By the end of week three of pigging out on delicious saucisson, chevre, patisserie, and famous chocolate from Purrycard paired with excellent Provence wine, I’m feeling heavy and bloated. Back home, I make an effort to work out, eat healthy and control my sugar intake. Not here. Feeling a bit disgusted with myself, I start looking for a place to jog.
We are crashing with friends in Ventabren, a charming cobble-stone village 15 mins away from Aix with a picturesque Provençal backdrop and what must be the tidiest town center in all of Southern France. Not is it only devoid of chien excrement – ostensibly, a part of French town charme – but its streets, houses and porches are so orderly and clean, it almost has a Swiss or German feel to it. In fact, the only woman I encounter during the sacred lunch hour, is sweeping an already impeccable town plaza.
Aqueduc de Roquefavour, the world’s largest stone aqueduct is only about 4km away. Built by a 26-year-old engineer in the middle of the 19th century, it transports water from the Durance River to Marseille. This impressive 375-meter long, 83-meter high structure is a national heritage site in France.
I get my family going; we pack a bike and our friends’ dog in the car and drive to look for a trail to Roquefavour. The plateau of Ventabren turns out to be the point of departure of numerous hikes and rides, including the trail to Roquefavour. We follow the yellow clay-and-gravel path exposing panoramic views of the
French countryside, descending towards enclaves of red-shingled Provancal homes, climbing up through shrubbery and pines to the ruins of an ancient village, and leading us out to a breathtaking lookout over the aqueduct. At a moderate pace, the jog to Roquefavour takes about 25 minutes.
Dozens of trails originate, meet and interlace in the hills of Ventabren, connecting it to the neighboring villages, and the villages next to them, all through Bouches-du-Rhône region. The area is a paradise for hikers, mountain bikers, and nature lovers who have hundreds, if not thousands of routes to explore. I am happy with my first discovery, and I am coming back for more – to try new jogging destinations, enjoy the views, burn a few calories, and silence my guilty conscience.