Jamie Ivey, author of the Moon Guide to Provence, selects his five favourite viewpoints in Provence.
Gordes, from the Route de Cavaillon, approx 1 km outside the village.
Gordes is the ultimate Provencal hilltop village. Stone houses cling defiantly to the side of the cliff face and a single road skirts a high ridge leading into town. It all reminds me of Tolkein’s fictional fortress town of Gondor in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. The viewpoint just on the edge of town, offers the best opportunity to stop and marvel at Gordes and the view out over the valley of the River Cavalon below.
D141 Corniches de Cretes between Cassis and La Ciotat
There is nothing like a good sea view, particularly when it is from the highest sea cliff in France – Cap Canaille. The D141 winds out of Cassis climbing to just under 400 metres above sea level. Looking out at the Med below it feels like you are in a plane rather than a car. Yachts are tiny white dots crossing an immense blue canvass. The jagged coastline of the world famous Calanques stretches away towards Marseille. The best time to stop is of course in the moments before sunset. The nature of the light changes seemingly every few seconds.
D71, Corniche Sublime between Aiguines and Comps sur Artuby, Gorges du Verdon
Roads run both to the north and the south of the Verdon Gorges. The Route des Cretes to the north is the most vertiginous but the Corniche Sublime to the south offers better views. Stopping points along the way are well signposted. At its highest point the Gorges is some 700m deep. Vultures and even golden eagles soar on the obliging air currents. It’s hard to conceive that the small Verdon river, so far below could have cut its way through so much rock.
Le Terrain des Peintres – Aix en Provence
Just up the road from Cezanne’s atelier (workshop) is this small park and viewpoint overlooking Mont Saint Victoire. Cezanne was obsessed with painting the rock and this was one of his favourite spots from which to work. There are reproduction of 8 of his paintings, but the most enjoyable thing to do is to sit and enjoy the magnificent view.
Calanque Mejean, Ensues La Redounne, nr Carry Le Rouet, as seen from the coastal path.
There is something magical about the Calanque Mejean. Maybe its the rollercoaster of a road you have to take to get there, maybe its the charmingly simple Mange Toute restaurant which nestles in the bay, maybe its the spectacular railway bridge that crosses the hillside, maybe its the glistening unspoilt waters of the Med. Whatever it is, I just adore following the coastal path and then sitting on a rock and gazing back towards the small port.