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Through the Tarn gorge

Home -> Europe -> France -> Travelogue France -> 11 June 2006

Sunday 11 June, through the Tarn gorge

How beautiful it is here, but we want to go further south towards Millau but we will do that with a big detour. However, we take it easy and at a quarter past 11 we are packed and ready to leave. First we take a highway and then the N102 to Le Puy-en-Velay, through wide valleys with elongated hills around it.
Le Puy-Velay Le Puy-VelayFrom afar we see the volcanic rock peaks of basalt stone that dominate the city. On one rock (La Rocher Corneille) is a 23-meter high red statue of the Notre-Dame-de-France, forged from the iron of guns that Napoleon had captured on the Russians.
Le Puy-VelayOn a slightly lower rock is the chapel St-Michel-d'Aiguilhe which occupies an important place in this place of pilgrimage. In the Middle Ages people mainly came for the Black Madonna, an image from Egypt, but that was burned a long time ago. Le Puy-en-Velay, like Vezelay, is also a starting point for a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. And a pilgrim must of course climb up 80 meters, so we do not....
Le Puy-Velay Le Puy-VelayIn the old town you can also see a lot, such as the cathedral and the monastery and, if it is as warm as today (around 30 degrees) we can not help but look for a nice terrace. It is crowded and whole families have extensive lunches.
Valley of the river AllierAfter this break we go south and the mountains are getting higher again. From Langogne we take a narrow road to Villefort. From there we take the road through the valley of the Altier and we are again treated to beautiful views. We now leave the Auvergne and cross the northern part of the Languedoc-Roussillo, the area that extends all the way to the Mediterranean and the Pyrenees.
Barrage the Villefort The village AltierNear Villefort is one of the many French reservoirs where electricity is generated, after nuclear power the main energy source of the country (good for 20%). Small villages are hidden against the slopes and we encounter several in the valley.
Château the ChampAnd little castles, of course, which can be found everywhere. Chateau du Champ, for example, beautifully restored and of course private property. We now drive west towards Mende. There we happen to pass a gas station where they sell LPG. Nice, because our tank is almost empty and according to the LPG guide and the navigation there would be no lpg for sale in 40 kilometers.
Sainte Enimie, Gorges du TarnWe are now in the Causses, a region bordering the Central Massif with limestone plateaus, but also beautiful gorges. At Sainte Enimie we go steeply into the narrow part of the Gorges du Tarn, the most gorgeous gorge in the area and almost 60 kilometers long. The road through it is in any case great and occasionally exciting, especially because of the busy holiday traffic.
Sainte Enimie, Gorges du Tarn Sainte Enimie, Gorges du TarnSainte Enimie is considered by many to be one of the most beautiful places in France; the location is fantastic in any case. The old village is a jumble of narrow medieval streets but it is a bit touristic. The river Tarn has here deeply cut through the rock plateaus and divided the Causses in two parts (Causse Mejan to the east and the Causse de Sauveterre to the west).
Les Vignes, Gorges du Tarn Rocks in the Gorges du TarnWe then follow a winding road with recesses in the rocks through which the road runs, while the river usually zigzags through the valley. Halfway through the gorge we pass through the lovely village of Les Vignes, where mainly canoe and kayak rental companies reside. With 4.5 inhabitants per km² it is likely that there are almost always more tourists than residents in the area.
Rocks in the Gorges du TarnWe are now again at the level of the river that is fed by about 40 subterranean rivers from the Causses on both sides. Because limestone is fairly soft, the water here has eroded the rocks a lot over the centuries and erratic forms have arisen that we hope to see more in the coming days. At Le Rozier we get out of the valley. It took 1½ hours to cover the last 40 kilometers and it is time to find ourselves a campsite.
The campsite that we had pre-selected on the internet seems to be very quiet, and is indeed just as beautiful as we had hoped. After a few minutes walking around, we discover to our regret that the campsite is only open in July and August, so we are too early ... A nice Frenchman (yes, there are enough if you take the trouble to speak some French yourself!) helps us on our way by giving some tips about other campsites.
There are plenty of campsites along the river, but the first one we see has only 3 free spots out of 120. We walk over the terrain and soon we know that we do not want to be here! The tents and caravans are quite close together and 95% of the people are Dutch. We did not come to France for that ... At Camping de Peyrelade it is much quieter and we find a nice spot. We are just before 7 o'clock on the site so we can still go inside with the car, the reception here is closed at 7 o'clock. For € 14 per night we can put up our tent, but before we do that we first go to the terrace to relax, because it is still hot, too hot to set up a tent. There is a small pebble beach at the camp site but we will find a real beach later in the holiday along the Mediterranean Sea.


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