The Grande Randonnée (French), Grote Routepaden or Lange-afstand-wandelpaden (Dutch), Grande Rota (Portuguese) or Gran Recorrido (Spanish) is a network of long-distance footpaths in Europe, mostly in France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain. The trails in France alone cover approximately 60,000 kilometres (37,000 mi). Trails are blazed with characteristic marks consisting of a white stripe above a red stripe. These appear regularly along the route, especially at places like forks or crossroads.
Every Tuesday, a group of us take on one of these Grande Randonneés. This one was from the village of Lioux.
Lioux is a miniscule village situated within the Luberon National Regional Park and surrounded by some exceptionally beautiful countryside. A ‘gigantic’ rock face over hangs the village – 700 metres up and over 2km long. This is a great hike from the village square up a winding contour path and then along the escarpment before descending (rapidly) back to the village. About 8km in total, it’s one of our favourites – if it’s hot, take water!!
It’s one of the most traditional and colourful annual festivals in Provence – the Fete de Transhumance in St Remy-de-Provence. This year’s version – the 33rd – was held, per tradition, on the Monday holiday after Pentecost and features over 4,000 sheep and goats walking through the village on their way to summer grazing in the nearby Alpilles mountains. Accompanied by shepherds, donkey carts, people in traditional dress, it is a Festival of colour, noise and the aroma of a real farm coming back into the town. It’s a comforting smell, and reminds us of times gone by when it was all about living off the land and not pursuing the commerciality and accumulation of ‘stuff’ so prevalent today. The simplicity of the smell is what resonates with me!
If you’re ever in the area during this time (always check out the French public holiday calendar for the month of May), then the Fete de Transhumance is a MUST!