Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Moseying along the Moselle and heading for Blighty

The Moselle changes its name to the Mosel when it crosses into Germany, a sinuous snake of a river that confuses our sense of direction as it twists and turns. The steep hillsides are raked with vines, planted in cross-hatch patterns amongst rocks and shale. The slopes are so steep that crampons would be useful for the vineyard workers. There is help for the viticulturalist however, small monorail systems that stretch up from the riverside for transporting grapes and supplies up and down the slopes.
The river route between Trier and Koblenz is lined with ‘stellplatz’ that cost about $16 a night, usually with a water view and sometimes with wifi and electric. Stellplatz means ‘stopping place’ and they are nearly always close enough to a village for fresh bread or coffee/beer. The Mosel river is an ever changing scene of barges and pleasure craft, the villages are of course immaculate, not OTT with geraniums and twee, and with a distinct Germanic flavour.

The town of Zell
About midway in our journey we back-tracked to a stellplatz attached to a restaurant/winery/bakery and plugged in for the night. The English people in their big new luxury motorhome parked next to our dusty small rental job recommended the restaurant, so we got changed and had – you guessed it – schnitzel von krumb. I had bought a new dress that afternoon but didn’t wear it as I saw ‘her next-door’ wearing the identical dress as she walked toward the restaurant. It was just as well we had back-tracked as Stuart decided the boots he bought were the wrong size so we swapped them on our way back.   
Eltz castle
To reach Eltz castle, we had to detour out of the valley and up onto a plateau covered with fields of wheat that rustled and swayed in the breeze. 
The castle is a dead ringer for a Disney castle, I guess they copied it off TV. It is a bit of a Tardis in reverse as they often are – huge on the outside but only a small part is open to view. Still good to have been there.
After our tour we left the beautiful park like setting and descended back into the valley before heading to Koblenz.

Stuart at the confluence of Rhine/Mosel
The final stop on the Mosel experience was a very expensive campground in Koblenz, no special amenities but it sits at the confluence of the Mosel and Rhine rivers. Jutting out into the confluence on a triangular piece of land is a monument to beat all monuments commemorating Germany’s last emperor – Kaiser Wilhelm II. Kaiser Bill is massive as is his horse, the pediment underneath it dwarfs people as they climb to get the full experience. The ‘prow’ of this piece of land is something like being on the bow of a huge ship, people were taking selfies in ‘Titanic’ poses. A small ferry takes us from the campsite to the town opposite and Kaiser Bill stares down on the ferry and across to our wohnmobile (as the Germans call it) parked in the camp opposite. Koblenz is abuzz with river traffic separating under Bill’s eye to go up either the Mosel or Rhine; a gondola is in perpetual motion overhead and streams of trains and cars run alongside the river. All this motion!

I miss the French polite greetings and farewells and the elegant language – a menu in German is not nearly as enticing as a menu in French, but there is something interesting in the sound of ‘puddingplunder’. The currywurst I had for lunch was not quite the wurst choice of streetfood I have ever made but I won’t be repeating it.

It is auf wiedersein to Germany as we start the trek back to Calais where we have an early morning rendezvous with a ferry for the trip back to Blighty. Belgium did not exactly beckon but whichever way we turned the map it seemed inevitable. There was muttering about cheap diesel in Luxembourg but it seemed counter-productive to travel extra to get it. 

Sunday is a great day to travel on the toll-free motorways in Germany and Belgium, all the trucks are squeezed into laybys and service areas to sit out Sunday in the scorching heat.

Our meals are becoming a bit creative now as I try to use the supplies up, and the treats cupboard is emptying quickly. The last leg of the journey is a bit of pick-n-mix as we make our way across Northern France. Will the detergent and toilet paper last?
I am looking forward to coming home, nothing like home is there? People spot the GB identity on our registration plate and assume we are from England – we quickly put them right. Older people think we have travelled from the end of the earth (we have) and younger people fall into paroxysms of delight. “Wow! I want to go there, it is the best place” they say. The promotions must be working.

We have a few weeks in England, one in Suffolk re-visiting the area we lived in 40 years ago then three ‘L’s’ – Ledbury, Liverpool, London. We drop off the camper at another L – Luton, and pick up a rental car to see us through the final weeks.
London is the venue for Stuart’s birthday – maybe a West End show. So it is au revoir from her, and auf weidersein from him.  Bonne chance and catch ya later.

Chateau in Belgium next to our camping spot

Monday, 9 July 2018

Verdun, Luxembourg and the Three Frontiers

Moving right along from the magic of Metz we drove across the rolling Lorraine countryside, all wheat-fields, corn and sunflowers to the WW I battlefields of Verdun. In 1916 the longest battle of WW I raged in Verdun, the town’s name is synonymous with wartime slaughter. The town was never actually taken but it was nearly destroyed along with 9 villages that surround it. 

Close to a million soldiers alone died in the area.We chose to visit a couple of forts, the Ossuary and the war memorial of Verdun near the destroyed village of Fleury. We lined up the “Just Go’ with the other motorhomes in what looked like the bus park and passed a modern French army tank on our way to the entrance of the memorial.
Verdun war memorial - view from the top of the tank

The young soldiers in charge of the tank invited us to have a look and suggested I sit in the gunner’s seat. Initially I didn’t think I would be able to fit down the narrow entrance or get out again, it was very ‘enclosed’ and the only view was through some high-resolution periscopes. A similar seat for the driver is accessed on the other side of the tank, I couldn’t see where the third member of the team sat. I managed to get out with some dignity.

inside the tank

The war memorial is a modern three-storey building with re-creations of the battlefields and it holds a lot of personal items belonging to soldiers who fought in the war. I pulled open a display drawer to see a very large red, white and black kerchief which was issued as part of the French soldiers’ uniform. It performed a dual purpose of clothing and training manual. The kerchief could be used as necessary for a bandage/sling/scarf/towel …. but the other use was a training manual. There were 13 kerchief designs printed, the one I viewed showed among other things, how to dismantle the army-issue gun. As most of the French soldiers were recruited from rural areas the pictures helped those that could not read.

Destroyed village of Fleury -
white marker posts where houses used to be
After enough of the memorial we walked about 200 metres to the remains of the little village of Fleury. All around us were huge shell holes; after 100 years grass had smoothed their edges, the contours of the ground reminded me of a giant egg carton. An unusual silence hung around the trees that had been planted amongst the white wooden upright posts that denoted where the butcher/baker/school had been.

Ossuary and a French military cemetery

A short distance away was an ossuary where the bones of 130,000 unidentified French and German soldiers are kept. 

The ossuary rose like a giant white sword from the ground, standing 130 metres high. Each stone in the monument is engraved with the name of a missing soldier. Outside are row upon row of small perfect white crosses on the graves of French soldiers.

Let’s go to Luxembourg – it was my idea and seconded by Stuart who was tempted by the cheapest diesel prices in Europe. We didn’t see a lot of Luxembourg but immediately we crossed the border we were faced with lines of trucks, 2 abreast, stretching beyond my range of sight. They were blocking roundabouts and traffic was at a standstill. There was every brand of fuel on offer and the trucks were waiting their turn to fill up on the cheap stuff. We managed to get in and get a tankful as the trucks can’t use the smaller pumps.  

A rainy day in Luxembourg city

The following day we went by rail to Luxembourg city. It was the first day in weeks that it rained – more like drizzle really but still enough to dull the sights of the lovely little city. We both felt very scruffy compared with the young chic set that moved between the pale, clean classical buildings. 

Rainy day in Luxembourg city

The city is built on the sides of two gorges and there is a lift to move you between the high town and the picturesque low town.  After our fill of walking around the ramparts in the drizzle we (I) drifted into Zara and bought some clothes that are identical to ones I already have.

Enough already, we tightened the hatches and set off the short distance back to Thionville in France. The municipal camp was well placed with an easy walking distance to town and beside the Moselle river.  I have had some tussles with the commandants who man the reception at municipal camps and was daunted to see that this one was wearing khaki camo shirt and matching pants, sturdy boots completed the ensemble. She was certainly dressed for battle, but pas de probleme –  the nicest camp lady I have come across.

View from the campsite at Sierck-les-Bains.
Sierck-les-Bains was a top place for a spot of chillout beside the Moselle river. It is on the 'Three Frontiers' - we could smell the schnitzels cooking in Germany, wafts of cheap diesel were drifting in from Luxembourg and the aromas of fresh baguettes and Camembert completed the scene as technically we were still on French soil. 

The French lunch reigns as we found when we arrived 10 mins after the midday cut off time at the campsite. We cooled our heels for 3 hours until camp-mother let us approach the desk. Forms and documents were signed and we were given the code to approach the front gate. Only one person at a time is allowed to complete a form and it is forbidden to be on the camp without completed forms.

Sierck had a food festival one evening and we walked along the river to join in the fun and taste some wonderful food, but all good things roll into more good things and we are pressing on into Deutschland to follow the Moselle as it wends its way past picturesque villages.    

Vending machine dispensing hot baguettes

Monday, 2 July 2018

Rolling through the Routes des Vins and magical Metz

Pretty town of Ortans

Eastern France has a lot to offer, mountains, great scenery and pretty villages. Our mode of travel is to avoid the large roads if possible and choose routes through the small towns and  countryside.

The area of Alsace is very close to the border of Germany and has been passed back and forth between the two countries as a result of wars. Many of the towns have Germanic names and architecture. The cuisine and culture has Germanic roots as well, with sauerkraut, sausage, bretzels, and bundt cake on offer.

Thann is the start of the routes des vins in Alsace, a pretty town with an aire for motorhomes. We parked under some shady trees while we checked out the impressive church, decorated streets and had a general toot around the river and environs.  When we returned to the truck it was covered in yellow tree droppings – small flowers that were trapped in the concertina insect screens, on the roof, in the air vents and generally gathering in drifts all over the truck. It took a bit of effort to rid ourselves of the yellow peril.

The route goes through Alsace villages dedicated to producing wine.  Some are working villages with no sign of life at all, everybody at work in nearby towns. They are immaculate but ghost like. The only signs of life, the occasional vintner driving a tiny narrow tractor designed for working between the rows of vines, or trucks delivering wine bottles. There are grapes growing up and down the hillsides, sylvaner, pinot blanc, riesling, muscat d’Alscace, pinot gris and gerwurtzraminer plus pinot noir – so white wine is the favoured drop here.

On the flip side, villages that had become tourist destinations are bedecked with geraniums and gingerbread-house shopfronts displaying revolving stands of fluffy acrylic red and white storks – so much so I was questioning myself if I really should be stocking up on them.
Black and white storks on chimney tops and nesting perches clattered their bills, fluffy grey babies peered out of the nests – it’s a long way down.

Storks stalked around the camping ground searching for frogs and lizards and I watched what I assume is the male stork bringing building material for the already over-engineered nest while the female is saying ‘we are all starving, we have enough sticks – bring more frogs’.
Eguisheim on the routes des vins was our base for a couple of nights, the municipal camp close to the village was our home. Sixteenth century half-timbered houses are painted in pretty shades of pink, lavender, terracotta …. this is a modern trend started in the 20th century – back in the day they wore sombre colours and the windows were even tinier than they are today.

We hired electric bikes to do a trip through nearby villages, it was my first trial of an e-bike. The bikes powered away on the uphill but boy are they heavy – my one had the world’s worst seat and days later I can still feel the effect. Afterwards we stopped to buy a bottle of aged local pinot gris which helped ease the pain for a while.

bundt moulds used in decorative way
Rolling along we found a tiny campsite in Barr, the large shade trees would provide some respite from the heat which is spreading over France. No sooner had we found the little site than we realised we hadn’t stocked up on essentials and it looked too far to walk in the heat, so we used the old Garmin which is programmed with the locations of my favourite chain of supermarkets to lead the way.  

Instead of using the opportunity to redeem itself, it headed straight for the middle of the ancient town and before we knew it were in a place that motorhomes shouldn’t venture. We squeaked through and before we knew it we were travelling behind an over-sized lawnmower along a road narrower than our driveway. The return trip wasn’t any better, we tried to outsmart both satnavs but ended behind a truck in a place where both a truck and motorhome shouldn’t be. 

Moselle, Metz
Metz (pronounced ‘mess’) is the capital city of the area of Lorraine, which borders Alsace and is where the quiche came from.  I had recommendations to take a look-see at this little gem. It sits astride the confluence of the Moselle and Seille rivers and I certainly can recommend it as worth a visit. Such an elegant city with arched bridges, big spacious areas, lots of greenery and waterways. There are no vehicles in the centre except for slow moving electric buses which makes a peaceful atmosphere. Many towns we have visited have us jumping out of the way of cars. I give it 5 stars. Metz has also undergone historical hand-changing between Germany and France over the years.

The number one tourist attraction is the Centre Pompidou-Metz, a satellite branch of the Centre Pompidou in Paris. Its aim is to bring modern art to the masses and there were several exhibitions on when we visited. All a bit strange to us - I am still pondering the trough of blue sand (so maybe the centre is doing its job after all).

I have included some snaps I have taken recently, but I am a lazy photographer, I should be taking photos when the light is right but that is either before my getting-up time or after dinner when again I don’t feel like moving. 

C’est la vie.

Moselle river with swan sculptures

Moselle with origami boats 

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Tournon and on

Tournon sur Rhone
Tournon sur Rhone, a very old town on the Rhone faces the famous wine producing Tain-l’Hermitage’ across the river. The steep hillsides of the Tain are a patchwork of well-groomed  vines stretching up to a spotlit tiny chapel on the top, just beside telecommunications tower. We scored a riverside camping spot which had a great view of Tain-l’Hermitage, we claimed it as ours by Jane standing in the middle of the plot staring down all possible takers while Stuart returned with the truck. Fabulous view of the river, river craft and a swan family.

 Tournon swan and babies - photo credit Stuart
The castle in Tournon is founded on a megalith of rock right in the middle of town alongside the main drag, it dates back to 894. The maze of alleys behind the castle make up the old part of the town, very interesting but with an aroma of dog pee. Just off the alleys I walked along the old main street that was full of fascinating little specialist shops. I had time to check them out properly as Stuart climbed the hillside behind them in the scorching (31+ C) heat taking a ‘special shot’. 

Tournon sur Rhone
Plane trees line the main sandy square in town and under their shade petanque players battle it out. Large river tour boats moor alongside the square, just along from our pozzie.

photo credit Stuart
The last time I was here I couldn’t get enough of Tournon (and the chocolate factory) so had to return for a second time. Valrhona is one of the most highly respected producers of chocolate in the world and they have a Cite du Chocolat which is an educational experience. Throughout the educational experience are samples of the different types of chocolate, they have single origin chocolates just like coffee and whisky. The gift shop had even more samples which made me wonder about my true reason to visit this mecca of chocolate.

One whole day in Tournon was spent trying to keep as cool as possible as the thermometer just kept climbing, reaching a peak by about 5pm. Our site is under trees but even with all the windows open it was 43C inside.  

photo credit Stuart

We took a ride on a tiny steam train along a narrow gorge track, basically to have lunch at another village. One man in our uncomfortable, third class, rattling and shaking carriage seemed rabidly excited, hanging out of the window as much as he could. A showering of soot and small cinders was his reward. At peak heat time – 5pm, absolutely gasping for drinks, we collected the truck from the station carpark and made our way back to the campsite. While I popped into a supermarket, Stuart popped into Mr Bricolage – “a wonderous place, much better and cheaper than Bunnings”. So wonderous that he bought a bag of bricolage – most of it to do with plumbing. I fended off two potential takers from our vacated but ‘reservee’ spot and we had a quick dinner before joining the Fetes de Musiques which is held all over France on 21 June to mark the longest day. There was live music and dancing in front of the bars in town, which looked as if it would carry on for quite a while.

The GPS on my phone was programmed with NANTUA as the destination. The old GPS sat along alongside spitting out lies and falsehoods. It seemed a long haul to get around Lyon and quelle horreur we ended up on a pay road. Nantua is close to the Swiss border and despite the spirit-level in Stuart’s head wanting to face the block-wall we faced the bright blue lake.  The front of the truck rested on two large flat stones to appease the spirit-level. Children in optimists were struggling to manage their craft in the windy conditions, white caps whipped up crazily.

Nantua memorial
On a promontory facing the young sailors was a large white monument, a coffin with open sides containing a skeletal body. A lone tricolour flailed in the wind overhead. It was a poignant memorial to citizens of Nantua taken by Nazis in WWII, the puppet government in Vichy at the time demanded a quota of people that were on their 'undesirable' list and Nantua had to fill the number from their citizenry. 

The houses in the town were narrow and stood shoulder to shoulder with their backs to towering cliffs. Up a narrow alley was a museum dedicated to the French Resistance and the lives of the Maquis (guerrilla type fighters who took their name from the low scrub growing on the hills). There was only a smattering of English translation, but we got the story the museum had to tell. The Ain area and Nantua will remain in my memory for a long time. 

We happened upon Baume-les-Messieurs by accident – I put my finger on a red star on the map and away we went.  Down a narrow, windy road into a deep Cotswold-looking valley. The church spire (actually an abbey) poked its finger up through the cluster of houses around it. No thatched cottages but hump back stone bridges, lots of leafy trees, stone buildings and shallow stone-lined stream gave it that English look. What a contrast to dramatic Nantua. We will stay in the lovely campsite for a couple of days and plan our next sortie.

Au revoir

Monday, 18 June 2018

Lavender fields and Gorges L'Ardeche

Simiane La Rotonde

At the other end of the Gorges du Verdon, is Moustiers Sainte Marie. For centuries it has perched on the top of a hill wearing a church as its crown.  The cobbled stairs leading up to the church have been worn to a treacherous polish by millions of tourist tootsies. The inside of the church so gloomy it was hard to see anything except a glowing gold leaf altar.
I wasn’t wearing grippy shoes and clung onto the handy metal rail as I made the downward trek. I felt for the woman in front who was creeping in a similar fashion but carrying a baby in a sling.

Meanwhile, crouched below the hill, is the aire du camping cars. All the big white boxes are arranged in a circle – facing an empty centre eyeballing each other. A popular place – the latecomers were pointed to the overflow area for “Norman-no-mates”.
We were on a lavender hunt. It was a bit early in the season but ever hopeful we set off across the Valensole plateau. A most fabulous drive, the sun had warmed the flowers and the wind blew lavender fragrance in the cab windows. The colours, the colours, great blocks of purple and mauve, red pools of poppies and sunshine fields of rape.

Sometimes our travels are a bit serendipitous, we drove through Reillanne then turned around, with some difficulty, and headed back to spend the night. It is a truly delightful village. We were peering into the tourist office through the glass door, deciding that once again it was probably the day that it closed, when the door opened and we almost fell on top of the lovely lady in charge of the office. Claire was ex-pat English who plied us with many maps and instructions to visit a nearby village. 

Reillanne had a large square that was being used as a venue for a dance class. The houses were painted in all sorts of Karen Walker washed out pastels with contrasting shutters and flowers cascading out of pots and gardens. There were cafes with music and the village looked like a place with real people, young people, living there, not just a clutch of holiday houses. I could move to this lovely place in the Hautes Alpes region!

The next morning we set off and followed Claire’s instructions but stopped – the road indicated was no better than a farm track, and there was a ‘chausses deforme’ sign which meant the road was even worse than usual so we gave that opportunity a miss and carried on to a couple more hilltop villages for a quick toot. 

Return to Roussillon. It is a town built of reddish stone. There were ochre formations in sunset stripes along the wind and rain sculpted cliffs. The pigment from the clay has been used for centuries and was once the source of the town’s economy but don’t touch it – or it will stain your clothes forever. Tourists are now the towns fortune - twangy American accents rang out across the tangle of quaint lanes and shops are selling what our friend Tim calls ‘fluff’.


Sadly we left the Hautes Alpes of Provence and entered the wide open spaces on our way to Vallon Pont D’Arc at the end of the Gorges L’Ardeche (Ardeche Gorge). Pont D’Arc is a stunning natural stone bridge formed over the eons by water and spans the Ardeche river. Eagles soar on the thermals above it and swallows are swooping into their nests underneath it.
Gorges d'Ardeche
The Ardeche a serpentine spirulina-smoothie slithers between towering cliffs. From a vantage point high above the river we can see parties of kayakers moving quite quickly around bends, looking like tiny toy boats.
Did I mention ‘kayak’? Did I hear the word ‘kayak’ on many occasions? I wasn’t a happy camper or sailor at the thought of kayaking and then the kayak rental man talked about all the rapids. Zut alors! Sacre bleu!

Again – long story short, I packed our baguette, camembert and bottle of water into the white screw-top barrel and Stuart firmly strapped it on the craft. ‘Keep a little bottle of water out so we can drink it while we travel’. ‘OK’.

Jane with plastic fantastic
The first set of rapids looked fine as we approached but then we were in a maelstrom – it was more than ‘zut alors’. Water crashed over the bow soaking me through, and where was that little bottle? I didn’t think the man in the stern was paying enough attention – how could he see what I was seeing? I didn’t want to join those poor unfortunates who walked along the riverbank looking for their piece of plastic fantastic. Anyhow, we made it through the 24km unscathed and a bus took us and a trailer full of yellow plastic craft back to our motor camp on the way. 

Pont D'Arc 

The washing was getting more than pressing and the camp man let me use his washing machine to do the biggies while we washed the smalls by hand. Stuart’s handy washing line was strung between the trees and cleanliness was restored.

After a random consultation of our very detailed map of France I settled on Vogue as our destination, its name had a nice ring to it. Luckily it more than met our expectations, and a few others as well – it was Sunday after all.

Dining out was on the cards, and I had a very strange starter, an éclair stuffed with a slice of terrine and garnished inside with swirls of lavender coloured (blueberry) cream. Sprinkled around were pieces of bright green sponge cake (pistachio) and small strips of bacon. I had read the menu correctly but was surprised all the same to see that nothing was lost in translation. I had the ‘house aperitif’ and Stuart declined my suggestion of biere pression (draft beer) and chose instead ‘biere Monaco’ from the list of beverages. Was he surprised to get a bright red beer with pink froth on top! It is made from lager, red cordial, lemonade …. and tasted a lot like the house aperitif.

We are going to follow the Rhone northward and see what it brings. Au revoir.

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Lake Orta, Gorges du Verdon

 Lazet-Ubaye, France - the camping car 'aire' had a fantastic view of the lake

The GPL story – it is the weekend and we couldn’t find anywhere (bar travelling on the autostrada in an undefined direction) that was open to supply the gas we use for cooking and heating water. We checked into a campsite and plugged into electric. The campsite we took was on the side of Lake Orta. We were so lakeside that we had our own set of swimming pool type stairs to descend into the lake. So, long story short, we spent two nights beside the fantastic Lake Orta . The truck we hired has the same gas system we had set up in our own truck before arriving in NZ. It is a refillable bottle so we can travel Europe without changing bottle type. Not only cheaper but more convenient- until you strike a weekend.

Lake Orta
Lake Orta was delightful, we visited Sacro Monte. It is a UNESCO world heritage site on a hillside overlooking the lake. Spiralling around the hillside are 20 chapels containing statues and frescoes portraying the life of St Francis of Assisi – he is following me on this trip.  The first chapel was built in 16th century and the last 100 years later. The perfectly landscaped park surrounding the chapels contains scotch pines, broadleaf trees and an avenue of hornbeams.


The time to depart Italy had arrived – we headed to France crossing an alpine route. A different route than we took last time, shelling out toll after toll. We snaked down a steep descent from Italy into Briancon in the Hautes-Alpes region, the truck was running on engine braking and regular brakes but holding back to avoid over-heating. Hairpin bend after hairpin bend was negotiated before we arrived at upper Briancon – phew.


We were greeted by ancient grim fortifications strung out across the hilltops, a reminder of times that were not peaceful. The main street of old Briancon has a channel in the middle that runs with water, its nickname is the grand gargoyle, and has existed since 1345. Lower Briancon was a congestion of children just released from school, roadworks and a whole circus occupying the area we intended to spend the night in, so we pressed on to a municipal campground about 20 km away.

Leaving Italy - Just Go

Our route planning is quite ad hoc and a day later we ended up in Digne les Bains. I was sure we stayed there before on a non-motorhome trip and I was right! Please erase this town from my memory banks – it has no saving grace then, and still hadn’t anything to offer this time around. The only thing I gleaned was that ordering ‘café crème’ meant I got a latte. In my best schoolgirl French I asked the waiter, who put aside his cigarette, what another customer had ordered.  “Noisette” was the answer.  Yeah right, it is a small coffee with a ‘nut’ of fluffy milk on top. Must remember that for next time.

The Hautes Alpes area of Provence is up in the mountains and we headed to St Andre Les Alpes for a quick look-see. Nice place, we had a stroll around and watched children and their parents visiting the patissier on their way home to collect some after dinner treats. We did like likewise, walking away from the shop with a beautiful little carry-box.

The Gorges du Verdon, described the Grand Canyon of France - but first a stop over at Castellane at the eastern end of the gorge.
It met my criteria of gorgeousness, and the dedicated camping-car place was about 200 metres from the town square. There was a towering cliff with shrine atop looming over us and once again we were beside a river.

Dancers at Castellane tramshumence fete
Castellane has a Citroen museum that we took a look through, and there was also a transhumance (moving of livestock) fete while we were there. 

Traditional dancers, geese being shepherded by a border collie (who took his job very seriously, his eyes never left those geese) and unusual sheep breeds were on display. 
All sheep that are not NZ sheep look unusual to me. 

Fixing them geese with his steely doggy gaze 
We drove along the gorges of Verdon - taking in the 'Route des Cretes' - a narrow road  with many view points overlooking the gorge, at a dizzy level way below. We also walked a recommended scenic track that involved several tunnels. Huge birds of prey circled above - some had been re-introduced. 
We forgot our head-torch  and ended up relying on the torch in my iphone in the tunnels, never mind, it did the trick. 

Can't say it was one of the best hikes we have ever done but it was popular. The whole gorge route route was popular with endless streams of motorcycle enthusiasts touring in groups.  Given the narrow width of their vehicles you would have thought staying on their side of the road would have been easy.

We are heading off to explore the lavender routes in the Hautes Alpes region of Provence.

Gorges du Verdon