Wow, what a Summer we’ve been having in Provence! With soaring temperatures, it really has been amazing for those of us who love to make the most of the heat of the summer. Still, there are times when even the most ardent heat lovers want to cool down for a bit. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to enjoy a little bit of ‘chill time’ in Provence!

The Umbrella Sky Project

Early morning and the sun is already climbing to 30C. A terrace umbrella provides a welcome reprieve. But for those seeking shelter in Aix-en-Provence, one umbrella just doesn’t cover it!

The Umbrella Sky Project was devised by artist Patricia Cunha in Portugal, 2011 and has since spread worldwide. From 26 June for two months Place François Villon in Aix-en-Provence will host 600 multi-coloured umbrella canopies. They will provide shade and shelter for passing pedestrians.

Numerous pop-up parasols are installed overhead to help cool the pathways in a creative and cost-effective approach. The span of umbrellas form a unique, geometric pattern causing changing shadows on the road below. Furthermore, these artistic shade structures launched over urban alleyways provide ideal material for many an Instagram grid!

Gorges du Toulourenc

Take a tranquil walk in the calming beautiful Gorges du Toulourenc. If you prefer a quieter hike, start in Veaux and head downstream towards Malaucene. Closer to Malaucene is more populated and will appeal to the more adventurous types with rock climbing. Old or water shoes are a must, as is taking a succulent picnic.

Water levels in the region can often run low from June, but the Ouveze and Toulourenc remain high due to being fed by several sources from Mount Ventoux.

Canyon in the Gorges du Loup

For an exciting and refreshing excursion, nothing beats white water rafting in the Gorges du Loupnear Cagnes-sur-Mer. Race through the ravines in translucent, wavy waters for a refreshing exhilarating experience.

Lap up the lakes

Whether made by Mother Nature or man, there are some wonderful wild swimming opportunities in Provence. Some are tiny with a heavenly peaceful vibe, whilst others are huge and begging to be surfed or sailed on. Many of the artificial lakes are used to store water and generate electricity. Uncrowded, fresh and surrounded by mountains or rolling hills, they will be sure to recharge your senses.

France’s third largest lake hasn’t been around for as long as many of the other French lakes. In fact, Lac de Sainte Croix only dates back to 1973 when the Sainte Croix dam was built across the Verdun River. However, there is nothing faux about this lake. Surrounded by forests and hills there are swimming areas with sandy beaches. And, as an added bonus, there are lifeguards on duty too.

The limestone geology of the area gives the lakes an azure hue and it remains warm up until late October. A popular place to kayak, windsurf and sail. Ecologically – only sail, human powered or electric motors are permitted.

Sailing at Lac de Serre-Ponçon

Drift over to Lac de Serre-Ponçon for an introduction to sailing.

An instructor will teach you all you need to know about the art of navigation whilst revelling in the stunning scenery of the lakes and little creeks. If you’re looking for something really novel, spend the night on a sailboat and enjoy waking up to the lake’s magical ambiance.

Kayaking in the Calanques

Hop aboard a kayak to explore the secret treasures of the Calanques fjords between Marseille and Cassis.

Paddle peacefully for breath-taking scenery including clandestine coves and natural caves. Make the most of the fjords’ distant discreet beaches to enjoy a well-earned rest.

Wild snorkelling

Why not beat the heat with total submersion in the crystal-clear waters of the Mediterranean. Discover hidden treasures by grabbing a mask and snorkel and make your way to the warm waters around Marseille for a unique snorkelling experience. You can either explore independently or with a guide.

One opportunity to explore the seabed is the Corbières Marine Trail. This trail starts from Fortin beach and leads to the meadow Posidonia under the fort. However, this route is not recommended for the elderly.

Marked snorkelling trails are indicated with buoys equipped with submerged maps, often rest areas, and are a safe way to enjoy this shallow water excursion.

Follow the Sentier Marin de Corbière snorkelling trail to get up close and friendly with the fish. It’s easy to navigate thanks to the informative underwater panels attached to buoys.

From Marseille, take the shuttle over to the island of Frioul for a 15-minute walk to the cove of Saint Estève. There are five buoys housing submerged maps.  They will enlighten you about the environment you will experience, and the aquatic species you’ll be likely to encounter. This free of charge trail is accessible to all, but children must be accompanied by adults.

Alternatively Catalan Beach in the heart of Marseille offers a trail made up of 6 buoys, equipped with rest bars. Each buoy provides underwater information about the flora and fauna with differing themes. These include life in the sea, history of the Catalans and rock life.

Blackcurrant beach in Cassis not only sounds scrumptious, it is also the location of a 20-30 minute trail comprising of 4 buoys with immersed informative maps. Here you can either swim independently, or with a guide.

These are just a small handful of cool discoveries to be found in the warmth of Provence and perfect for keeping the heat at bay during your holidays. Enjoy!

Su Stephens is Owner of Olives & Vines. Olives & Vines is a luxury holiday company based in the South of France offering stays at their beautifully designed holiday house and boutique hotel in Le Castellet.

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