Archive for the 'Hiking' category

Short Trip to Sardinia

May 23, 2010 4:59 pm

Near DorgaliLast week Kevin and I took advantage of a cheap fare from Marseille to Sardinia, and spent 5 days touring the island. In preparation for the trip, I looked up Sardinia on-line and came across this little bit of folklore: Sardinian Legend has it that after completing Her creation of the World [a little editing par moi], God dropped some leftover rocks into the Mediterranean. Then She looked over what She had already created, removed a little of the best from each place, and sprinkled it liberally over one of those dropped rocks which, of course, became the island of Sardinia. It is really really rocky there – a lot like the south of France – and the rock is beautiful, especially set against lots of pines and ink blue or turquoise water. See some of our photos here.P1040724

One of the highlights for us was a hike up to a huge cave – Tiscali – a place high up in a limestone mountain range where one of the mountaintops caved in forming a huge hole protected from the elements. Ancient peoples – the Nuragic – settled in the cave to hide from foreign invaders around 1500 B.C., and the remains of their stone structures are still visible. I had found a website for a hiking cooperative – – located in Dorgali (near the east coast) who arranged the hike. They lead lots of different tours to incredible beaches, caves accessible only by boat, and remote mountain hikes,  and going with them turned out to be a great thing to do. Our guide, Geon Paulo, explained lots about the trees and flowers, as well as the anthropology of the area, and fed us a great picnic of Sardinia cheeses, sausages, breads, and red wine. (BTW, the photo at right shows a little “window” that was created by a falling rock, not the top of the mountaintop that fell in. You can see remnants of the house people made in the rock in the photo.)

Lloc d'Or, B&B in AlgheroThen we moved on to the walled-city of Alghero where we stayed in a lovely B & B, its plain exterior concealing a little urban paradise. It’s run by an extremely genial couple, Gemma and Giovanni, who appear just to want to sit down with you and chat – all the while pouring local wine, setting out little gourmet treats, and telling us about their favorite restaurants and sights. (They can be found at At 50€ a night, the Lloc D’Or was definitely a Bonne Adresse.) One place they told us to visit was Neptune’s Grotto, a beautiful cave along the coast where you have to walk down 600 steps just to get to its mouth.Neptune's Grotto

Sardinian food was fabulous and very reasonable, especially compared to mainland Europe prices; the scenery was rugged but beautiful and filled with wildflowers this time of year; and where we were was authentic and unspoiled by tourism. Plus, you get to hear people chattering away in Italian! Dr. Ruth highly recommends.


Les Calanques

April 16, 2010 5:09 pm

Les Calanques“A calanque (from the Corsican word of preindoeuropean origin calanca (plural calanche) meaning ‘inlet’) is a geologic formation in the form of a deep valley with steep sides, typically of limestone, in part submerged by the sea. It can be considered a Mediterranean fjord … The best known examples of this formation can be found in the Massif des Calanques in the Bouche de Rhone département of France.”  Woohoo! The “Mouth of the Rhone” is the department we just happen to live in!

KevinWe went to Les Calanques a week ago today, and it is the perfect time of year to visit there – before the tourist mobs and the too-hot-for-hiking weather arrive. Last Friday was a magnificent Spring day – warm but not too warm, with a lovely breeze, clear blue skies, and wild flowers blooming wherever they could grab hold. You can think of Les Calanques as fingers outstretched from the “palm” of the mainland between Marseille and Cassis. When I was standing on one finger, I couldn’t wait to get to the next, but the hiking wasn’t easy. The entire area is extremely rocky, and you have to climb up then down each Calanque to reach the next. The views make the hiking easier, though, with the rock and the pines and, when you add the clear ink blue and turquoise water into your viewscape, well, it’s just one of the most beautiful places in the world. Plus, the hiking and rock climbing opportunities are boundless. We hiked there with our friends, Larry (American) and Martine (French), their niece Iris (French), and Karil (American). We picnicked at a refuge we reached on one of Les Calanques, and Larry told us that he had stayed there for a month in 1967. He had to hike out to Cassis once a week to get food and drinking water, and to shower in a local hotel, and during the days he would free climb the sheer rock cliffs. This, he said, was before it – and Cassis – became hot tourist spots. It must’ve been so wonderful back then, because it’s still pretty sweet now. (More photos here.)Les Calanques


Visit to Trento, Italy, and the Dolomites

August 11, 2008 6:11 pm

Lake GardaItaly … sigh. Last week, Kevin and I drove to Trento for a short stay. Trento is about 70 miles northwest of Venice, situated in a glacial valley surrounded by the extremely tall sheer foothills of the Alps known as the Dolomites. The town is beautiful, with well-preserved Renaissance buildings, piazzas, and loads of cafes, restaurants, and bars with al fresco seating. And, I am happy to report, it was not mobbed with tourists, even at the height of the European holiday season – August.

It is only a short drive from Trento to the surrounding Dolomites, but the architecture completely changes from Italian to Alpine. All the signs are in Italian and German. We learned that after WW1, the border in this region shifted from Austria to Italy. I have the impression that boundaries all around here have shifted enormously over time. But whichever country claims the region, it is very alpine in nature, with rough jagged peaks reached by a network of ski gondolas, and there are hiking trails galore. Thanks to our lack of reading prior to the trip, however, we were not well-prepared for what the mountains had to offer. Without our hiking boots, backpacks, and water bottles, we could not just wander off onto the trails. What a pity. We had to content ourselves with strolling along the shores of some of the numerous beautiful turquoise lakes. At one lake in the alpine village of Molveno, we watched a demonstration of rescue dogs saving “drowners”. The dogs were having the time of their lives.

Speaking of lakes, we drove home by way of Lake Garda. When we came around a bend overlooking the lake, the view was so beautiful it felt surreal. I realized from scrutinizing the map that legendary Lake Como is between us here in Provence and Trento. I have promised myself to return next month for a visit to Lake Como, as well as for lots of hiking in the Dolomites. I had no idea of the treasures lying in wait in northern Italy – so accessible from where we live in the south of France!

Oh, and one more thing. While eating breakfast at our hotel, I saw a man whom I thought looked remarkably like Michael Palin. When I realized it was him, I must’ve made quite a face. He looked right at me, reflecting my wide-eyed shock of recognition. It cracked me up! I went over to tell him how great I think he is and he was really wonderful. He told me that each of the many travel shows he does is followed by a book of photographs, and that all the printing has been done in Trento. He and his photographer were there this time to work on their next project – a “best of” book of photos from all the shows. He started doing travelogues in 1980. 28 years ago? Impossible …

I’ve put up just a few shots myself in Photos.


Cherchez la “Farm”

March 30, 2008 5:26 pm

Yesterday, Kevin and I took a walk around the montagnette where we live – it was a magnificent warm sunny Spring day – and we noticed lots of people with plastic bags, their bodies hunched over, their eyes glued to the ground. What were they looking for this time? We had seen this same behavior several months ago, and discovered they were scouring for wild mushrooms. That season is long past, so now it had to be something else. As we approached a couple with yet another plastic bag, we said, “Bonjour, messieur-dame” (which is what you say as you pass a couple), and I found my curiosity peaked enough to ask, “Qu’est-ce que vous cherchez, s’il vous plait?” The reply, “Des asperges. Mais c’est le fin de la saison.” Wild asparagus! And in our own backyard, so to speak. But I think the gratuitous bit of added wisdom was to try to put us off hunting for our own supply. Nice try … 

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A Walk Around the Grounds of Hampton Court Palace

March 9, 2008 6:20 pm

Hampton Court Palace GroundsKevin and I just returned from a week in Merry Olde and Very Olde England. Kevin’s parents, Geoff and Jenni, are fortunate to live just a stone’s throw from Bushy Park, the second largest of the Royal Parks of London, and Hampton Court Palace, appropriated by Henry VIII from Cardinal Wolsey in around 1525.

I was very lucky to have several sunny, if not warm, days to stroll with Geoff and Jenni through Bushy Park, as well as the palace grounds. We arrived at the absolute peak of the daffodil bloom. We also walked across Molesey Bridge and watched a couple beautiful boats go through Molesey Lock. The scenery is so completely different from Provence, but so gorgeous in its own way. So veddy English! Check out the photos in Gallery.


A winter walk in Bushy Park

February 9, 2008 11:35 am
What are these trees?

I’ve just returned home from spending a week in London. I stayed with my parents who live near Hampton Court Palace and a wonderful royal park, Bushy Park; home to many deer, wildlife and people enjoying a day out. I went for a great walk with my parents, a beautiful, crisp morning and want to share some of the pictures I took with you.

If anyone can identify the trees in this picture, please let me know. Every time I walk past them, I remark how different they are and I have no idea what they are.


Saturday Hike

January 12, 2008 5:59 pm

After a torrent of rain last night complete with lightning that we totally failed to catch on film (or rather, memory card) it was a warm 5ºC and sunny this morning so we headed off for a walk. We live on the side of “the Montagnette,” a little mountain, and decided to explore the far side of it, only 5-10 minutes drive away.

Saturday HikeSaturday HikeAs you can see, we had a bit of a climb at the beginning but we got some spectacular views out towards Tarascon. A little chill at the top but as we descended to other side it became quite warm in the sunny lee of the rock. There we found a wide track to follow which led us along a ridge of high, rocky hills. We were overtaken by a couple of joggers with a quick “bonjour” they were gone as fast as they appeared.

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