Archive for September 2016

Vistas in the Verdon – Lac de Sainte Croix and Bauduen   2 comments

P8150855

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

P8110690

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

P8110691

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

P8110704

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

P8110705

P8110709

P8110710

P8110715

P8110716

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

P8130718

P8130720

P8130722

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

P8130726

P8130727

We had a memorable time just alternating long swims with sunbathing on the beach

P8130730

The village is stunning, a typical Provencal affair with narrow twisting streets and golden houses. The walk along the lake-front was especially rewarding

P8130734

P8130735

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)

IMG_1192

IMG_1195

IMG_1199

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

IMG_1200

IMG_1201

IMG_1205

A place to return to in future visits

Vistas in the Verdon – Kayaking the Gorges   4 comments

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

P8110660

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!

P8110661

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.

P8110662

There is still a current though and paddling a kayak upstream towing a dead-weight person in a large rubber ring is hard work!

P8110672

P8110678

The views were as spectacular as ever and me and TJF enjoyed a swim halfway down where the cascade tumbles into the gorge

P8110680

P8110683

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

P8110686

TBF took on the more challenging swim, half a mile back to the shore across the open water of the lake from the bridge

P8110688

P8110689

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.

P8130736

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

P8130738

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.

P8130740

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)

P8130742

We had TJF in tow once more

P8130743

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

P8130745

There are numerous overhangs and caves to explore

P8130748

P8130755

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

P8130759

P8130760

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

P8130764

We returned back down the gorge to enjoy the views again

P8130777

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

P8130779

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

Vistas in the Verdon – The Local Sights   4 comments

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.

IMG_1118

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.

IMG_1150

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

IMG_1151

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

IMG_1125

IMG_1126

IMG_1129

IMG_1138

IMG_1147

The views through the trees to the surrounding peaks are mighty fine.  We thoroughly enjoyed our stay and would happily go back

IMG_1149

IMG_1183

IMG_1187

We took a visit to the local town of Castellane for a wander about and some lunch

IMG_1153

IMG_1156

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!)

IMG_1162

IMG_1165

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

IMG_1167

IMG_1171

IMG_1174

A fine base to explore the many vistas and activities the area offers. More to follow

Down in the Dordogne – Kayaking in the Sun   6 comments

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

P8070622

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.

P8070623

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

P8070627

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

P8070628

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

P8070631

P8070632

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

P8070638

P8070639

P8070640

P8070641

And in the distance is the Chateau de Castelnaud

P8070642

We pulled over for short stop, swim and cold drink, for it was a very hot day

P8070643

This is the impressive Beynac et Cazenac and its hilltop chateau

P8070649

P8070652

P8070654

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!

Down in the Dordogne – Up in the Trees   8 comments

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.

P8060559

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)

P8060562

P8060564

TJF is a natural, being slim, tall, lithe, athletic with a good sense of balance

P8060568

P8060570

P8060575

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

P8060581

P8060579

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

P8060586

P8060593

P8060597

P8060599

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 🙂

P8060601

P8060607

P8060598

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

Down in the Dordogne – Campsites and Medieval Towns   9 comments

IMG_1113

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

P8060620

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

P8060619

P8060621

P8060611

IMG_1109

IMG_1116

Sunsets were particularly stunning

IMG_1101

IMG_1104

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

IMG_1081

IMG_1084

We spent a pleasant morning wandering its narrow streets and alleys and the busy main square

IMG_1086

IMG_1089

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

IMG_1091

A very easy paced day before we started to ramp the activity levels up a notch or two

Llyn Peninsula Coast and Mynydd Anelog   6 comments

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.

IMG_1055

IMG_1058

We did a similar walk a couple of years back and discovered just what a quiet, unspoilt and magnificent stretch of coast it is.

IMG_1060

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

IMG_1061

IMG_1062

We even managed to convince a few of the teenagers to join us

IMG_1064

IMG_1065

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

IMG_1066

IMG_1067

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

IMG_1072

As always the island of Bardsey has pride of place off the coast

IMG_1074

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

IMG_1076

And seeing as the campsite delivers some stunning sunsets………..

IMG_1079

A fabulous long weekend to warm up for our main summer holiday (yes,another one!)

Family Day in the Elan Valley   8 comments

After all the excitement and thrills of the Pyrenees trip we needed something a little more subdued for a family day out. A picnic and short stroll in the Elan Valley was in order.

P7170525

We parked up by the Pont Ar Elan at the head of the Craig Goch Reservoir. My memories from my childhood was of playing in the the river but today it was a raging torrent. In fact the Mountain Rescue were practising their fast moving river techniques in it. I don’t recall it being particularly wet in the previous couple of weeks but I guess it must have been

Whatever, it was a fine place to spend a couple of hours filling our faces and it was actually pretty hot and humid. I would have taken a swim if I’d had my stuff with me

P7170526

P7170527

P7170528

We moved on to the dam of Craig Goch and were surprised to see it gushing with water. This normally only happens in winter and, despite the fact that I’ve visited the Elan Valley dozens of times, I’ve only ever seen it like this on a couple of occasions. Normally in summer the water is low enough to leave several meters of bare shoreline exposed. It makes a pretty dramatic waterfall when its in “spate” as it were

P7170529

P7170531

We took a short stroll along the lake shore and over the small rocky outcrop that overlooks the dam. It was wonderfully clear day and the dark blue of the reservoir contrasted to great effect with the green hillsides (further evidence of wet conditions) and the paler blue sky

P7170534

P7170537

P7170540

The aerial view down over the dam was especially grand

P7170541

P7170546

We moved on to the second reservoir and dam of Pen y Garreg to see if the water was flowing over which indeed it was. You can walk easily to the base of this one and it was mighty impressive

P7170547

P7170548

I told the kids that extreme kayakers love to shoot the sides of these flows (although its strictly forbidden not to say bloody dangerous)

P7170549

P7170551

We finished the day with a cuppa by the visitor centre at the lowest reservoir and dam of Caban Goch. This was also thundering with water which I’ve never seen before in almost 50 years of visiting the Elan Valley. Alas no photos as the car park was a chargeable one which I was too outraged to pay up for so we wanted to avoid a parking ticket by overstaying our “welcome”. Clearly the money the generate from the gift shop, cafe and bike hire isn’t sufficient to pay the shareholders dividends

We went our separate ways. TBF and TJS to mid Wales for some walking (not entirely successful as this was the start of few days of heatwave so too hot for hiking) and me and TJF back home to work and school

Pyrenees Grand Tour Day 6 – The end of the Trail   8 comments

Alas this was our final day. Time to to make the long walk back to the car and begin the journey home. The original plan had been to cross two more passes and spend a final night in a hut before a descent to the car. The difficulty and snow cover rendered that a tough ask and we agreed that we’d just retrace our steps from the first day. I was little disappointed not to continue my planned tour but our new plan gave us chance for a final visit to the wonderful Campoplano and hopefully see some views of the Arrens Valley we’d walked up on that first day. Ample compensation we hoped.

It had clearly been raining through the night and the sky was mix of blue and threatening blacks and greys. It made for some impressive sunlight shots as we ate breakfast, packed and set off from the hut

IMG_0968

IMG_0970

IMG_0974

Campoplana was just as magnificent as before and we made light work of the two stream crossings that took us back towards the short steep climb to the Col de St Martin

IMG_0975

IMG_0978

IMG_0981

IMG_0985

IMG_0986

Near the top I actually put my waterproofs on as there seemed to be heavy storm approaching. It never amounted to anything and they were soon back in the pack. It was the only time I wore them on the entire trip 🙂

IMG_0991

On the way up on the first day the last 30 minutes had been entirely on snow. Six days later and the reduction was dramatic. Merely patches now. The spot where I’d filled the bottles for a brew rather than being in middle of a huge snow patch was now in the middle of a boulder field.

IMG_0993

The weather seemed to brighten immensely and as hoped we had some wonderful views of the Val D’Arrens that we’d seen nothing of on the way up. Rather than being a repeated walk it was like a brand new route and its a very fine valley and walk

IMG_1000

IMG_1005

The Lacs de Remoulis looked stunning under the bright sunshine

IMG_1007

IMG_1013

IMG_1014

On that first day we’d walked through what seemed like a wide, flat, grassy meadow that would have been perfect for a picnic had we not been walking in dense, cold fog. You can see  it now much better in the image below

IMG_1019

It proved to be the case and we had a long, leisurely and final mountain lunch lazing on the grass by a clear, cold, mountain stream. We made a brave attempt to eat the remaining food we had left but we made only the merest impact on our vast supplies

IMG_1022

IMG_1024

The walk through these meadows in the sunshine was a fitting final memory of the trip. A stunning spot that barely gets a mention in the guidebook

IMG_1028

IMG_1030

All that was left was the last 3 miles along the track back to the car passing the Lac de Suyen we’d seen nothing of on the way up

IMG_1036

IMG_1037

IMG_1039

IMG_1044

And that was that. Back to the car, another night in a local hotel and long drive home via Caen and the ferry to Portsmouth the next day. As a special treat for sticking with the story (and the mid-season break!) you get the bonus of some nice pictures of Portsmouth and the Spinnaker Tower from the ferry

IMG_1057

IMG_1059

IMG_1060

IMG_1064

A fantastic trip. Superb walking, amazing weather, stupendous views, some eventful moments and a lot of lessons learned. Great excuse to go back and do it all again 🙂

Pyrenees Grand Tour Day 5 – Back on the Trail   9 comments

Enough rest, it was time to continue our adventures. Having decided to avoid the direct route to the next hut we needed an alternative. The hut staff were again marvellous in helping us arrange a taxi that would take us from the road-head below this hut to the end of the road nearer the Respumuso Hut from where we could continue our walk. I was a little disappointed that we were “cheating” but it was the sensible decision and the replacement walk was very fine indeed

After another bright morning with sunlit clouds we were back underway again

IMG_0932

It was a steep and very rocky descent down to Banos de Panticosa. The path took us steeply down towards a deep gorge with thunderous waterfalls before another steep drop down to the village

IMG_0934

IMG_0935

IMG_0936

The path was very narrow in places and several stretches were protected by cables and handrails

IMG_0938

After all the adventures and edgy moments of the previous few days the closest I came to real mishap was on a tourist path just above the car park. I lost my balance (no doubt due to a shift in cake position in the rucksack) and flailed about desperately to avoid a tumble down a short gravelly slope to a picnic bench. I still don’t know how I managed not come crashing down and do my self a nasty one.

IMG_0939

IMG_0940

The taxi arrived bang on time and the very nice lady and her young baby son took us to the road-head at the La Sarra lake above Sallent de Gallego. From there we had an easy steady climb along the valley of the Rio Aguas Limpias.

IMG_0941

The route initially took us through wonderful grass meadows with lots of butterflies for company

IMG_0944

IMG_0945

From there it was up through a deep and rocky gorge with more waterfalls and rapids and up through the bouldery slopes towards the hut

IMG_0947

We stopped for lunch below the dam admiring the now expected spread of colourful wild flowers that were a constant and delightful feature of every day

IMG_0949

IMG_0952

Before too much longer we were back at the Respumuso Hut we’d visited a few nights before

IMG_0958

The hut was much busier and having arrived relatively early we had a nice lazy afternoon reading and enjoying the surroundings. There had been the threat of heavy showers and rumbles of thunder all day but after the only light shower the skies cleared for some dramatic evening views across to the same magnificent mountain ranges we’d admired from before

IMG_0960

The Pico del Infernos were again catching the eye with their dramatic outline

IMG_0963

IMG_0966

This was to be our last night in the mountains and it was a pretty fine one. Tomorrow is was time to start the long journey home

%d bloggers like this: