On the scenic Train des Pignes

On the scenic Train des Pignes

After almost two weeks together, my sister and I parted ways.  She returned to the kibbutz in Israel, and I flew to Nice, France for the next leg of my journey, a five-day guided hiking expedition along the trails in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence that featured several land art installations by the artist Andy Goldsworthy.   I had long wanted to see some of Goldsworthy’s work, especially after seeing the movie Rivers and Tides about his unique vision.  When I ran across some newspaper articles (here and here) about the Refuges d’Art and Goldsworthy sculptures along a trail in France, I added this experience to my wish list of things to do before I die.

So I was very much looking forward to the France part of my vacation, although I did not have many details about the hike itself.  I did not know who else might have signed up and I knew little about the area.  My guide, Jean-Pierre Brovelli of etoile-rando.com, was taking care of all meals, lodging, transportation and logistics.  All I had to do was to show up in Digne on the morning of our first hike.

I took the little scenic train, the Train des Pignes, from Nice to Digne, enjoying the warmer Mediterranean weather, the blooming lilacs and wisteria, the green grassy pastures, orchards of white blossoms, and villages (Entrevaux and Puget-Theniers looked especially interesting) from the train windows.  I arrived in Digne in the late afternoon, and had time for a short walk around the town before turning in early.  I wanted to sleep well before the hiking started the next day.

In the morning, I was met at the hotel by Jean-Pierre and then the rest of our group made introductions.  There were five other hikers, all French, four women and one man, and I was heartened to see that they were all roughly my age.  We would be lead by Jean-Pierre and his fellow guide, Eric.  I felt we were in good hands.

Old shuttered buildings, Digne

Old shuttered buildings, Digne

The Boulevard Gassendi in Digne, lined by trees with their branches lopped off

The Boulevard Gassendi in Digne, lined by trees with their branches lopped off

Trees were in bud

Trees were in bud

I loved the rustic, weathered shutters

I loved the rustic, weathered shutters

Weathered blue doors

Weathered blue doors

Wall mural in the breakfast room at my hotel, the Hotel de Provence, Digne

Wall mural in the breakfast room at my hotel, the Hotel de Provence, Digne