Words by LYA Editor, Images by Caroline George
For UIAGM guide Caroline George, long seasons in the mountains are part of the profession. So when the off-season arrives, the Eddie Bauer First Ascent guide seeks rest, relaxation, and recharge with her family in locations geographically removed from their home base in Chamonix. One destination she favors is the southern France region of Provence, which provides not only a slower holiday pace and thriving cultural landscape but also backyard, bolted limestone climbing with convenient babysitting for her 2-year-old daughter at her parents’ countryside house.
“In the off-seasons, my family and I often travel down south because my parents have a house in Provence, so we are pretty lucky to be able to come here and recover from a long season in the mountains, enjoy the climbing on some white limestone, and most of all enjoy the culture,” says George. “The great thing about my parents’ house is they have a cliff in the backyard that we can go climb on when it’s in the shade, so we don’t have to rush out of the house. So we can just go get a few pitches in and go back and just enjoy life.”
Beyond climbing, Provence is internationally known for its idyllic blend of French culture and Mediterranean lifestyle in a warm, dry climate. But George provides a more local perspective on the region. “The region is culturally distinct and very French at the same time, because it is your typical French landscape with beautiful red fields, Roman ruins, white limestone cliffs and olive trees everywhere,” says George. “At the same time, people are really fanatics about their region and they really love winemaking and la dolce vita. It’s really easy to go to local bakeries to buy baguettes and fresh croissants in the morning. It seems that when you come here, time just really slows down.”
A typical day in Provence for George involves waking up late and climbing a few afternoon pitches in the backyard, bolted climb-ing area behind her parents’ house, where resident babysitting allows her freedom to sport climb with her husband. Yet George also enjoys visiting the market culture of St. Rémy, hiking through hills of olive trees, visiting the harbors and exploring more of the nuances of a location that has become even more appealing since she started visiting with her young daughter.
“My daughter is a trouper: she travels really well. But traveling with my daughter is logistically quite involved because we have to take things for her to play with, to sleep in, so it’s whole new logistics,” says George. “But it makes traveling that much more fun because we get to discover areas through her eyes, and that is magical in itself.”
“I used to be in the mountains for my time off and in the mountains for my life…when my parents first got the house, I was never real excited to come because I was so addicted to the mountains,” George summarizes. “But coming here with my daughter, I see how much she enjoys it and it’s leading me to discover this place in a new light. Now I come here to travel and walk the streets and I almost want to live here.”
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