Saturday, May 12, 2012

A Day of Majestic Scenery.

We slept so soundly in the high altitude of Castellane. It was so quiet being about one km out of the village. Our drive today was to take us all the way to the birthplace of the impressionist Paul Cezzane.
He was born in Aix-en Provence. We decided, well no!!! I decided long ago while planning our trip that the Canyon Verdon was on my bucket list. It was all and much more than I expected.
I'm not sure what words describe the Canyon Verdon. Certainly not pretty, rugged doesn't come close.
Magnificent, extraordinary - my photos can't even match what the human eye saw.

As we drove to meet the clouds, there was a little roadside stop and we needed to enjoy a cold drink (non-alcoholic). This little and very excited Frenchman became quite verbose as we Bonjoured him. In his Franglaise, he tried to point out an image on the canyon - Samson and Delilah. He even explained by pretending to clip his hair and pointing to the images. We finally got it!!!
Such a nice man and when we left, he shook our hands and wished us well on our travels, even telling us where we should drive to see the sights.

Seven kms from his little cafe on the cliffside was the turn off for the most wonderful drive of my life and Sue's most stressful.

Route de Cretes takes on the most amazing sights of Gorges du Verdon. The sides of the canyon are so steep and so high above the river that over millions of years carved its path through layers of rock to form this great wonder.
The road is narrow and windy, in some sections there is no barrier on the sloping side. It winds through steep cliffs and where they could make no road, they went through the mountain.
We stopped several times which slowed our schedule but what the heck, we may never come back. Belvederes (looking points) are small stopping off spots for people to park their cars. There is hardly space for cars to pass each other let alone park. The odd mobile home ventured into the road as did cyclists. motor bike riders and even hikers.

I'm actually finding it difficult describing today's journey so I think I'll just post the photographs which probably don't do the region justice - put this drive on your bucket list.

These were our first glimpses of the Canyon Verdon - little did we know this was only a very small appetiser of what was to come.
Our little roadside stop and our exuberant new French friends place. No other buildings could be seen.

How many millions of years did it take this river to carve such a deep canyon. It proved that persistence wins over strength.
The canyon has two ways to drive around it. This photo shows the opposite sid to our road. Look closely and you can see where a tunnel has been carved out of the cliff face. We drove through several tunnels and over hanging cliff faces on our journey as well.

The end of our journey through the Canyon Verdon brought us the Lac de Saint Croix.
A pretty amazing climax to our nail biting drive.
We did make it into Aix en Provence on the same day but with a little difficulty in peak hour traffic and missed the turn off into the hotel garage - but with Tommy (GPS Tom Tom) we were directed up side streets, one way lane ways (sometimes the wrong way) but all is good and second time around we finally arrived. After negotiating mountain goat tracks - this was a piece of creme brûlée.

Sue was pretty stressed after all this so I ran down to the local super marche for a bottle of Rose, olives and pistachio nuts. These were enjoyed on the hotel room balcony overlooking the backyards of Aix.

Rose, olives, pistachios while Sue sends news home on her iPad. 
Desert and coffee at Les Deux Carcons at Aix. 
On a warm balmy night, it was a perfect choice after a long day's drive.
Dinner was required to be something special after our long drive - wandering into the streets of Aix we came across "Les duex Carcons" and decided to eat there. We both ordered the Duck course (of course) and a tasting of several mini deserts with coffee and Grand Marnier.

Time for bed now - both of us are really tired but looking forward to Saint Remy de Provence and meeting up with our hosts Josianne and Louis from our 2008 trip.


  1. Congratulations on your driving skills Leon. Keep safe those cats want you back, they wouldn't want me as their carer.
    Spectacular scenery.
    Mothers' Day tomorrow we'll be celebrating with a casual family lunch whilst gathered around the wood's quite cold down here.

    1. Cold is nice - warm is nice - life is good regardless.
      Happy mothers day to you Jan - hope you get spoilt.
      I'm sitting in the Sun (with lap top and iPod playing outside the office of tourism in St Remy - home to Van Gogh and Nostradamus. Sue is resting.
      Pick up the girls tomorrow. Met Josianne our host with three kisses. Lovely lady just like you. (do I get brownie points for that?)

  2. Breathtaking!!! Like Sue I would have been completely stressed after a drive like that. I'm not sure I woul have slept well after that.
    Btw, I've presented you with and award ... :) Check out my blog to collect it! Martine

    1. Martine - thanks for the award - thrilled to pieces. Will accept with great pleasure once we can get organised. Now in St Remy in Provence. Sitting outside tourism office sending emails.
      Driving was a real thrill - loved the roads but it freaked Sue out.

  3. What a magical day ... Superb ! but I'm sure at times a bit scary especially driving on the opposite side of the road. Coffee and desert at "les Deux garçon that's just the icing on the cake ... I've seen photos of this place but to actually be there soaking up the atmosphere ... what can I say but enjoy it all.

  4. Not sure that Aix was our icing on the cake but the meal was. St Remy outside the tourism office with iPod plugged in listening to the Beach Boys in the filtered sun is so relaxing.

  5. Another place we just have to see!!! My TomTom is called George and most of the time he is pretty good, but when he starts with one error he seems to like following up with more! At the end of a long day it is not what you need. All the roads around Angouleme are quite new, and despite this being a new 'George' he is still telling me we are driving through fields, sometimes I just want to scream at him :-) For all that I would be very lost without him! Drive safely Diane

    1. I like Tommys and Georges because they take you to places they want to go and places we may have missed. And when you get lost, they get you back on track.

  6. When you are back home, you will have to watch "the girl from Paris". It will remind you of this area. Jean-Pierre, at "Passion de la nature" takes wonderful pictures of the few departments of this South-East part of France.
    (When we ran into Yves Montand in Vence, we let him be).

    1. Sitting outside the St Remy Tourist Office at 10.00pm French time after a wonderful meal Sue cooked. Sending emails, etc.
      Thanks for the hints. Posts will be a bit slower now but tune in. More to come.
      Having a great time.


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