Drawing Circles around Cézanne

by Chikashi

Mont Sainte Victoire

Whilst spending a bit of time in Aix-en-Provence, I went out for a spin in the early mornings around Montaigne Sainte-Victoire, the limestone mountain captured by Paul Cézanne in a handful of paintings and drawings.  He also had a little refuge, now a ruin, set up on the mountain where he went to paint and draw.  The route, especially at dawn, helps one to understand why Cézanne was taken by the landscape.

The counter-clockwise 60 km loop around Mont Sainte-Victoire is certainly not one of the most challenging but is a very enjoyable route with beautiful views, decent tarmac, two Catégorie 4 climbs, three Catégorie 3 climbs and very straightforward routing (starting from central Aix, D17-D57D-D623-D23-D223-D10).  As far as pre-breakfast rides go, it is a really rather nice one.  It gives one the opportunity to think about the fact that the French can easily say ‘Aix’ instead of saying ‘Hex’ and realise that an ‘egg’ really need not be an ‘hegg’ but just is.  Yep, profound stuff.

Col des Portes

I think the highest point on the route is the summit of Col des Portes at a modest 631 m altitude, but I must confess that it feels as though more was accomplished when there is a named col somewhere along the way.  It feels like I burned off more Christmas calories than otherwise.  Bizarre but true.

Rolling back into central Aix one morning, I recalled a former colleague who grew up in Aix.  One day, when her area in the office got a bit louder than usual, with a lot of animated conversations happening at once, she suddenly said, audible throughout the department, ‘I need to fock us!!’  It raised a few eyebrows at the time as it took a few days for someone to figure out that she actually meant ‘I need to focus’.  Meet the Fokkers.

In Cézanne’s days, a ride around Santo Ventùri would have been on either a velocipede or a penny farthing, on unpaved paths.  It would have been an entirely different experience.  A bit more effort than on a modern bicycle…