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Via the Gorges de l'Ardeche to the Alps

Home -> Europe -> France -> Travelogue France -> 23 June 2006

Friday 23 June, via the Gorges de l'Ardeche to the Alps

Today we leave the Mediterranean coast and go a bit to the north. It has rained tonight, but the tent is already dry when we wake up. The last few days we had planned as the ultimate resting point in the holiday, just a few days of doing nothing at all and lying lazy on the beach, but due to the (relatively) bad weather there we have done mainly other things. We have had more rain and especially clouds than in the days before (and than in the rest of the holiday). Even when we drive away it is cloudy, but when we drive away from the coast, the sun quickly breaks through again. In spite of this, we have again enjoyed ourselves well and have seen more than we intended in this region.
Remoulins Roman relics in RemoulinsTo get a fast start, we first take the highway to the north, past Nîmes and drive to the center of Remoulins where we drink a cup of coffee on a terrace. We are here near the Pont du Gard, the largest aqueduct from Roman times and when we drive away we see a yard with some old columns, but we have no idea if they are original Roman. It is very likely that these were once part of the once 50 kilometer long aqueduct and even in the original place.
Pont du GardWe go both to the right and the left bank of the river because we want to take a picture of the bridge of the aqueduct across the river Gardon. But today we do not feel like paying an extended visit and the € 5 parking costs for a quarter of an hour are a bit too much. For that amount you can park the whole day, so not really expensive, but it is too much for just taking a quick picture and drive away. There are no free parking places nearby and we have not been able to find a place where we could see the bridge from the road somewhere. We will reserve this for another time when we have more time. Yet we can show you a photo that we can use with reference to the source; it comes from www.cambridge2000.com.
Valliguières Castle of AiguèzeThe flat land starts to slump again as we drive north and we pass nice places such as the medieval village of Valliguières left and the castle at Aiguè at the beginning of the Gorges de l'Ardeche. It is actually a shame that we do not have more time to explore this area better because there are beautiful places here, but we want to see other things as well, it is just too much for 1 day.
Gorges the l’Ardèche Gorges the l’ArdècheEspecially for this river ravine, the Gorges de l'Ardeche we drive today a lot, because according to the descriptions it must be very nice. We come from the south and follow the D920 from Aiguèze. And this valley is certainly impressive, very wide, while the narrow river winding its way through the bottom in depth. Actually unimaginable that such a relatively small river has been able to wear out such a big gap.
Gorges the l’ArdècheThat this is a popular tourist area, we notice by the flow of cars. There are many parking lots at vantage points and the largest part of the cars has a Dutch license plate. Side roads from the road lead to various caves that can be visited, of which the Grotte de la Madeleine must be very special. We still have a long way to go so we do not visit a cave today, but we note that we have to come back here.
Vallon-Pont-d’ArcOur final goal in this gorge is the Pont d'Arc, a natural arch of 34 meters high that bridges the river. Probably it is a remnant of an underground river that once flowed here. An idyllic spot with even a beach and it is amazing that it is not busier. Such a place in your own backyard, that seems quite nice to us!
It is a pity that we do not have more time, we want to visit this area more extensively and with a bit of melancholy we drive to the east, first across a plateau and then descend to flatter ground. But after a while we see the foothills of the Alps in the distance.
Lavender fieldsWe come across the first purple-blue lavender fields that occur so much in these regions. The plants bloom from mid-June to mid-August and smell pleasant. There are a lot of people who stop along the vast fields to take some plants with them, the grower will not be happy about that. Oil is extracted from the flowers that is used in soaps and perfumes. There are lavender routes, lavender museums and even lavender festivities.
Village in the Vaucluse View on Mont VentouxThrough the Provence we drive to the Mont Ventoux in the Vaucluse region. There are again very nice and charming villages that we pass through and we drive north of the Mont Ventoux, well known to cycling enthusiasts, further to the east so that we have a beautiful view of the bare mountain. Our condition is probably not good enough to get over it by bike!
Village in the Alps, PeyruisGradually we now arrive in the province of Alpes de Haute with rolling roads and beautiful mountain villages. The route we take is not the fastest but worth it and also pretty quiet, we hardly meet other tourists. Although we are in the French Alps, this area, south of Gap, officially belongs to Provence.
Just before 7 o'clock we go looking for a campsite again because we have noticed that they often close the reception at 7 o'clock. We wanted to go to Castelane to find a campsite near the river, but the nice road from Digne-les-Bains to the south takes us a lot more time than expected and we stop halfway in Barrême at camping Napoleon. We are received by the very friendly owners in French, English and German and we first find a place on the quiet camping and then have a drink first at the reception/bar/restaurant. It is nice and warm again and the sun is not going to set yet, so we first have a nice chat with the owners before we set up the tent. Finally an evening without clouds and we can sit outside for a long time. It has been a very long but beautiful day!


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