That would be me. I’d just slipped, bum knee and all, on the way down from Oppidum d’Untinos, the Roman ruin that we’d hiked to above Maison Sainte-Victoire. And Devon, our 8-year-old grand-daughter, was ragging on me.
It didn’t bother me a bit, not on this perfect day, this beautiful hike, beneath this massive peak that dominates the landscape for miles around Aix-en-Provence. Besides, Devon had reason to feel cocky. She’d wanted to stop three-quarters of the way up. But she’d stuck with it, her first hike to a destination.
We hadn’t even boarded our bus in Aix-en-Provence — line 110 at quay 21 of the main bus station, Gare Routiere — until 2:15 p.m. The next three hours would prove our best so far on this very successful trip leading 13 Emerson College students to Aix for three weeks of language study. Roundtrip bus fare: 2 euros a person. Busride time: about 30 minutes. View: incomparable.
May is an astonishing month in Provence, particularly in a year like this when the early part of the month was damp. Wildflowers filled the crevasses between rocks. The landscape has stayed green. And the rock cliffs of Sainte-Victoire rise up sharply, dominating the valley. Add to that temperatures in the high 70s, low humidity, blazing sunshine, blue skies and a gentle breeze, and the afternoon had the feel of a stroll through a movie set without parallel. Only this wasn’t the movies.
I climbed to the top of Mont Sainte-Victoire with my cousin Hazel,in 2007, right up to the big cross that sits atop the highest point. With a bum right knee, I wouldn’t even try to do so right now. No matter. It was so much fun to see Devon gather her willpower and push on to our destination, even if it was only 45 minutes or so up from the road below.
“Attention old people. Please watch your step,” she said as we neared Maison Sainte-Victoire on the way down.
I was tempted to tell her my secret but I’ll tell you instead: No matter what our biological age, Devon is the one keeping Kathy and me young.