I absolutely love Aix (including its plethora of charming fountains, as seen above), but I wanted to use this post to highlight just a few of the fantastic experiences I've had outside of the city.
Cezanne's beloved Mt. Sainte Victoire. With hiking and climbing access only a short bus ride from Aix, the mountain is a favorite for locals and visitors alike.
On our first non-jetlagged weekend here in Aix, many of us from the program summited the famous local landmark, a wonderful way to start our time here. Beginning from the dam and beautiful blue lake at the bottom, it's about a 2 or 3 hour climb up the peak and its stunning panoramic views.
|Hiking towards the peak of Mt. Sainte-Victoire|
Next on the list of must-do outdoor adventures was the calanques. A series of Mediterranean inlets with limestone formations rising dramatically out of them, the calanques feature brilliantly blue water and are a great day trip from Aix.
|En Vau Calanque|
|We had the beach at the En Vau calanque all to ourselves|
Accessed through either Marseille or the cute little beach town of Cassis, the recently formed Calanques national park is favorite of hikers, climbers, and swimmers alike.
|From the calanques toward Cassis and its red cliffs|
|Above the calanques on the Marseille side|
|Wet weather made for some really cool fog on the cliffs|
I am an avid mountain biker, and I have to admit to hauling my bike all the way over here to France. For me, my bike is partly a vehicle for exploration and adventure, and it certainly served those purposes here in Aix. I was able to explore so much more around the Aix area than I could have on foot, I met locals out on the trails (a wonderful opportunity for me to practice my French!), and was regularly awed by the beauty I found out on the trails that were just a few minutes from my apartment.
|An evening out of a dream, photo taken just outside of Aix|
|The Verdon Gorge|
One of Provence's most jaw-dropping landscapes, about an hour and a half drive from Aix, is the Verdon Gorge. Sometimes called the "Grand Canyon of Europe," the dramatic rock formations, turquoise water of the Verdon River, and the Lac de Sainte-Croix at the gorge's mouth make it a must see.
|Scrambling above the Lac de Sainte-Croix|
Though Marseille is the second largest metropolitan area in France, there is certainly no shortage of natural beauty around the city. Besides the calanques there's the Frioul archipelago, a small chain of islands easily accessed by boat from Marseille's old port. Well known for being the home of the the prison where the Count of Monte Christo spent time, the islands also feature some beautiful inlets, beaches, and a distinctive rocky landscape.
|A cove on the Frioul Archipelago off Marseille|
There's really no end to the natural beauty and opportunities for outdoor adventure here in Provence, and studying abroad with CEA here in Aix truly is an amazing way to take advantage of everything Provence has to offer, in and outside the city. Here are just a few more outdoor highlights from a semester that has gone by far too fast.
|Parc Jourdan here in Aix|
|Calanque de Sugiton|
|Saint-Rémy de Provence|
Satchel Cronk is the Spring 2015 MOJO Photographer in Aix-en-Provence, France. He is currently a junior at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
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