|Subject: French Travelogue 6|
Day 12: Nice - Moustiers-Ste-Marie.
Planned to leave Nice early, round 7.00am but a mix up with the hotel
account took time to settle. They tried to charge us for drinks at poolside.
They eventually accepted, that this charge was not done by us. Finally
left at around 8.00am. By this time the traffic had already built up to
a point that we were only crawling along the seafront. After getting lost
a couple of times we finally went inland on the road leading to Grasse.
Morning tea was had at a very nice and peaceful picnic area. We decided
to bypass Grasse and travel on a loop which would have us travelling through
the small village of Gourdon. We travelled along the Gorges-du-Loup road
where great contrast can be seen with the soaring rock formations and
the green vistas. Before getting to Gourdon we passed through a huge forest
and once through the forest a very impressive view of the town can be
had. Gourdon is a small medieval village with approx. 300 inhabitants.
When we arrived many of the small shops were just opening. Rachel bought
a nice little ornament with artificial flowers. She also purchased some
perfume and was told by the shopkeeper that the perfumes sold in Gourdon
are cheaper than in Grasse.(Well known for its perfume production) . Rachel
also purchased some coloured liquorice sticks. Very nice they were too.
On the western side of the village is the huge 12th century Chateau de
Gourdon, built on the foundations of a 9th century fortress. We visited
the chateau and were taken on a tour, but unfortunately the commentary
was in French. Very interesting all the same. We were shown the chapel,
guardroom, salon, and the arms room. The gardens are beautiful, all the
shrubs and hedges are immaculately trimmed.
Left Gourdon and travelled on Route Napoleon, supposedly the same route
that he took. We stopped at a small roadside cafe and purchased two country
ham sandwiches to eat later.
After a few more Km's we came to Point Sublime. We had to walk some distance
to get to the lookouts, but once there, the views looking down the Verdon
Gorge were awe inspiring. I do not know how far it was to the bottom of
the gorge, but I am picking it would be in excess of 500 meters. There
is only a metal barrier between us and a sheer drop and vertigo was affecting
me quite badly. I shot some video footage but my head was spinning, and
I had a queer feeling in the pit of my stomach; I had to move away from
the edge. We left Point Sublime and carried on to the small town of Castellane.
Unfortunately we did not have much time to spend in this town but we did
come across a shop, Modes, that sells hats. All the hats are designed
made on the premises. I can hear you saying What is so special about a
hat shop? Well nothing really except that the owner is well over 100 years
old and the help is 90. They both serve in the shop. We also took photos
of the chapel, Notre Dame, which is perched high up overlooking the town.
We carried on and after turning a bend in the road, there was lake St.
Croix, way off in the distance. St. Croix is a huge artificial lake created
when part of the Verdon River was damned in the seventies. The tiny village
of Les Salles-sur-Verdon was drowned in the process and a new one was
built on higher ground. We took some photos using the telephoto lens.
Even at this great distance we could make out people canoeing and generally
enjoying themselves. We carried on and headed towards Moustiers-Ste-Marie,
which was to be our base for the next two nights. We easily found our
hotel which is situated 1.5 Km's north of Moustiers. The room was a reasonable
size, neat and clean with a balcony overlooking a large lawn area. There
were a table and two chairs on the balcony. Between the room and the balcony
there was a roller door which could be lowered up or down. We struck this
in quite a few of the hotels, whether it was for security reasons or just
to keep the light out, I do not know. The cost of the room was 370ff per
night. There were cheaper rooms available without the balcony. Staff were
friendly enough but little English was spoken. All the other hotels in
the area were a lot more expensive. No meals except breakfast, were catered
Hotel le Colombier,
Quartier St. Michel,
Moustiers Ste. Marie.
Phone: 0033 4 92746602
Fax: 0033 4 92746670
At this point we decided to eat the country ham sandwiches that we had
purchased earlier. Rachel added cheese and tomato. What a disappointment,
I had conjured up in my mind that the ham was similar to that off the
bone, but the ham was almost inedible, almost like cardboard, chewy and
very salty. Ah! well you live and learn. We would have to buy something
in the village.
After our wonderful lunch we took a trip up into the village. We took
the car even though it was only a short distance. We came around a corner
and there in front of us, perched high up on a hill was Moustiers-Ste.-Maries.
To coin a phrase, It was pretty as a picture, no in fact it was better
than that. High up, attached to a chain strung between two rock faces
was a golden star, shimmering in the sunlight. The legend of the chain
and star goes something like this:
A knight who was held prisoner in the Holy Land vowed, Should he return
to Moustiers he would lay a chain down. He must have returned because
the chain was hung. Well that is the legend anyway. The star was fixed
We found a car park, with some difficulty, and proceeded to wander through
the village. Although Moustiers is virtually dependant on the tourist
for its livelihood, and believe me there were thousands when we were there,
it is none the less a beautiful village to wander around. There is the
spring which tumbles down from the mountainside, creating a small water
fall, carrying on under a medieval bridge and eventually ends up in Lake
St. Croix, some five Km's away. We did not have to buy any liquid to drink
as the water pouring from the numerous medieval fountains was excellent
to drink, cool and refreshing. The architecture and scenery was a photographers
paradise.There were many shops selling the normal tourist souvenir items,
but also a great many were there to sell pottery which Moustiers is world
famous. I understand that all pottery is fired in the immediate area and
also that this all started back in the 17th century. The pottery is beautifully
done and unfortunately, for us, too expensive. But one can look. Also
you cannot photograph any of the pieces, as I found out. High above the
village is the Beauvoir chapel and I thought it would be a good place
for some photos. Rachel was not really interested so I set off by myself.
The path up was very similar to one at Entrevaux, but not as long. On
the way up, I overheard a young Dutch couple, or maybe German, say in
English, Look at that poor old man, struggling up her. Imagine how I felt,
I did not think I was struggling. When I told my wife later, she laughed
her head off. I must agree I saw the funny side of it also. My wife also
queried, why did they spoke in English, maybe they thought you were French.
Anyway they passed me and we just smiled at each other. I thought that
the chapel would only be a ruin, but when I eventually reached the top
I was pleasantly surprised. This Romanesque building was built on the
remains of a 9th century chapel and was restored in both the 12th and
16th centuries. Except for the 16th century sculptured door the exterior
is rather plain. The interior is another matter however, with the golden
alter looking very impressive. There is a statute of Mary right in the
centre. I believe this chapel is still used for services.
The view outside alone, is worth the hike up here. The 12th century church,
topped by a four level bell tower stands out at this level, as does the
red roofs of many of the buildings. In the distance can be seen lake Sainte
Croix. By the time I got down, I was spitting tacks, but there was my
wife with a bottle of the cool refreshing water, taken from one of the
fountains. It was starting to get dark so we bought some items for tea,
from the small local supermarket, and headed back to the hotel.
Day 13: Moustiers - Verdon Gorge - Moustiers
The day dawned black and threatening. Of all the days of our trip, today
was the one day that anything less than fine weather would upset our plans.
We had planned a trip on both the north and south side of the gorge rims
as well as a trip round Lake Ste. Croix. We set off round 9.15am and only
a few Km's up the road, the rain started and the wind really started to
blow. We skirted the north side of the lake and turned inland towards
the small village of Aiguines. The weather was still atrocious, the wind
was really howling and the rain was pelting down. We were really in two
minds whether we should carry on, but the alternative was staying in the
small hotel room, anyway the car seats were far more comfortable than
the two hotel chairs. This small town was used as a base for a number
of water sports on Lake Ste. Croix as well as a base for rock climbing.
Managed to get a photo of the chateau de Aiguines. It was a neat square
building with four towers, one at each corner. Along the Southern side
of the rim there were quite a few lookouts and we stopped at all of them
but although the wind had abated somewhat the rain still persisted. What
we could see was tremendous and we could only imagine what it would be
like on a nice sunny day. I still managed to get some video footage and
some photos. About lunch time we were both in desperate need of a comfort
stop and as luck would have it we across a restaurant in the middle of
no where. We used their rest rooms and had a forgettable lunch. The weather
started to improve as the afternoon wore on. We were starting to understand
why this place was called the Grand Canyon of Europe. While it was certainly
not as big as the Grand Canyon it certainly held your attention in the
same way. The views looking across and down into the gorge, from various
lookout points, were spectacular, to say the least. We travelled through
the small medieval village of Trigance and as usual we drove through the
middle of the town. At one end it was so narrow that I had to fold back
both wing mirrors to allow us to get through. We were heading for a loop
road called Route des Cretes. This road was very narrow and windy but
the views was the best we had encountered thus far.
If you come to the Verdon Gorge make sure, if at all possible that you
allow a full day to travel both the north and south rims as well as the
Route des Cretes. You will not be disappointed. Even with the weather
conditions that we had to endure we thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
The weather aside, we had a really enjoyable day and we returned to the hotel.
More later......... Richard.(New Zealand)