October 18, 2016

La Sainte-Victoire.

This week my dad and my former boss in New York both pointed me to a great piece in T Magazine on Simone de Beauvoir's early days in the south of France and her passion for the alps and hiking in this region. The article was written after the author had found a copy of de Beauvoir's The Prime of Life (La force de l'âge) in which de Beauvoir chronicled her solo treks. There is a great quote out of the book: in thinking of nothing but "the pleasurable sensation of possessing legs and lungs and a stomach." I love de Beauvoir's abandon - admire it immensely. The article cites her response when cautioned against hiking alone: "I had no intention of making my life a bore with precautions of this sort." I hope my girls will live life with a similar sense deep in their bellies.

There is nothing that brings me back to my childhood more than hiking. Coming from a family where my dad crafted itineraries for every vacation around a group of mountains (and where we famously had to try out to go on the vacation), the rhythm of breathing up a trail makes me downright homesick.

Aix-en-Provence's icon - muse for Cézanne and other artists who loved this region: La Sainte-Victoire. Since we arrived in July, I have wanted to climb this mountain. It sits there, hovering in the distance, calling. This past week I finally did, with a good friend Karine. There are many ways up the mountain - trails from all sides, long and winding or more technical with climbing routes. We started at Lac du Bimont - an emerald colored reservoir near Aix. It was about 2 hours to the top. The first part of the trail is a simple stroll toward the mountain, engulfed in typically mediterranean vegetation. Wild rosemary and thyme fill your nostrils as you hike. Fantastic. The path is limestone, rubbed smooth and slick at times. The last 1/3 of the hike is a pretty good scramble up - a lot of fun. This mountain is a pilgrimage. We hit it in October, during the week, which meant very few people; I am sure in summer months it is packed. I wanted my dad on that hike with me.

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