#235. Rocher de Roquebrune. The Zion NP of Provence?

By pascaljappy | Travel Photography

Jun 02

Have you ever seen photographs of the Rocher de Roquebrune ?

The red rocks of Rocher de Roquebrune overlooking Draguignan, Le Muy and Puget sur Argens in Provence, France

Rocher de Roquebrune, Provence

Yesterday, my little girl passed her Karate black belt in the small town of Draguignan. Now, my son is a 2nd Dan black belt, my wife is 2nd Dan black belt and my 14 year-old little one is a 1rst Dan black belt.

Which makes me the wimpy photographer with no combat skills (or will to acquire any such skills 😉 )

The 4 hour-long examination in a hot gymnasium seemed rather unappealing, particularly being so close to an iconic monolith of Provence which local guides do not hesitate to compare with Uluru. Extending the heresy to Zion National Park in the title, I’d like to lure any photo travelers in the region to give the area a thought.

As you drive along the motorway between Marseilles/Aix-en-Provence towards Nice/Cannes and Italy, you cannot fail to notice the western-like red rocks on the right-side of the road. Few people ever stop, because leaving the motorway can seem like such a waste of time, but if you ever need to break up a long journey, this is a neat spot to do so (exit at Le Muy and just point your car towards Paiute land).

The Rocher de Roquebrune seen from the streets of Roquebrune sur Argens

Rocher de Roquebrune from Roquebrune sur Argens

While nowhere near as impressive as Ayer’s Rock, Mount Augustus or Zion, NP, the Rocher de Roquebrune is still an interesting feature in an otherwise flatter and more wooded landscape. Lakes about around its base and the seaside road from there to Cannes along the Esterel has some other exciting high-points as well (more on that topic in a future post).

Several 2-6 hour walks take you around the summit or atop of it, via a hermit’s cave, wonderful cork oak forests and other nice features.

And what really makes this 1200 foot high rock stand our from it’s more illustrious brothers is the proximity of traditional stone-walled villages of Provence such as the truly charming Roquebrune sur Argens. Where else can you see a Renault 4 and a yellow postman’s van head towards the afternoon pastis under the shade of a wisteria with John Wayne country in the background ?

Very old cork oak trees on the Rocher de Roquebrune in Provence

Gnarly, Dude (a.k.a Cork Oak forest in Roquebrune sur Argens)

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  • paulperton says:

    Where else indeed? I hope you’re not going to suggest a stroll up there when we get to Provence in August.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Actually, you won’t be staying far from there. But it wouldn’t be my first choice during a 38°C summer day 😉 Plus the light is much better in the colder periods and brings out the colour of the rock better. I’ll find other places to make the legs ache 😉

  • Michael says:

    Long time viewer of “Dear Susan”.

    Not far from where I live in western Canada we have a region that has rugged terrain and an arid climate that looks a little like this, but without the quaint villages and hundreds of years of culture. When you hike through the hills there one is advised to take a ski pole or other suitable walking stick – not for balance, but to check for and defend against, if necessary, rattlesnakes. I can imagine our snakes would love this area in France!

    We are visiting France in July for a month and will be spending five days in Provence but to the north west in Vaison la Romaine. If we (we = active family of four including two bilingual teen-aged sons, one of which is a budding photographer himself) were to take a day trip towards your area, can you recommend some destinations? We are not not Cannes / Monaco glitter types and have a car.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Hi Michael, great to hear from you! You’ll be happy to hear that there are no dangerous snakes in that area. A few adders in the Alpes but nothing to worry about near Draguignan.

      I’d definitely give St Tropez / Cannes a miss in the busy season. Vaison la Romaine itself is a nice town. L’Ile sur Sorgue is popular, but can get very busy on the antiquarian market days. If you like hiking, you could do worse than visit the Mont Ventoux. And not far from that is a nice village called Sault where you have stunning views over lavender fields. Mid July, the lavenders get harvested, so it’s more clourful before that date.

      A little further South are really nice villages such as Pertuis, Lourmarin and Ansouis which I highly recommend. If you like wines and gardens, you can visit Chateau Val Joanis, which has a spectacular food garden and nice wine tastings.

      South of Avignon you will find the Alpilles. It can get hot, so take plenty of water, but the hills around St Remy are gorgeous (other interesting garden there : Jardin de l’alchimiste). South of that is the Camargue, but you’d probably need to stay overnight.

      Stone villages such as Gordes are worth visiting. Nearby are the colourful hills of Roussillon.

      On the other side of Avignon, you’ll find villages like Chateauneuf du Pape, quite pretty and very interesting for wine lovers. But prefer the region South East of Avignon.
      Aix en Provence and Avignon itself are interesting as well. And if you catch a train from Avignon TGV station, you can get an easy ride into the center of Marseilles (don’t drive, it will take hours) which you could visit for a week.

      Hope that helps. Ironically, I will be in England in July, but if our presence in France overlaps, I’d be happy to buy you a coffee some place 🙂 drop me a line (pascal.jappy at gmail.com)

      Have a great time.

  • Bruno Chalifour says:

    Merci, sur mon carnet de note.
    Avez-vous essayé la Ste Victoire (Aix), vaut le détour aussi.

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