calanques de Cassis - Cassis, France

Calanques de Cassis - Cassis, France

Calanques de Cassis - Cassis, France

And from the top. Wow!
Calanques de Cassis - Cassis, France

Calanques de Cassis - Cassis, France

Calanques de Cassis - Cassis, France

Calanques de Cassis - Cassis, France

Panorama above Cassis, France

And the view EAST towards Ciotat and Toulon beyond.
Calanques de Cassis - Cassis, France

Almost back down.
Calanques de Cassis - Cassis, France

An older model Citroen grinds up a steep section.
Calanques de Cassis - Cassis, France

And finally, the view back to Cap Canaille through the M8 bus window.
Calanques de Cassis - Cassis, France



Playa del Carmen, Mexico

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