Some of you may have noticed that I haven’t posted in a while (or perhaps not…). There is no mystery to it, I was on two weeks holidays with my OH, my son, my parents and my brother! We had no internet access which to begin with was hard to get used to but once I got used to it, it was bliss.
We rented a gite in Moustiers-Sainte-Marie in the Verdon region of Provence. Moustiers is a beautiful picturesque village nestled beneath spectacular cliffs, and within a few kilometres of the Lac Saint-Croix (an artificial lake created in the early seventies by the French electricity authority) and the AMAZING Gorges du Verdon.
The village of Moustiers-Sainte-Marie
The village itself is often described as one of the most beautiful in France, with winding streets, traditionally Provençal-style buildings and lots of porcelain workshops. We got a lot of exercise just walking around the village as it’s very hilly (especially when I had to push the pushchair!). Right at the top of the village is the Chapelle de Notre Dame, at the end of 365 steps (supposedly – the real number is slightly lower ).
Chapelle de Notre Dame, view from the Ravin de Notre Dame
Some of the 365 steps up to the Chapelle de Notre Dame
Up above the Chapelle, suspended on a chain between the two towering cliffs is a gold plated star. A star has been in place here since medieval times, and there are many legends about the reason why, including that a knight (de Blacas) placed the star in honour of the Virgin Mary to thank her for bringing him safely back from the Crusades.
The gold star above Moustiers-Sainte-Marie
Poem written by the poet Mistral about one of the star legends.
The star is a real emblem of the village and we saw many replicas suspended over doorways. You can even climb up to the point where the chain is attached to the cliff, apparently if you touch the chain you’ll be married in the year to come. I didn’t have the nerve to climb up!
For me, the Gorges du Verdon were the star attraction of the surrounding area. A 700 metre deep canyon formed over millions of years by the Verdon river, they really are spectacular. You can drive around the Gorges, with great views and hair-raising bends, you can hike part of the bottom of the gorges, or you can take a kayak or a peddle boat up the river for a different view. If you are interested in wildlife, there are very interesting plants and animals to see, as well as every species of bird of prey in Western Europe!
The beginning of the Gorges du Verdon, the Lac du Saint-Croix can be seen on the left.
Around the area, there are walks and hikes for every ability level. I did quite a few different hikes and walks (mostly to work of calories from all the food we ate, to be honest!). It’s a great way to see the sights and very peaceful too. I can imagine it’s a lot busier in the high season. I was very impressed with how the routes are maintained and way-marked.
Sign warning hikers that the descent into the village of Moustiers is difficult (don’t worry, we went the other direction!)
Another place worth seeing in the immediate environs is the Valensole Plateau. If you’ve ever seen a typical photo of Provence with rows and rows of purple lavender plants, it’s quite likely the photo was taken on the plateau. There are fields upon fields of lavender. Unfortunately we missed the amazing display of lavender by just a week!
I’d definitely recommended visiting Moustiers-Sainte-Marie if you visit the south of France. It can be quite expensive and very touristy but you’ll save money if you go off-season, and you’ll almost have the place to yourself! I’ll definitely be going back.