After our The Van having a sulk and us staying in the Alps for a few days, we gingerly made our way to Gréoux-les-Bains in Provence. We’d not really considered that we were passing through the Provence region, so we hadn’t looked into it that much. It turned out to be a very relaxing drive in warm and sunny weather, passing through the lavender fields and seeing some very pretty scenery on the way. As we’d just spent three days unplanned in the sticks, our food supplies were running low and I was on my last pair of clean underpants. So the day was mainly about stopping in quaint towns so Joolz could raid the patisseries, restocking at a supermarket, then getting to a campsite that had confirmed sightings of a launderette!
We arrived in the campsite in Gréoux-les-Bains early afternoon and went to check-in at reception. I asked Joolz to hand me the passports and when I turned around, she was nowhere to be seen. She’d found the campsite’s cat and was totally besotted. To be fair, it was the floofiest cat I’d seen in a while with blue eyes and paws big enough for a small panther. After we’d set up camp, Joolz went for a swim in the pool and I was left doing the laundry. As we’d been ‘home cooking’ for a few days, we thought we’d treat ourselves. We ordered a basic ‘burger and chips’. Of course it ended up being a French chef’s take on a burger and chips, so it was extravagant and very tasty.
The reason we’d gone to Gréoux-les-Bains was that it was on the Verdon river at the western end of the Verdon Gorge. It’s Europe’s equivalent of the Grand Canyon, 25km of winding turquoise river cut 700m deep into the limestone plateau. We set off the next day, still a bit apprehensive as we didn’t know if The Van would get annoyed with the hills again. We needn’t have worried as we made so many stops to see the views that it barely every got a chance to warm up. We’d only got as far as Lac de Sainte-Croix, which marks the beginning of the gorge when we saw people kayaking… we love a bit of paddle messing, so we hired one for an hour. I’m sure it’ll be packed later in the season, but it was pretty quiet and very picturesque. We had a great time.
The road follows the route of the river, clinging to the cliff-side. It’s narrow, winding and frequently pretty hairy with just a wooden fence marking the edge of the road, then less than half a metre to the plummet below. There are occasional unlit, single lane, blind entry tunnels, most of the road has a shear rock wall and there are countless hairpin bends. Thankfully the road was also pretty quiet, so we could drive at a lazy pace and didn’t have to hold our breathe for cars passing the other way too often.
At the end of the gorge is a small town called Castellane. We arrived shortly before all the shops were closing, so Joolz ran out to make sure she’d got a magnet for the board. Castellane was very chilled and fairly normal. Except for the Roc of Notre-Dame, a monolith of rock that towers 184m above the town with a small chapel on top.
After an hour of paddling and several hours of driving, we settled down for the night in a car park for a good night’s sleep. Tomorrow we head for the coast…