Views, views and more views – Roc and Verdon Gorge – Castellane, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, France

This morning, realising no crampons and ropes were required we decided to scale the Roc. The 720m altitude rock which dominates the skyline of Castellane on which a small church has been built in the amazing way that religious buildings can be in apparently inaccessible places. The church which dates back to the 9th century was once part of a castle and fortification complex, being the private place of worship for the high society of Castellane who lived in the castle. However Luis VI declared the castle should be demolished in 1483 and only the chapel was permitted to remain.

The walk only took 30mins in the end, obviously almost entirely uphill, thankfully still catching the early morning shade of the Roc on our ascent. There was some fairly vertical drops to the sides of the path, although railings were in place for the worst it was definitely an on-lead dog walk. We failed early on the vertigo test which was to be tested even further later on in the day. The views from the top of the surrounding mountain range and across Castellane was worth the effort. It is slightly unbelievable looking back up from the carpark later to think we got up there so easily.

When we got into town square again, we were thrilled to find a farmer’s market on the square. We had a quick wonder round and the the fruit, veg, meats, cheeses, rotisserie chickens, spices etc etc looked fresh and supersized compared to home. We were positively drooling but we had not brought a wallet and had not yet had breakfast. However, that situation was soon rectified and we set off with multiple shopping bags. Kevin was thrilled to sample his way to selection of our purchases. We got local strawberries and the famous Provençal melons (June being the premium time to sample), cheeses and an amazing piece of cured fillet beef.

After coffees, fresh baguettes from the bakeries and a sample from the Cave du Vin shop we were fully provisioned. What a fantastically civilised way to shop. The market is twice a week, this being a relatively remote location the market was well attended including by a number of chefs out in the whites selecting their purchases. We were both marvelling at the way of life here.

However, the main task for today was to visit the Gorge de Verdon, a geological spectacle much recommended. A little of a detour from the Route Napoleon, but also a great excuse for another night in Castellane which we have both rather fallen in love with. Did you know you can be skiing within an hour of here in the winter and about 2 hours from the Côte d’Azur 😁

We had instructions from the Tourist Information Office – basically follow turn left at the town square, follow the road until you get to the Route de Crêtes which is a circular route along the gorge and one-way for large sections, but with plenty of lay-bys and viewpoints for photos. We set off without too much concern. Before we even reached the Route de Crêtes, we encountered massive overhangs and trailing road side cables, narrow low one way tunnels on two way road using the sounding of the horn for traffic control 😮 Luckily we felt we had the perfect motorhome for such adventures and we ploughed on to the main stage.

We were blown away when we hit our first viewpoint. I did not know such natural features existed in Europe, the view was truly spectacular. We were thankful for the substantial railings at the viewpoint as you cannot help but be effected by the height. It is 25km long and up to 700m deep. We reached an altitude of 1285m.

On the next viewpoint we had vultures soaring below us and we parked next to a very nice French ornithologist who let us look through his spotting scope at the juvenile vulture in its nest on the opposite cliff. Next a helicopter flew beneath us through the gorge. Shortly followed by a police helicopter so I am not sure if he was supposed to or not!

It took a couple of hours to get round the route including picnic lunch from the market and photo stops. A truly spectacular day. However what a drive! Sheer drops, near 180 degree hairpins variable road widths and cambers. Kevin was therefore not so keen when I suggested we extend the drive to the head of Lac de Saint-Croix at the end. However by now it was my turn to drive. Another 16km of mountainous driving brought us to the viewpoint which was worth the extra drive. It was obviously a popular spot the water was filled with kayakers and paddle boats etc. The idyllic turquoise blue water and sandy shores certainly looked appealing after all that driving.

We were all pleased to get back to what feels like home of Castellane. The dogs dove into the river as soon as they were off the lead to cool off after another day at 32 degrees. 😎

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