Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Grand Canyon du Verdon

Carved though the limestone rock, the Grand Canyon du Verdon stretches for 13 miles of wilderness, a novelty in crowded Europe. The beautifully turquoise river Verdon winds it’s way through the bottom, cold and glinting in the sun before emptying into the Lac de Ste-Croix and joining the Durance. The drive along the North Bank connects to the Route da la Corniche Sublime and together they circle the canyon in a 95 mile loop, I suppose adding a very sublime ornamental molding to the top of the canyon if you are inclined to believe the name! At the end of the day Alan said he wished we had counted the curves he drove around; Mom estimated that there were 3,000+ in the constantly curving route. The French do not believe in straightening out roads!

We got caught up in a herd of sheep
while heading to the gorge.
The gorges attract over one million people each year, but apparently we picked a slow day—no complaints there! The only bad thing about the day was the morning brought up a thick fog from the valley bottoms; for a while, we couldn’t see anything! But it was fun in its own way as we caught glimpses through the swirling mists as the sun burned through the moisture.
The bottom (east end) of the canyon, entering the lake.

Wait a minute - where's the canyon?

Our first wildlife sighting of the day was a chamois, which look to me like a mix between a pronghorn antelope and a mountain goat. We had stopped to walk a long a little trail and I looked through a break in the trees and there it was! It was very exciting, as we have seen no wildlife except birds, and I mean not a single squirrel, rabbit, chipmunk, nothing that’s not domestic (Mom and Dad did see three squirrels up in Vaison-la-Romain, but not all at once). The French like to hunt a little too much I guess!

Chamois - we saw five more a long way off
later in the day as well.

A group of tawny vultures were the next find of the day. At first we thought we’d seen a nest, but after getting home and zooming in we found it was just a hang out cleft in the rock, as far as we can tell anyway. They returned the favor and checked us out later in the day as we were overlooking along the road, flying low overhead and making their almost 9-foot wingspan gloriously apparent. I don’t know what they eat, but I guess we looked alive enough and so they went soaring away.

Note the band on it's leg; a sign we saw said they
had been reintroduced to the area.

We ate lunch at one of the three-star overlooks, occupied by nobody but us until just as we were leaving. We hardly saw any French tourists; there were groups of rock climbers preparing to descend the cliffs, but otherwise most people were German, Austrian, or from other European countries. Dad tried out his German on one father and son we meet up with at a few overlooks—the man responded in English, “You’re American, aren’t you?” Ha ha. We were, as is usual on many of our trips, the only Americans, although with all the terrorist threats against Americans that had us worried while Alan was in Paris, I guess that’s a good thing.

Realizing that we had spent over half the day on less than a third of our drive, we tried to pick up the pace. We stopped at Point Sublime, which overlooks a nice loop in the river at the upper end of the canyon. From the lookout, we could see a spot where you could easily walk down the river; this was exciting as all the trails we had read about were very long and step and weren’t going to fit into our driving day. We found our way down and spent a lovely time on the river’s edge. I picked up some really nice rocks, and when I found a heart shaped one I borrowed Dad’s pen (he always carries one, as the pen is mightier than the sword, you know…) and wrote “Alan and Rachel, Oct. 16, 2010” and then threw it in the river, so we’ll always be there. Yep, got to be sentimental every now and then…

There was lots of fall color! More than around Lacoste.

Alan had spotted a poster announcing an art exhibit in Trigance, a town we were going to drive by next, so we decided to stop and take a look. The gallery was closed, and we couldn’t figure out the whole story from the water-stained paper pinned to the door. All was not lost, however, as I was hungry again and there was a patisserie! We each picked out something and ate them at the next overlook. Dad and I both got awesome apricot pastries; the sweet dough had been square with two opposing corners folded in to touch each other, and the other two corners each held half of a fresh (maybe poached? The skin was gone) apricot, with a crunchy sugar topping sprinkled over it all. I’m going to dream of it for years to come!

We had to stop and look at the Pont de l’Artuby bridge (along with the one tour bus we saw that day). It crosses the Artuby Canyon (which goes in the Grand Canyon) in a single 361-foot arch made of reinforced concrete. It’s a popular bungee jumping point, although no one was making the leap today.

Pont de l'Artuby
Looking back up the canyon from the lake bridge.
The water really is that color!

After a full day of viewing the canyon, we returned to Moustiers-Ste-Marie. Since it was only 6 o’clock in the evening and no (and I mean not one) French restaurant opens before 7 o’clock, Alan and I hiked up to the Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-Beauvoir that sits above the town. The sunset was just beautiful, but we tore ourselves away due to our grumbling tummies. We were going to the same restaurant we’d been to last night, as vegetarian options are few and far between and this restaurant had at least four, and a very nice waitress to boot. The first night I had an awesome gnocchi dish with a different kind of mushroom than I have ever had (they go in for lots of varieties of mushrooms, although we hadn’t been brave enough to cook any but the normal kind so far this may convince us to be brave!) with a little cream sauce and a fresh greens salad.  And the second night we all just kinda shifted one plate to the left : ) Eating out is nice, but as a vegetarian I am so thankful for a kitchen over here! Tomorrow we head home—and yes, I mean to Lacoste, which is starting to feel very much like home. It’s going to be hard to go back to Savannah!

I love this photo. We didn't add a rock but I thought about it!

1 comment:

  1. what a beautiful canyon! In following your adventures, I think this may be my favorite one yet. :)