Even if you haven't read Pagnol's works or seen his films, you can enjoy the Circuit Pagnol, a hike in the raw-hewn, arid garrigues (scrublands) behind Marseille and Aubagne. Here Pagnol spent his idyllic summers, described in his Souvenirs d'un Enfance (Memories of a Childhood), crunching through the rosemary, thyme, and scrub oak at the foot of his beloved Garlaban. When he grew up to be a famous playwright and filmmaker, he shot some of his best
work in these hills, casting his wife, Jacqueline, as the first Manon of the Springs. After Pagnol's death, Claude Berri came back to the Garlaban to find a location for his remake of Manon des Sources, but found it so altered by brush fires and power cables that he chose to shoot farther east instead, around Cuges-les-Pine and Riboux. (The lovely village and Manon's well were filmed in Mirabeau, in the Luberon.) Although the trail may no longer shelter the pine-shaded olive orchards of its past, it still gives you the chance to walk through primeval Provençal countryside and rewards you with spectacular views of Marseille and the sea. To access the marked trail by yourself, drive to La Treille northeast of Aubagne and follow the signs. For an accompanied tour with literary commentary, contact the Office du Tourisme.