Friday 6 November 2015

The Verdon Gorge: Too Good to Leave

France, 26th – 30th October 2015

We ended up staying in the Canyon de Verdon area for a week as we liked it so much, plus were held back by a spell of bad weather. This week was a cheap one as we didn’t travel much, haven’t had any overnight costs and had most of our food in stock. Linked to this, this point marks six months away continuously travelling for us so Jo has been working on our accounts spreadsheet in preparation for a mid-term financial report post that we’ll be posting soon when it’s complete. This should give an insight into the costs involved for long term travel like this, showing how it can be done quite cheaply, and provide an aid to budgeting if you’re planning your own trip.

We didn’t do a great deal for three days. We decided we’d have a lazy day first and relax by the lake in Sainte-Croix-du-Verdon again to recover from the previous day’s big walk. We also needed to get to a shop though for some bottled water after discovering that our last three in stock had a lump of some green algae-type growth in them. We drove the short distance down the road to La-Palud-sur-Verdon for a wander around the village; there wasn’t a lot there to see though, just a few little streets and a small castle in the middle. Further along at Moustiers Sainte Marie we used the service point at the Aire to empty our tanks and debated whether to pay €2 to fill up with water or risk not being able to get some for free later at the Aire at Riez, as some water points are starting to be switched off for winter. To avoid a possible detour back here we decided to fill up and conveniently found that somebody had paid for overnight parking but not printed a ticket so when Jo went to buy a token from the machine it was paid for with the credit already in it which was a bonus. Wanting to get to a shop and have some lunch, we continued along to Riez where there’s an Intermarché, before moving back to Ste-Croix-du-Verdon and parking back down by the lake.

By the time we got there though it was dull, windy and the temperature cooling off so wasn’t suitable for sitting out by the lake like we’d hoped, instead we stayed inside getting some jobs done; I wrote a blog entry while Jo compared our Camperstop book to the list of closed Aires from Steph’s All the Aires book we’d borrowed to help us avoid going to closed down spots. We moved up the hill to the Aire for the night (GPS: 43.76081 6.15118, €6.50/free over winter, water extra charge) which is in a good location with views out across the lake below. We’d read it was free in winter which we assumed included now because the water point had been switched off, but no signs stated it. Nobody came to collect money during our stay.

The closest we came to a traffic jam
In the morning we had a walk around the area which was very quiet. There are three boules courts next to the Aire and the village itself consisted of narrow steep streets due to its location on the side of a hill. The weather was still dull and grey so we decided to go back into Riez to get a load of laundry done at the machines outside the Intermarché that we’d spotted the day before. With that task done we took the very scenic D952 back towards La-Palud-sur-Verdon once again, stopping at a couple of places where cars were parked at the start of walks to look at the signs in preparation for doing one the next day. We went back to our previous free overnight spot just up the road for the night.

The next day though we woke up to the sound of rain. Just as we thought it was clearing up it would start again so we had a van day not even opening the door. As we couldn’t get an internet signal, Jo texted her mum to ask for a weather forecast, and hearing it would be sunny and 20°C for the next few days we stayed put for another night to wait out the rain. We got some jobs done and watched a film in the evening, only the second one of the trip so far.

The next morning brought clear skies and sun so we headed off to do our walk. We firstly parked at one spot where there was a short 200m walk up to a viewpoint, but this wasn’t anything special to us after we’d seen amazing views of the gorge from the roads and the previous walk. After moving along to the next roadside parking area we set off on the Sentier des Pêcheurs, a 3 hour and 7km walk that formed a loop. The route went down into the gorge, followed the side of the river for a while then came back up. It was quite challenging terrain again, but added to this was a steep uphill loose gravel and earth slope that I thought was the path but found out at the top it wasn’t so had to go back down again to pick up the correct path which Jo wasn’t too pleased about!

On our way out of the area we called at Riez once more whilst passing to use the free service point at the Aire and get a few things at the supermarket. From here we cruised steadily along very nice country roads lined with fields and vineyards of various autumnal colours, to our next stopover at Quinson. The Aire here (GPS: 43.69748 6.03871) is a section of the unsurfaced car park for a museum about the history of the gorge, and for nearby walking routes.

After a quiet night’s sleep, in the morning sun we went for a walk around the end of the lake and looked at the info sign where a nearby walk started for reference for next time. There are hire stations at each side of the lake from which you can hire electric boats, canoes and pedaloes to travel up 9km of the Verdon Canal from here. Following signs to the Village Prehistorique along the lakeside path we found a collection of several mock ups of houses/buildings from different eras. They weren’t very well maintained though and information boards were only in French so we soon carried on towards the main village to have a look around. Like others we’ve seen it was quite an attractive traditional little place with a few small shops.

The walk at Quinson looked like it would have been nice as it appeared to follow the Verdon Canal for quite a way, but we'd arranged to meet up with Steph and Matt again for the weekend with plans still to be made, so from here we headed for their house in Aix-en-Provence. We’ve loved the Verdon Gorge and Provence region so will definitely be back either if passing, or on a holiday by camper.

- Matt

A few more pictures:

All is quiet in Sainte-Croix-du-Verdon
Three courts?  They must really like their petanque here...
Keep your eye out for these in France (at some Intermarchés); it's helped us to keep up our No Campsite streak a little longer

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