French Odyssey Part 5 – Gorges & Pedalos   10 comments

Time for days out. Our holiday home in Cotignac is about halfway between the coast and the mountains and in particular the Grand Canyon du Verdon, Europe’s very own Grand Canyon. It’s the longest and deepest canyon in Europe and is a truly awesome sight both from within and above. I visited with Jane in 1999 and despite the fact that she was heavily pregnant we managed a hike down into the darkest recesses. One of our best days out was to take a pedalo up into the gorge from the west so last year and this year we did the same.

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Western entrance to the gorge at Galetas bridge

At the west end the gorge empties into the man-made lake of Sainte Croix. It has a very fetching turquoise blue-green colour which is cloudy on account of the suspended glacial minerals from its source in the alps. There are beaches all round the shore and it’s a great place to spend a day, especially at the point where the gorge dramatically starts at the NE corner.

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Galetas bridge and the exit from the gorge

It’s no surprise that the Lake and the gorge are well-known and heavily over-run with tourists in summer. This is not the place to come in July and August if you want peace and solitude but if like me you are prepared to put with the brashness and noise to get a decent play in the water and see the kids happy (they don’t object to crowds) then it’s worth it.

You need to get here pretty early if like us you want to take out a pedalo over lunch and even we had to wait half an hour and were limited to 2 hours so everyone could have a go. You can rent kayaks and canoes but a pedalo is much better for swimming from. You head off under the impressive Galetas bridge and immediately you’re into the sheer rock walls of the gorge (essentially at this point just an extension of the lake) and it’s already tempting for a swim or a clamber up the rocks for a plunge.

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Great place for a swim

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The sheer rock walls

After a few minutes pedalling you reach a stunning waterfall that empties into the main river. This is the best spot for a swim as you can swim up behind the waterfall (see the video in the slide show below) and also clamber up the slippery rocks and sit in/under the colder stream water or jump back in.

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An almost tropical scene

D especially loves this and doesn’t seem too worried about the hundreds of other water-craft floating about.

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D heads for the falls

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Now that's what I call fun

In previous years we’ve gone a couple of miles up the river until the point where it gets too shallow for the pedalo and picnic on the banks.

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Less crowded section upstream

As we only had 2 hours this time we had our picnic on the pedalo after L and Jane had had  swim in the quiter upstream waters.

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Jane and L take a dip

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Picnic on the boat

We slowly drifted back to the start taking another swim under the waterfalls as we did.

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Picture of happiness

It was fiercely hot so we took a break on the lake-shore for some further swimming in the lake.

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L prefers the safety of the Lake

After a while the crowds became too much so we wanted a bit of peace and quiet. We headed out along the spectacular northern rim road up into the high pastures and on to a place called Rougon. It sits a few hundred feet about the Pointe Sublime, with its famous view of the narrowest part of the gorge the Samson Couloir. The transformation is incredible, it’s a sleepy village with no crowds and yet the views are as good if not better than at Pointe Sublime. We headed back to the same Creperie we’d visited the previous year for a peaceful afternoon snack of crepes and a cold beer.

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Creperie at Rougon

They have introduced vultures to this part of the gorge and Rougon overlooks their nesting site. Last year we saw loads but they weren’t around today. If you are in the area either here or out at one of the lookouts on the route des cretes gets you up close with these huge and magnificent birds of prey that seem to soar and cruise just for pleasure

There is a rocky hill that overlooks the village and me and D decided to scramble to the top, a pretty hair-raising experience as it was exposed and loose but the views across to the gorge were sensational.

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Verdon Gorge - Samson Couloir

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Verdon Gorge - Looking East

On the way home we thought we had time for another swim in the river so stopped off at the Pont de Carejuan. It’s a very popular spot but late in the day it’s much quieter and we all had a nice swim before we headed back home.

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Pont de Carejuan

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Evening swim

There is more Verdon gorge excitement to come as we came back for a day by the river and I took a hike into the hills but more of that later

On a technical note I’ve been linking to my photos in Flickr using the original size. This might be increasing the time it takes the pages to load so I’m experimenting with the “large” size in Flickr rather than the “original” size. It looks the same size on the page but the file size is 90% smaller. I guess I’m losing resolution and quality but it looks ok to me. I’d appreciate any feedback on whether this improves the page loading time or whether there is any noticeable difference in quality in the photos. I’m keen to strike the balance between a great post and making sure it’s accessible to all. I’ve also replaced all the photos in my France posts with the smaller file sizes so that should make them quicker to load

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10 responses to “French Odyssey Part 5 – Gorges & Pedalos

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  1. That’s better with the photies. Thought something was wrong with my computer

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    • Feel a bit stupid as it happens, thought that linked to Flickr would speed things up but every time you look at my homepage you were trying to download 100+ photos at 3Mb each!

      I’ve fixed all my France posts – just need to go back through to my Cornwall posts and fix those

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  2. Looks fantastic again. Can’t say I notice any deterioration in the quality of the photos, and since each photo is linked to flickr anyone who wants to see them full size simply has to click on them to go to the flickr page with the option of viewing different sizes. I understand now – I only embed the smaller of the medium sized photos: way smaller file sizes.

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    beatingthebounds
  3. The large size are only about 300kb so even my homepage now loads in seconds. Verdon gorge is a storming place but you need to head out on foot to avoid the crowds although we did manage to find a little private spot by the river upstream of the main. More of these outings in upcoming posts

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  4. Andy, nice photos, and it loaded straight away, even with my slow broadband speed.:)

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  5. Thanks Mark – pleased that I’ve solved the problem although considering I work in IT slightly shame-faced that I hadn’t realised the massive difference in file sizes I was using 😦

    I’ve fixed the other French posts as well if you didn’t appreciate them in all their wonder and glory the first time around!

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  6. hi!
    It looks like you had a great time in france!Wish I was there! 🙂
    Zoe x

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  7. yeah. loaded nice and fast here too, although partly cause I’m back up to full speed here again 🙂

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