Our first hike on Victoire was so much fun that we were really gung-ho to get out and go hiking the next weekend. We had bought a book in a series of hiking books recommended to us by Geneviève and our plan was to go to Marseille and go hiking in the Calanques. We'd looked up departure times for all the relevant bus connections, we had our picnic lunch ready to go, our clothes laid out, but then a final check of Météo before bed predicted very questionable weather for Marseille. And a check of the weather the next morning at 6:30am said the same thing.
These days, the sun comes up a bit before 7am and sets around 8:30pm. But back in January, it didn't get light until around 8am, when we would have needed to be on the bus to Marseille to make all of those connections. So at 6:30am, we made the decision to sleep in and to pass on hiking.
And then the sun came up and it was a beautiful Saturday so we decided to try walking out of Aix to where we thought there might be a trail leading to Lac Bimont and Victoire. It sure looked like there was on that map we'd found online.
It turns out, we were right about the trail leading out of Aix (not on the map) and connecting to ones that are on the map. It's one of those things where you just kind of keep walking and eventually you leave Aix proper and enter into the netherworld that isn't Aix (but bears no signage for the settlement you're in) and you keep walking some more and eventually you come to a road that is closed to motor traffic except residents, which leads to the path that leads to the real trail. Technically, you're on a trail the whole time (little yellow balisages appear every so often on electric poles and fences), but for the first 40mn of walking it feels like you're in town.
Anyway, the first site the trail leads to is a tower that might or might not be named la tour du César, or "the tower of Caesar". Apparently there's some disagreement over its name. It's also called la tour de Keyrié (the plateau it sits atop), and la tour du Prévôt, or "marshal" for the marshal who may have built it back in the late 1300s. In any case it's a watchtower that's about 15m high. And much to my dismay, you can't go inside it.
After the tour du César/Keyrié/Prévôt, you end up on the G.R. 98, a major hiking trail around here that goes to Victoire and beyond -- at least as far as Cassis. This part of the trail is a government forest road, so it's wide open and very clear. It's really pretty up there, though, and you get lots of views of Victoire.
After our pique-nique, we thought it might be fun to hike down the hill into Saint-Marc-Jaumegarde and get a coffee and then take the bus back into Aix. So we hiked down to the main road and went the wrong way and ended up in the Hameau les Bonfifllons, a really cute little village (but without a café). So we hiked back to where we went the wrong way and decided to walk to Lac Bimont. Maybe they'd have a sandwich/drink cart or café.
No dice, but it was beautiful!
Panorama from the dam looking south-east (Victoire is the peak on the right):
Us on the dam -- happy, but feeling like we really want a coffee and a bus back to Aix:
Here's the view from the dam to the west:
Here's the dam we were standing on to take those pictures:
The dam was built after WWII, funded by the Marshall Plan. It is 285 feet high. It catches the watershed from Victoire, but the lake is primarily supplied by the man-made Canal de Provence that brings water in from the Verdon river. The reservoir in turn and supplies many towns in the area around Aix and even Marseille, although this isn't Marseille's primary water source.
We never did get that coffee. After our time on the dam, we walked into Saint-Marc-Jaumegard, which turned out not to have a cute little cafe, or any cafe, or an ATM where we'd be able to get money to buy that coffee or money for those bus tickets back to Aix. Instead, we ate the last of our shortbread cookies and chocolate and then walked home.
There are many more hiking trails around Lac Bimont. In fact, if you tune in later, there will be another couple of posts about it.