Archive for September 2016
We’ve visited this part of Provence many times but never explored the shores of the Lac de Sainte Croix. My Wild Swimming guide was fulsome in its praise and it wasn’t misplaced. Its superb. A wild and remote coastline away from the road and a wonderful Provencal village of Bauduen on its shores. After our first kayak trip into the Verdon we took a drive long the rough track from Bauduen and went for a swim
The beaches are wild, untamed and rocky but the water is clear and perfect for a dip. It was a little cloudy and cool but the light effects were tremendous
We left TJF to read while me and Beach Funster Senior went for a walk up the coast. There is a well known spot where a dramatic rock juts out into the deep water. Braver souls than me jump from the high point into the water. Its a perfect spot
The skies began to clear as we walked back to the car and the views were superb out across the lake and along the wild and rocky shore
We liked the area so much we went back a couple of days later to visit the village of Bauduen itself. The village has an excellent beach complete with rocks to swim around and jump off into the exceptionally deep and opaquely clear water
Its a perfect family spot with calm easy swimming and lots of fun to be had. The funsters of course are in their element lazing in the hot sun
We had a memorable time just alternating long swims with sunbathing on the beach
The village is stunning, a typical Provencal affair with narrow twisting streets and golden houses. The walk along the lake-front was especially rewarding
We enjoyed it so much we went back again a couple of days later and spent the whole day on the beach this time (we’d headed off to go kayaking after lunch the first time)
There was something rather wonderful about this spot. Busy in a happy sort of way without being overcrowded, as much of Provence is. Every swim was a pleasure and I especially enjoyed the scrambles to the top of the rocks and the jumps in to the deep cool water
A place to return to in future visits
Well, you lucky people now get two “kayaking on rivers in France” posts for the price of one. Aren’t you lucky
First off is one of the classic trips in the area into the western end of the Gorges du Verdon from where it enters the Lac de Sainte Croix
We’ve done this many times before although on a rented pedalo. This normally involves a long queue and significant cost and this was the primary driver for the purchase of the new kayak (and pedalos are a little un-cool)
I had an idea that we could attach an inflatable to the back and tow TJF along and she loved the idea. As you can see she was in her element!
Its a spectacular trip with the sheer walls of the gorge rising up over 1000 feet. In truth its less the Verdon river and more just an extension of the lake into the lower part of the gorge.
There is still a current though and paddling a kayak upstream towing a dead-weight person in a large rubber ring is hard work!
The views were as spectacular as ever and me and TJF enjoyed a swim halfway down where the cascade tumbles into the gorge
Its very well known, with several places to rent water craft and extremely popular. Quite brash and noisy but well worth a couple of hours on a hot sunny day
TBF took on the more challenging swim, half a mile back to the shore across the open water of the lake from the bridge
Our second trip a couple of days later was down at the opposite end of the Lac de Sainte Croix. The lake itself I’ve overlooked in the past but as you can see from the photo below (taken from the roadside) and from later posts to come, its a wonderful spot.
Our trip was along the Gorges de Baudinard from the Pont Sylvestre. The weather was stunning and the start point where the gorge opens out to a small lake and campsite was sublime
Its still the Verdon river but its southern outflow from the Lac de Sainte Croix. Whilst not as deep or awe inspiring as the main gorge, its no less wonderful.
After a short stretch of shallow gorge it opens out into medium sized lake (and a much easier place to launch than where we did)
We had TJF in tow once more
After passing through the lake its a long leisurely paddle back up to the dam at the end of the Lac de Sainte Croix. Being little known its much quieter and sedate than the main gorge. Just a handful of boats from the rental place at the campsite
There are numerous overhangs and caves to explore
As you reach the end the walls narrow dramatically and are dripping with lush foliage, terms and water. With water feeding in through the rocks and little sunlight the water is markedly colder than the lake
Being the only one in the party who can control a kayak properly, I did threaten to take everyone under the dripping water for an ice cold shower. An ice cold look from TBF made me think better of it
We returned back down the gorge to enjoy the views again
You can’t float down a river this stunning and not take a dip in its cool, clear water. Or should I say cold, clear water. Even out in the open the water here was sharply cold, verging on freezing. We both took turns taking a swim. Once used to the temperature the swim was superb. The water was crystal clear and refreshing and the outside temperature still near 30C so easy to warm up. TBF after an initial shock loved the swim and again took a long stretch down the gorge
Another big thank you to the “Wild Swimming” guide for finding us such a stunning and peaceful spot in the tourist mecca that is Provence. Well worth seeking out and one of my new favourite places
Memo to self. Spending two hours first thing in the morning taking the camper down and two hours last thing in the evening putting it back up, sandwiched around an eight hour drive across France is a rather too challenging way to spend a day! 🙂
The second part of our French trip was spent in the magnificent Gorges du Verdon, the French answer to the Grand Canyon. We’ve visited a number of times on day trips from Provence but we thought we’d stay a little closer. We chose the campsite Domaine Chasteuil de Provence and it was excellent.
We had a huge riverside pitch with plenty of much needed shade and the staff were friendly and extremely helpful. If I had a minor complaint it was the weekly disco that went on a little too late and was far too loud for our taste but other than that it was perfect.
In truth we spent a lot more time at the other end of the gorge (more later) so we’d have been better off staying nearer to the lake but it was still a fine place. Favourite was to sit and eat/drink right down by the river watching the wild birds and fish and the people floating down on a variety of inflatables. It was especially fine in the mornings when the warm sun bathed our little slice of river heaven
The river is quite shallow as it runs through the site but it’s deep enough to float down on an inflatable and has a nice swimming area at one end to cool off and sunbathe on the beach
The views through the trees to the surrounding peaks are mighty fine. We thoroughly enjoyed our stay and would happily go back
We took a visit to the local town of Castellane for a wander about and some lunch
I managed to pull together enough energy for a walk to the top of the the Chappelle du Notre Dame du Roc (french for church on top of the big steep rock!)
It was a hot and sweaty climb to the top but the views across the Provencale mountains and the town below were worth the effort
A fine base to explore the many vistas and activities the area offers. More to follow
Of course the main draw of the Dordogne is the river itself and whilst the bridges, lanes and villages give you a feel for it, the best way to experience it is from on the water
We’re experienced at this now having done the classic Dordogne trip twice (once on a glorious day and once in the rain). We’ve always hired kayaks before but this year I wanted a little more freedom so we bought our own inflatable kayak.
This means you don’t have to pay out every time you want a trip and start and finish when and where you want. The downside is no free lift back to the start. It was left to yours truly to drive the car to far end and cycle 12 miles or so back to the start (in hot weather on a mainly busy road). Well worth it for extra freedom it gave us
With all the to and fro we didn’t get started till lunchtime and not long after paddling off we stopped for lunch on one of the many beaches for a picnic and a swim. The Dordogne is justly popular and busy with kayakers but the atmosphere is still fairly peaceful and relaxed and there are numerous places like this to stop, relax and swim in the cool clear waters
The photo above is our new toy, a Sevylor Alameda for anyone interested and very well it performed on several kayak outings. Despite being big enough to hold 3 people it only takes around 10-15 minutes to unbag and inflate. Its also pretty durable and survived numerous scrapes on beaches and rapids
The river is slow moving so the pace is nice and easy. It passes some wonderful and classic Dordogne sites. This is the village of La Roque Gageac
And in the distance is the Chateau de Castelnaud
We pulled over for short stop, swim and cold drink, for it was a very hot day
This is the impressive Beynac et Cazenac and its hilltop chateau
We pulled up near where I’d left the car and took another final evening swim before heading back to the campsite. Much better under a clear blue sky than in the pouring rain!
The family have a passion for these tree climbing places. France would appear to be their spiritual home as most places we’ve visited seems to have one nearby. Competition appears to be a healthy thing as most of them are far better and far cheaper than the UK’s own Go Ape franchise that seems to be the only offering.
This one was by far the cheapest and biggest course we’ve done and also the toughest. A full half a day to get around most of it in 30C temperatures (quite some undertaking for the 50+ age group)
TJF is a natural, being slim, tall, lithe, athletic with a good sense of balance
TBF takes pride of place in these photos as me and TJF gave the final course a miss. I’d managed to turn one of the rope bridges upside-down so I was in the bad books. I was pretty much banned from the final few obstacles for being old, incompetent and out of shape
This did however give me the chance for some action shots of TBF while she outdid most of the people on the course by completing the final and very difficult looking course with aplomb
Considering her diminutive height she’s rather good at this stuff although she clearly isn’t hampered by hauling around the excess weight I have to deal with 🙂
As always, a great afternoons entertainment that’s a firm fixture of our French holidays. Thanks to the people at Appel de la Foret for building the course and rescuing middle aged men from activities they should know better than to attempt
After a hectic two days back home from Wales we were off again for our main summer trip to France. Sadly it was only the three of us as TJS preferred to stay at home and visit his friends, basing himself at my parents. I understood his decision and had no wish to see him trailing around with looking bored and frustrated. It still never felt quite right the whole time we were away, not having him with us on holiday for the first time in 17 years. I guess its sign of things to come
We had a 3 part trip planned to take in some river based fun. First stop was the Dordogne after a horrid wet drive down from Caen. The rain stopped just as we finished putting the camper up.
Our home for few days was the Domaine de Mathevies. It was a very pleasant site aimed at, and almost exclusively populated by, British families. There were kids everywhere, hundreds of them and I’m sure had we visited 10 years ago our two would have loved it. I can’t quite put my finger on it but we never felt quite as welcome as on other sites. The facilities were first class and particularly their idea of using local street food vendors for evening meals was a big hit. I just don’t think I’d go back. This wasn’t helped by the fact that despite clearly telling them we had a trailer they put us on pitch that was completely unsuitable and took major effort to manoeuvre the camper on and particularly off the pitch
What the site did have was excellent views across the peaceful Dordogne countryside. A few shots to give you a feel for what it was like
Sunsets were particularly stunning
To relax after a long drive we took a visit to Sarlat de Canadet on our first day. It’s one Frances best preserved medieval towns and is packed with the rustic stone buildings that typify the Dordogne region
We spent a pleasant morning wandering its narrow streets and alleys and the busy main square
We had a very fine lunch in one of the numerous restaurants followed by ice cream. A very relaxed way to spend some time together. We were particularly impressed that the the local tradition for postcards is for sweeping views of the Dordogne fronted by scantily clad ladies in bikinis
A very easy paced day before we started to ramp the activity levels up a notch or two
As the kids break for summer we head to the Llyn Peninsula and Towyn Farm. Familiar faces of old friends and favourite beach spots and play draws us back year on year. It was, as always a wonderful few days, relaxing and comfortable. The weather was kind, warm with plenty of sunshine and the rain restricted to nights and early mornings. I don’t seem to have taken any photos of the beach fun that dominates these holidays. If you want a flavour then just look back through my older posts and you’ll find all the evidence you need of just how special a place this and why it has such a hold on my heart.
By way of compensation I do have some photos of a walk along the coast and up to the splendidly name Mynydd Anelog.
We did a similar walk a couple of years back and discovered just what a quiet, unspoilt and magnificent stretch of coast it is.
It was bright but with a good spread of cloud but as we walked it cleared into a pretty much cloudless late afternoon and early evening
We even managed to convince a few of the teenagers to join us
The views from Mynydd Anelog – and in fact all of the various hills along the peninsula are majestic. It’s rather splendid to be able to see both north and south coasts simultaneously. There are other parts of the UK that have a much higher profile and reputation for coastal splendour but the Llyn Peninsula is as good as any of them
At this time of year both the heather and gorse are in bloom and gives striking contrast of colour especially on a clear blue summers evening
As always the island of Bardsey has pride of place off the coast
We were late back to campsite to find everyone else in a deep game of – well, I can’t remember the name – that involves throwing blocks of wood at other blocks of wood. It’s a rather strange and equally skilful and compelling game and I was bit disappointed to miss out. Made for a good spectator sport while I fired up the BBQ
And seeing as the campsite delivers some stunning sunsets………..
A fabulous long weekend to warm up for our main summer holiday (yes,another one!)