The Calanques
Jill’s walk took her to the stunning calanques near Marseille

A combination of one too many pains au chocolat and a desire to explore the countryside around Aix en Provence led me to agree to join a superb group of hardy walkers based out of Aix called the International Hiking Club of Provence.

Exercising in the gym is a dull option in this beautiful region and the romantic notion of a weekly sea swim fades when the mistral starts to blow and the water temperature drops suddenly. That’s a summer pleasure, for me at least!!

The group arrange imaginative hikes in the countryside around Aix – Mont St Victoire, The Luberon, The Calangues (sometimes known as Calanques), The Durance valley and many more..

Sometimes tough but more than often gentle and winding, you need a good pair of walking boots and an appetite for outstanding beauty and hearty conversation with mix of locals and expats.

My first walk led me down the side of a cliff to the Calangue of Sugiton (the easiest to access). These sea cliffs are the highest in France and the calangues, starting ten miles from Marseille, are little fjord-like inlets hiding small stretches of beach. It was a superb workout for the thighs and, afterwards, a treat – a refreshing sea swim.   Magic! Just our little group; a few locals and the odd kayaker sharing the experience.

Another hike in Provence and the intoxicating smell of rosemary and thyme led me reasonably effortlessly up a local mountain in the Luberon. My company; the soft air and illuminating light; later a café latte in a leafy village square with the group. What a simple pleasure and treat for the senses!

Provence has hundreds of trails to explore through woods and valleys; vineyards and tranquil meadows of lavender and olives. Mont Ventoux – the largest mountain in the region is next on my list. A friend cycles there regularly and loves it.

My hiking conquests inspired me to persuade the kids to try. They walked up Mont St Victoire and down a Calangue. OK, they complained most of the way but they celebrated their perseverance with a huge hot chocolate. They couldn’t wait to tell their friends about the experience!

Click here for more French walking holiday ideas.