A year in Europe followed by a move to Bangkok

Provence: Verdon Gorge

We left Cotignac a week early and got a head start on our drive to Amsterdam.  We turned it into a French road trip, with stops in Southern, Central and Northern France.  First up:  the Verdon Gorge.

I had never heard of the Verdon Gorge until I arrived in Provence.  Even then, I only came across it via TripAdvisor. After seeing it in person, I'm surprised that it isn't a household name (at least amongst the outdoorsy set).  Perhaps all of the websites and travel books that briefly mention it as the "Grand Canyon of Europe" have the wrong idea. They really aren't the same. The Grand Canyon is about 18 times longer and 2.5 times deeper than the Verdon Gorge.  However, with its striking jade green water and tree dotted limestone cliffs, the Verdon Gorge shouldn't have to sell itself as a lesser Grand Canyon.  It can hold its own.

A month earlier, I surprised Jake by setting up a day with a private guide to take him rock climbing in the Verdon Gorge.  He had an incredible time.

Below is Sainte-Croix Lake, located at the edge of the canyon.  The third largest lake in France, it was created when a dam was built in 1975.

The village of Moustiers Sainte Marie is a short drive from the Verdon Gorge.  It is filled with tourists, and with good reason.  Built into the hillside with a huge waterfall running down the center, this village oozes charm.  

Jake originally found this village when he spent the night camping in the Verdon Gorge.  He had brought a tin of anchovies which he spilled on himself.  The fishy smell was so strong, he decided to go buy something more effective than the soap he had with him to wash the smell off of himself and his clothes.  He came across Moustiers Sainte Marie, but being an upscale touristy place, all he could find was a tiny lavender decorative soap, which he purchased for $10.  He must have smelled pretty bad because the store clerk asked him if he had been fishing.  Jake replied "no," and realized a few seconds too late that he should have just answered yes, as he rightfully got a very confused look from the clerk.


Moustiers Sainte Marie's winding cobblestone streets are lined with hand painted ceramics shops. Moustiers ceramics are world famous.  They look very similar to some items I have admired at Williams-Sonoma.  I purchased a tray, and wish I had bought more.

Next, we were in for another treat.  The drive to our hotel was about an hour and a half.  However, this was not highway driving.  This was lavender field driving!  At times we were on one lane roads and our trust in the Garmin wavered, but we eventually made it, and the drive was spectacular.  I have always wanted to see the lavender fields of Provence, and they delivered.  We even smelled them before we saw them.  The first few that we came across had dozens of people pulled over taking photos, as if it were the last chance to see the lavender, but the fields just kept coming.

We arrived at our hotel, Relais et Chateaux La Bonne Etape, which was lovely.  The hotel felt extremely authentic, as if we were deep in the heart of France where no other Americans had ever ventured (although this can't be true based on the glowing hotel reviews from various Americans on Tripadvisor).    

And the best part - sleeping with air conditioning for the first time in two months!  AMAZING.  I'm not sure who was more excited, me or Henry.

The hotel had a Michelin starred restaurant that focused on fresh herbs and produce from the hotel's garden.  This garden was delightful.  I loved the chalkboard labels.

The garden and setting captured the magic of Provence.

They even had a tiny vineyard, filled with many different types of grapes.  I can spot Merlot and Caladoc.

After a wonderful night of air conditioned sleep, we were ready to say goodbye to Provence and head north toward our next adventure - the town of Beaune in France's Burgundy region.

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