Archive for the ‘France’ Category

Annual Trip to See the Snow?   6 comments

End of January means my annual ski trip treat. Just a long weekend this year as TJS wanted to try it but can’t take a week out of college so I thought it a bit harsh to go for the full week while he stayed home.

In truth not best skiing trip I’ve ever had. The runes were bad after a journey to the airport involving a puncture, a closure of the M1, getting the flight time wrong in my head and me making my flight with only 10 mins to spare (exaggerated a little for effect – the flight was 30 mins late so that bought me some time) There has only been two major falls of snow in the Alps this winter and slopes were amazingly bare and thin. Looks like there is plenty of snow from the photos but trust me this is bare by Alpine standards. It surprised me greatly to see such a change in the usual conditions. Perhaps global warming is to blame but my Uncle Donald in America told me that’s just a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese so it can’t be that

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We did have some nice sunny days though and even if the skiing wasn’t as good as it could be it was still great fun. Clear skies and winter air is always a treat and any day spent away from work is a good one

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This does of course leave more time for convivial eating and lunchtime drinking in the sun

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My camera had another fit and went into strange mode for the next few pictures. Not exactly representative of the views at the time but an interesting effect

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A nice sunrise before a cloudy day

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It even rained on my last day – skiing in the rain is even more miserable than walking in it. I’ll leave you with my abiding memory from the trip. The Le Red Wine bar which is now my spiritual home. Gave us a decent excuse to go shopping as its next door to the supermarket. If Carlsberg (or Grimbergen in this case) did supermarkets……

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Touring through the Tarn – Mont Lozere   6 comments

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The Last Post. As it were. Bringing our French trip to a conclusion. After our only day of rain in three weeks (other than the drive from the ferry) we headed out late in the day for quick explore of the Mont Lozere area where the Tarn river has its source. The photo below at Mas Camargue is of the infant Tarn a few miles from that source

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We’d driven up through some wonderful and peaceful rural landscapes and small hamlets of Villeneuve and L’Hopital along some narrow and rough tracks. The feel is very reminiscent of Dartmoor or Bodmin Moor. Lots of grassland, heather and granite tors and boulders

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As the storm was passing and evening rolling in the cloud effects were dramatic. I’m especially proud of this image with dark skies and sunlit buildings

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The views from every corner were awesome and we stopped many times to admire, a welcome relief after being stuck in the camper in the rain for most of the day

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We took a short stroll down to the pool at Gasbiel. It was dark and gloomy but it did look worth a visit on a sunnier day. Watch this space

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The next day was our kayak trip along the gorge but for our last day we decided to pay the area another visit. It was a stunning day of deep blue sky and unbroken sunshine. We first took a walk to see the Cascade des Ruisses. The views from the walk across the upper reaches of the Tarn valley were stunning

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The waterfall itself was equally impressive but hard to capture as its sits in deep tree filled ravine

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Onward and upward we took a stroll and lunch in the peaceful village Le Pont Montvert, also on the banks of the Tarn

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Like most of the valley the village has its own rather splendid collection of natural swimming holes

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We opted to revisit the highest part of Mont Lozere again and this time under the deep blue sky it was majestic

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We walked down to Gasbiel again to laze away the afternoon. It was transformed under a sunny day into an idyllic spot. A deep green pool backed by huge slabs of warm granite just perfect for sunbathing

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It was also quiet with just a handful of families and no-one in the water. I soon worked out why. The water was absolutely freezing! I’d swum comfortably in the river no more than 15 miles downstream the day before. Despite the cold the water was wonderfully clear and refreshing (just not the place for an extended swim). Even at this altitude (around 1300m) the sun was hot and the rocks pleasantly warm.

Surprisingly TBF went in for a swim. She’s smiling in the last photo so she must have enjoyed it

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TJS was feeling a little under the weather so was content to simply enjoy some quiet time

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I took another swim and explored the other pools. It was another of my favourite spots of the holiday

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Me and TBF took a short stroll along the river and across the meadows

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This little abandoned dwelling caught my eye and was very photogenic

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The smell and colour of heather was everywhere, again reminding me of home, fitting as this was our last day before returning

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A wonderful last day finished off with another evening picnic by the river at the campsite.

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Happy memories of a fantastic holiday but still tinged with a little sadness that TJS wasn’t with us. Back to the real world now and time to catch up on my activities since we got home. Some pretty good one’s too

Touring through the Tarn – Downstream   5 comments

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Well if you visit the Gorges du Tarn you better spend a day floating down it. Rather than cycling back to the start, this time I took the easy way out and used the bus. Allowed a brief period to enjoy the views at La Malene

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We’ve done the down stream stretch from La Malene many times so this time we gave the upstream section a go from St Enemie, itself a very fine medieval village where we had lunch a few days before

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This stretch wasn’t as dramatic as the previous trips but it was a good deal quieter.

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An early stop for lunch was what was needed – it takes a while to drop off, drive to the far end and bus back

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It was warm and sunny but a little breezy, more than enough to deter the rather fickle Funsters from taking a dip. Water this cool and clear has to swum in my opinion so I had to take the waters alone

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I let the Funsters loose in the kayak without my guidance and they went round in circles for a few minutes before I took over control and ensured we continued our journey in the right direction

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A fine way to spend a sunny day, floating down a dramatic tree lined gorge, watching the world drift by

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One of the highlights is the village of St Chely du Tarn, perched on cliffs above the river with its own Tufa-lined waterfall

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Predictably I threatened to take the boat under the falls for a refreshing shower but thought better of it

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The Cirque de Pougnadoires is the drama highlight of this stretch but less so than Les Detroits and Cirque des Baumes on the lower stretch. Not too shabby though

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You have make time for plenty of stops to swim and soak up the sunshine. The Funsters are much better at that!

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The Chateau La Caze stands guard over the final long stretch back to La Malene

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A brief bit of fun trying to negotiate a very stony weir and a final swim at La Malene ended a superb day messing about in a boat

Touring Through the Tarn – Up in the Trees Part 2   4 comments

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Another day, another “Accrobranche” afternoon in the trees

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This one was by the far the most scenic and relaxed. No bookings taken, just show up, brief lesson and then off into the park. They even let you go around the course as many times as you like. The big draw is the fact that its right by the river Tarn making for all the better views

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The usual fun, wobbling about on planks and swinging about on ropes

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The big plus for this one was however the fact that the zip lines (of which this course had many) went right over the river which adds a certain exciting twist to things

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In fact a small and perfectly formed course. We’ve done tougher and more interesting challenges but this one is my favourite for the views and the very relaxed and friendly atmosphere created by the instructors

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Me and TBF went round twice, quite a challenge in the hot weather but it was too much fun not to

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The final zip line back over the river was especially long and fast.

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TBF seems to have taken the award for the most active of the family on these things and is in her element playing the Tarzan role (she is called Jane after all!)

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Great fun in the sun and as you can probably tell by now, a family favourite  🙂

Posted October 7, 2016 by surfnslide in France, Tarn Gorge

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Touring through the Tarn – Home from Home   6 comments

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Onwards to our final destination. The Gorges du Tarn is an area we’ve always visited on journeys to southern France but we’ve only stayed a day to take a kayak trip down the river. Its a stunning area and we thought it deserved a longer stay

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Rather than stay in the busy main sections we opted for the upstream and less well known area near Florac. I’m so glad we did. I found Camping Chantmerle on the Cool Camping website and what a find. Alongside the river Tarn its quiet peaceful with excellent facilities and never felt in any way busy or crowded. Run by the lovely Nicole the atmosphere is pretty much perfect for our needs, relaxed, friendly and unhurried

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It has its own natural river swimming area beneath the bridge and the splendid church in the village of Bedoues is close by and is a stunning building perched in the woodland

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You’d never know but the campsite is in the trees on the left of the photo below

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The site even has resident beavers but apparently the latest generation are very shy and rarely seen. Previously they were commonly seen swimming in the river by the pitches. We had to make do with the resident birds and dragonflies which were stunning. I even saw a small snake swimming in the river.

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Our pitch was right next to the river and the views were stunning especially late evening

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You’ll know from many of my posts that I love river swimming and this area is packed with swimming holes both on the Tarn and elsewhere. The campsite swimming hole is a little shallow for my more adventurous spirit but a 10 minute walk upstream takes you to this stunning spot with narrow gorges, waterfalls and rock ledges to jump from

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However the crowning glory was our little patch of sun warmed rocks just below the camper. We spent pretty much every evening down there either reading, relaxing, eating or just enjoying the peace and stunning views until the sun went down. In a trip with many new spots to treasure, this one was my favourite

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A wonderfully tranquil corner of France

Vistas in the Verdon – Into the Heart of the Canyon   6 comments

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I promised TJF some proper water based adventures that this area specialises in. We had planned a proper canyoning adventure (all jumps, ropes and abseils) but TJF opted for something a little more sedate. We booked an “Aqua Randonee” trip into the famous Samson Couloir in the Gorges du Verdon.

Firstly you have get dressed for the part. This involves thick heavy wet suits and helmets which are just a trifle uncomfortable when its already 25C. I promised TJF I wouldn’t take any embarrassing photos but…..

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To keep things fair, here’s a deeply unflattering selfie of me in my get-up

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After a short bus-ride and walk we were at the end of the gorge and ready to start

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This is just a wet walk as it were involving lots of floating downstream in fast moving water, with some added jumps and other fun stuff

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Here’s the first jump. TJF declined the jumps preferring the swimming option. I took on all the jumps of course!

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There are a few sections where you have to walk but that just gives you a chance to appreciate the magnificence of the gorge itself. The trip allows you to see parts of the gorge that you don’t see from the path. The walking route uses tunnels to get through this extremely narrow section with just a couple of viewing windows

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The overhang here was amazing and we swam right under it

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As we progressed the gorge widened a little enough to let the sun appear. It feels almost cave-like and gloomy in the early part and you forget it’s actually a hot cloudless day in the wider world

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I remember this section as a particularly splendid sunny float

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Some of the sections were much more “rapid” than others but it was always easy, no objective dangers and just a few dunks to keep you on your toes

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There was one section (avoidable) where you had to duck under a rock fully immersed, only a foot or so before you pop out again and great fun. I’ve done this caving before and its a whole lot more scary underground when you can’t see the other side

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Another fun section through a mini rock arch. Have to say I’m in my element doing this sort of stuff

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As we approached the finish we had the option of varying sizes of jumps or (as below) a slide down a narrow rock channel into a deep pool

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Naturally I chose the jump, TJF chose the swim

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All too soon it was over and we had the long walk back to the bus. Most of the walk was through the two tunnels (one short, one pretty long), which kept us cool in our wet suits

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There were a couple of fine view points in the tunnel so we could look at the route we’d taken from a different perspective. A fantastic and fun outing, highly recommended – if you like this sort of thing

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Again! Again!

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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

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

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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)

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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

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A place to return to in future visits

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