Initially this is a walk in a rural environment with small holdings and no large scale agriculture; it becomes dry, steep sided, eroded valleys and ridges with multiple lime stone outcrops and wooded areas made up of pine and mountain oak. Shrubs abound; cistus, broom, rock roses, geraniums, and also herbs; rosemary, thyme, lavender.
Leaving from the centre of Pont de l'Etoile, at the medieval stone bridge, you cross beneath the Marseilles and Toulon expressway before immediately becoming immersed in the Provencal hinterland of small hamlets and small holdings as you climb towards the ridge above Vallon St Clair. On joining the Crete de la Galere, the views span four minor valleys with a panorama of Marseilles and the Provencal coast beyond. On reaching the high point at Col de Bertagne you descend down the rough remains of an old railway before you enter the high alpine village of Plan d'Aups-Sainte-Baumes.
Always check the weather before setting off, and take heed of any paths that have been closed by the authorities.
Temperatures in Provence can soar, and you can't always rely on passing a water supply on your walk. Take at least 2 litres of water per person, perhaps even more on very hot days. Do not wait until you are thirsty to drink, and take regular sips as you go.
There is no where to pick up food or drink along the way so a picnic and plenty of water is necesarry. You can ask you hotel to provide this (always ask upon check-in) or you can pick up supplies from the local bakery or supermarket before setting off.
Points of Interest
1) GR Routes of France -The GR routes of France are part of a wider network that links much of continental Europe. Classified as: Grandes Randonnees (GR), important long distance routes & marked with white/red flashes; Grand Randonnes du Pays (GRdP), major circular routes & marked with yellow/red; Promenades et Randonnes (PR), local paths & marked with yellow. Especially in tourist areas, further colours are used to differentiate between PRs and they are often combined when paths coincide. Black should be ignored as they are simply corrections and white/red/white is usually for forestry purposes. Further symbols, in appropriate colours, are used to indicate turns or forks and crosses means that you are leaving the marked path. Keep your eyes peeled and if you lose all signs, retrace the trail to find them.
2) La Maison de celle qui peint- is the house with the extraordinary blue facade opposite the ancient Pont de l'Etoile. This unusual, three dimensional mural is the work of Danielle Jacqui and is in its fourth revision since the year 2000.
3) Chapel of St Clair - The 17th Century chapel of St Clair was a place of contemplation before a statue of the saint. Having fallen into disrepair, the chapel was rebuilt in 1996 with a replica figurine.
4) Cisterns - The large, circular ground-level cisterns are used as part of an extensive infrastructure for fighting forest fires in Provence. They are generally numbered and marked on IGN maps as a small blue square, making them useful way marks for the walker as well as the firefighter.