Magical Verdon

Once upon a time there was a girl who loved to travel. She was a dreamer. And one of her dreams was to travel the world, to see all the beauty of it. This World was too big to travel everywhere, but any place she went was perfect in its way and she was enjoying that. She loved all the destinations, all kind of places and adventures. She loved the ocean and city breaks, but she also loved the mountains and the views from there. Every time she was going to travel anywhere, she was carefully selecting the destinations and the routs to explore. But during her last trip she made all to be spontaneous. She relied on her friends, who proposed to make nice plans and trips to amazing places in France. And probably knowing her even a bit helped her friends to organize some of those days in a magical way, the way she needed. The way I needed 😊
One of that day trips was leading to the Parc Naturel Régional du Verdon which was located in Southeast of France. The road to our first fairy tale destination was going through Valensole, where are located one of the biggest lavender fields in France. In the areas where there were just few brushes of lavenders, you may see them blooming. And this was giving a small hope that we might find them also in Valensole. But we were a bit early to expect a purple view of horizon. The fields were all green, almost ready to bloom, but not yet, unfortunately.
A little bit more of the car drive, and here we are, in a beautiful Moustiers-Sainte-Marie (or simply Moustiers), which is considered one of the most beautiful villages of France. And if you go there just once, you’ll definitely say the same. The small village was build on the bottom of the limestone cliffs and had an amazing view to the landscapes.
Above the town, a gold-painted star hangs on a 225m-long chain suspended between two cliffs. Its origin, according to a legend popularized by Provençal poet Frédéric Mistral, lies in the 10th century. According to the legend, during the Crusades the knight Bozon de Blacas was held prisoner by the Saracens; he vowed to hang a star over his village if he was able to return. No one knows how the star was originally hung there. But it’s known that the original star and chain have been replaced several times since then. The current star is about 50 years old.

Everything was perfectly organized in the village for tourists. This is the main village where you could find a perfect place to spend a night in this area. The village had a special parking area, from where people started their trip in this cozy commune. Small colorful houses were reflecting the sun light from the pink cliffs. The village has been a center of the pottery trade, especially faience (tin-glazed pottery), for centuries. And you’d feel that today too. In every corner of narrow streets of the village there were markets. And what you’d have entering the door was a big surprise. In one place you might have a small market with local souvenirs, like a pouch of dry lavender, or big range of different oils and soaps made from lavender. Another door will share a big room in front of you, where you can find a big variety of faience in any shape you need: plates, cups, pots and much more else. This was like a small journey through the gallery style markets of ceramics.
Somewhere in the middle of the village a spring flows out of the cliff and creates a waterfall in town, providing water power. Having a lunch in the restaurant nearby was probably the best option here: perfect view to the village full of flowers, sound of falling water, tasty food and the best company 🙂

Except wandering in the charming narrow streets and small squares of Moustiers, there is a small hiking opportunity shared. If you’d like to have a fantastic view over the village rooftops, the Maire valley and Valensole plateau, and combine it with a visit to another landmark here, then you should take a steep footpath consisting of 262 stone steps and lined with stations of the cross. In about 20 minutes of walk you’ll reach a beautiful Romanesque-Gothic building, built into the high limestone cliffs. This is nothing else than Notre-Dame-de-Beauvoir chapel. This place was already occupied in 470 A.D. by a little temple dedicated to the Virgin; in the XII century local monks have built a chapel, which until XV century was called Notre Dame d’Entreroches. In XVI century the chapel was extended and given its current look. Once you’re on the top, take a minute to stand and admire with the view that will be opened in front of your eyes. This is worth your steps. Starting from here there was another path to somewhere else, but we didn’t go there. Instead we went down as we had some other plans for the rest of the day. And the day was just starting…

I didn’t know what was waiting for me next. Something about 10-15 minutes of car drive and we’re on another parking slot, which was inside the forest. Before reaching the parking place we crossed the Pont du Galetas, the bridge, which divides Alpes de Haute Provence (North Western coast) with Var departments. The river flowing under the bridge was Le Verdon, which was connecting the Lake of St. Croixe with Gorge du Verdon (Verdon Gorge). While crossing the bridge I could see with side of my eye how people were standing on the bridge and taking pictures of the Gorge. The parking area was close to the lake, which was the fourth largest artificial lake of the metropolitan France with its 22 square kilometers. The turquoise color of the water was shining under the sun rays, which was coming our behind the clouds time to time. The water was so quiet. The lake is considered a fine summer destination, almost as popular as the sea, as there are also several beach areas, where people could spend time in nature and peace. But this is not the only thing you could do here.

Near the lake there is a place to rent different boats for each taste, like pedal-boats, sailboats or electric motor-boats (petrol engines are prohibited on the lake). With a pedal boats we started our sailing by the river Verdon. We passed the bridge of Galetas to the way, where others were sailing, on the opposite side of the lake. Little by little we saw more and more sailors, who were going down the river in the gorge. But there were also a lot of groups that were jumping into the water to swim. This place reminded me a little bit of Calanque d’En Vau, where also people were swimming, jumping from the rocks and climbing up the rocks. Some people also were jumping down from the bridge, which was actually prohibited.
This river canyon is often considered to be one of Europe’s most beautiful. It is about 25 km long and up to 700 meters deep. It was formed by the Verdon River, which is named for its startling turquoise-green color. It’s said that the color of the Verdon river is due to fluorine and micro algae in the water.
The water seemed to be unreal, the view – like from the fairy tale, the feeling – magical. Honestly, I cannot describe with simple words how impressive was this place. Sailing down the river more, and somehow somewhere from the rocks there was a wonderful cascade waterfall seen. A little bit far from it there was another one, smaller. I don’t know how many of them we might see, and how long we could go, as the river seemed endless and magical, but we had limited time and had to turn back. I wanted to stop the time and stay here for hours. The place was incredible, so peaceful, so lovely…

But here our day wasn’t ended. There was something else planned for which we needed to hurry a bit. It turns out that the last destination for today’s trip was the Chateau Vignelaure and we’re trying to reach it before it closed. I didn’t feel how quick the 1 hour drive passed, as the nature around was changing all the time and giving magnificent views. First there was a long way of breathtaking view of the Lake St. Croix and Verdon River, changing its shape on the way. Then the view changed and almost all the time we had fields of red and tiny poppies. Red fields were covering almost all the area around. We decided to make a short stop near one of them. It’s OK that we didn’t find the Lavender fields in purple, instead red poppies made their magic. And I couldn’t resist not to have a simple but colorful picture. What can I do? I love flowers 😍

As I said, just in 1 hour drive from the Verdon Gorge we reached another peaceful place, Chateau Vignelaure, which was looking as a small house-building in the middle of green fields of countryside. This was a Winery which has everything combined in the same place. Inside the building there was a reception, where one young girl was ready to sell any of their produced wines. But she was also ready to make a factory tour to everyone who’s gonna buy a wine here. So this was what we did as well.
The girl started the tour of factory telling the story how all began and which kind of changes happened during the years. There were different levels underground where each of them contained its secrets, providing storage for hundreds of thousands of bottles. One of the levels was built inside a rock wall, where the temperature is perfectly constant chill for keeping the wine (feels like in a cave). The underground part of the chateau was like a maze with small and big iron grills and wooden barrels where the wine was getting aged before selling it, so customers can buy at precisely the right moment. The last room had an art gallery filled with the photos and more recent works of modern art. The same kind of works were placed in the garden of chateau, which had big plane trees separating the garden into two parts. Behind the garden there was also a big vineyard, where the grapes grow, which were being harvested all manually.

After the tour the girl offered us to have a wine testing before we buy anything. And she offered some of their best wines to try, which were red, white and rose called “Le Page”, “La Source” and of course “Chateau Vignelaure”. All of them were good in their ways, tasted smooth and silky, sometimes with fruit notes, even though there was nothing else mixed with grapes, you might feel the notes of cherry of blackberry.. Honestly, I don’t remember now which one I liked more, as all of them were quite good and I wouldn’t mind to have any of them here now 🙂
For sure, Chateau Vignelaure is a unique vineyard in Provence that has unique wine for you to buy. And if you’re here in this region, this place is a must visit. 

And here our tour ended. Feeling a little bit drunk after wine testing, having super sweet impressions after the tour, we started our drive back home. The road was beautiful as before, with all green trees around. The day ended, and it felt like it was just a few seconds that passed so quick. But even those “few seconds” were the magic I was probably missing. The day left so many emotions that I remember and relive every time when I check the pictures from here. They always make me smile. And by the way, these were the only places where I took the less pictures than in other places visited during my last trip to France. Maybe because my mind was more busy with admiring the beauty and enjoying every moment than thinking of capturing moments and places.. Cannot say now, but I definitely enjoyed the day and would love to repeat every single part of it 🙂

Read more about my quick trip to Marseille and adorable Aix-en-Provence.
More stories yet to come!

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