The Provencal landscape is so ubiquitous in painting, and in film, that even if it is your first time in the region, it feels reassuringly familiar. The narrow, winding streets, with their blue shuttered houses; the wild purple flowers that climb delicately up the sides of buildings and invade the fields gloriously; the red tiled roofs of the houses that glow like embers in the seemingly endless evening sun. We were there for the climbing, but we loved it because of the landscape.
The Orpierre crags rise dramatically above the town, so that your eyes are routinely drawn up to them as you wander through the medieval streets. We spent our first morning on a 150m route that climbed the main ridge of the highest crag, and it reminded me of what I love about multi pitch climbing; the clink of gear on the lead climber’s harness, the unfolding views as you gain more and more height, the sensation of being alone, just the two of you, held together by your rope and held to the wall by your slings and quickdraws, and then the marvellous relief and exuberance of summiting.
Not to be too sentimental, it also reminded me of what I hate: tiny belay ledges that make my heart race, fingers tremble and feet cramp.
We stayed at a campsite which sold local produce – jars of terrines and golden honey, goats cheeses, sprigs of lavender – and made “maybe the best, definitely the yellowest” carbonara sauce we had ever had with eggs that had just been collected from the campsite’s hen coop. So a wonderful trip, and one that has made me very excited for the summer ahead, with the Dolomites, the Italian coast and Lake Como all on our doorstep…