Day 9: Nice – Gorges du Verdon – Nice

Note: This is a travel journal of the day 9 of our trip to France.  Click here to view the photo collection (47 pictures) for these particular days.  Or follow this tag for the related blog entries.

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Gorges du Verdon – Jun 28, Monday

It is said that the Verdon Gorges constitute one of the most dramatic natural sights in Europe.  The dark green river that flows through a deeply cut valley with twisted rocks and cone-shaped peaks.  In some places, the Gorges reach depths of 700m.  Our driving route was the reverse of what the guidebook has suggested (from A to G in the picture above, feel free to zoom in by clicking it).  As in why?  You have to ask Cynthia.  She is the de facto map reader and navigator.  She may not be as accurate as the GPS.  But she is always on.

Our gorges tour began with a town called Castellane (A), passed through the breathtaking 180m viewpoint of Point Sublime (B), traveled north to a village called Moustiers-Ste-Marie (D), hugged the beautiful lake Lac de Ste-Croix, stopped at a village called Aiguines (E) that has an attractive 17th century chateau, and finally reached Pont d l’Artuby (G) where there was a boldly curved bridge standing 250m above the gorge.

(A) Castellane – 12.50 pm

Castellane has a 14th century clock tower, which we took a picture as a background.  What is impressive about Castellane is this rocky cliff you see above.  On top of this gigantic rock is a small chapel of Notre-Dame du Roc.  I was grinning my teeth wondering if our 1.4 liter diesel rental car could make it up to the top.  The road as we discovered stopped at a camp site (or some residential buildings).  In order to reach the chapel, one must walk up.  Needless to say, both Cynthia and I were delighted simply to admire the beauty of this rock from a far distance – i.e. below.  Still, till today, I wish to have seen the chapel with my own eyes.

Castellane is about 100 km from Nice (where we lived).  That explained why we only managed to reach our first stop at noon.  We stopped at Grasse – McDonald’s to be exact – for an early lunch.  The ambitious side of me wanted to tour Grasse for the love of perfume.  Looking back, it was a wiser choice to head straight to the gorges, especially for lazy travelers like Cynthia and I who enjoy waking up not too early on our holidays.

Somewhere Between Castellane and Point Sublime – 1.30 pm

Driving along the gorges was tedious, especially with an underpowered car.  Initially we took a leisure drive.  But soon we realized that because of the winding roads that slowed us down, we have to speed up the driving and make lesser stops for photo taking.  Somewhere between Castellane (our 1st stop) and Point Sublime (our next stop), we have found a place to walk down and be up close and personal with the river.  There was one family with kids picnicking in the area.  And then there was a jeep with an old man and a lady sleeping inside.  There was a little bit of drizzle.  If there was no one around, I would have peed somewhere near the gorge.  I mean, it was a really long drive.

OK.  I am kidding.  I would not have done that even when no one was around.  Instead, we stopped at a campsite nearby, had a cup of coffee and used the bathrooms.  When it was Cynthia’s turn, a very old French lady from the table opposite tried to converse with me in French.  I tried to communicate using my very limited French (which I picked up while working in Paris long time ago … and of course those podcast lessons we took prior to this trip).  The French couple commented that I have a very beautiful wife.  I hear this very often, wherever we travel.  And I wonder.  How come no one approaches Cynthia and says that she has a very handsome husband?

(B) Point Sublime – 2.50 pm

You are a smart reader.  I am sure.  At 12.50 pm we were at point A (as marked on the map).  At 2.50 pm we have reached point B.  If you interpolate, our hope of reaching point G by day end would seem very slim.  To be frank, I got a little bit worried too.  But you know what it is like when you travel.  You stop to think and start to admire the beauties around you.  That was exactly what we did – initially.

The weather in the gorges changed rapidly.  One moment it rained.  Another moment, we were under a strong sun.  20 minutes before we reached Point Sublime, we found a beautiful spot to take some photos.  Cynthia was kind enough to help me take one.  After a few tries, she has finally got one that I like.  Hurry, she said.  We don’t have all day!

OK, let’s go!

Point Sublime has a superb viewpoint of 180m high.  We spent some time walking in the open.  Looking at some of the photos, we could even trick people in believing that we spent hours hiking to the higher ground.  In reality, the car did most of the job.  Still, it felt great to be in such altitude admiring the mountain range, breathing in the fresh air.  It was windy and soon, the sun disappeared and the rain came.  We hurried into our car and headed to our next stop.

(D) Moustiers-Ste-Marie – 3.20 pm

It is amazing what a little bit of pressure can do to you.  I stepped onto the gas, made lesser stops to take photos (raining anyway) and we have reached a town – we believe – called Moustier-Ste-Marie sooner than we expected.  I am not 100% sure for we were lost during that part of the journey.  Today I have double-checked Google Map and there seems to be no other way to shortcut the scenic route.  This is the time when I wish that my camera comes with a geo-tagging feature.

This little town we stopped seemed quiet.  Some roads were so narrow that one single lane street was regulated by a traffic light.  I vividly remember this because it seemed like an eternity waiting for the light to turn green when there was no cars in sight, at all.  We made a brief stop to admire the ancient looking church before heading towards our next destination – Aiguines.

Lake “Lac de Ste-Croix” – 4 pm

To reach Aiguines, we have to drive pass a lake.  The lake is beautiful.  The color is like what comes out from a crayon drawn painting.  When we finally made a swing round the bay area of the lake, I could not resist the temptation of stopping our car and taking some pictures.  We have made some good progress, yes?  So we made a U-turn and headed into a sandy beach.  I parked the car underneath a shade and I got out of the car with my camera under a hot sun.  The lighting condition was not ideal.  But still, I enjoyed a brief moment of proximity to the water while Cynthia was waiting in the car.  There were people in swimsuits.  Some were sunbathing.  Some were doing all kinds of water sports.  There were no naked babes – unfortunately – unlike some other beaches we have visited in France and in Spain.

(E) Aiguines – 4.50 pm

Aiguines is a pretty town.  There is a 17th century chateau that overlooks the lake – Lac de Sainte-Croix.  This was our second last stop so we relaxed a little bit, took some time to walk around town.  We tried to find a place to sit down and have some snacks.  But none of the restaurants were open at this time.  And ironically, none of the shops were open at this time either.  Aiguines is quite possibly the largest village amongst all that are dotted along the gorges and is pretty – if only something was opened at 5 pm on a Monday late afternoon.

(F) Pont de l’Artuby – 5.50 pm

On our way to our last destination – Pont de l’Artuby, we have another opportunity to admire the river that wraps around the Gorges du Verdon.  As for Pont de l’Artuby itself, there is a boldly curved bridge standing on top of the gorge at 250m height.  That location offers a final look at the majestic gorge and some of the windy roads we took.  More photos can be found in our photo album.

We left Gorges du Verdon at 6 pm.  We must have reached Nice before 8.30 pm, when yet another World Cup match began.  I remember rushing down to our usual puzzle van next to our rented apartment and found that it was closed.  Managed to find another puzzle shop nearby, I return home as the proud modern day hunter just before the whistle was blown.  What an action packed day.  If that was not enough, we had to clean up the apartment before leaving Nice the day after.  Our next destination was Corsica.  And that is the story for another day.

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PS. Thank your for reading our journal and feel free to drop a comment or two.  You may wish to view our photo collection for day 9 too.

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