In the hills just east of Aubagne lies the Forest Sainte Baume and the Grotto Sainte Marie Madeleine. In order to get to the grotto, Dude, Tinki and I hiked through the forest. It is not necessary to do this, there are other paths to take, but this particular hike is the one I recommend. The trees and fauna are spectacular. Normally the temperature is very cool and the forest very quiet (except for the occasional bleating of sheep from the nearby field). Also, there are a few tables along the way to picnic at before taking the climb up to the grotto.
The hike could take around 45-60 minutes depending on the frequency of stops (for photos or just resting).
Once you make it to the grotto there is a sign (only in French) that tells you the times of mass and that the guardians of the grotto, called Dominicans, have been watching over it since 1295. Love it (history stuff, you know)! We happened to meet one of them while visiting. From the top, you can view the entire valley that surrounds it. Unfortunately, it was not too clear a day when we were there.
Once you pass through the doors of the church, you will view an amazing site. The church was actually carved into the side of the rock. It is literally breathtaking. The interior, though not large, is very warm inside and there is the constant sound of water dripping since you are really inside a cave. When visiting, be very careful where you walk. There is a danger of slipping, since the ground is always wet.
You are allowed to walk any where inside the grotto and to take pictures, as well.
This place is well worth the visit, regardless if you are religious or not. You will not be disappointed. The hike, the view, and the peace and quiet are well worth it.