2023 The slow road
Returning back home from the South of France, avoiding motorways.
For a lot of people in the North of Europe, summer vacation meant heading South, towards the more sunny places.
For my parents (Dirk's), it was a yearly tradition to go camping in the south of France. 2 Days on the route Nationale in our Citroen 2 CV. As from the seventies, the motorway was completed and the entire 1200km trip could be done in a single day.
Ever since, most of the time when we travelled to the south, the main goal was being at the final destination as fast as possible. When we travelled by motorbike, we sometimes would take the National roads to avoid paying toll, but still the main purpose was getting there.
For a change, we decided to return back home taking the much smaller departmental and local roads and to make this more a sightseeing trip. It was just wonderfull.
The Esterel massif
When we returned from Corsica, we stayed a couple of days with our friends in Saint-Raphael.
A nice cycle tour to discover the Massif de l'Esterel is to start from Saint Raphael and follow the coast up to Mandelieu La-Napoule. To return, follow the walking/bicycle tracks of the Parc Naturel departmental de l'Esterel.
More info : Website Esterel-Cote d'Azur
Etappe 1 : Gorges du Verdon
First stop on the way home was the area around the Gorges du Verdon.
The Verdon Canyon is about 25 km long and runs between Castellane and Moustiers-Sainte-Marie. At certain points, the canyon is about 700 meters deep. At the end of the canyon, the river flows in to the artificial Lake of Sainte-Croix.
Some years ago, we had already done the circuit around the canyon by car and by motorbike. This time, our Pendix Santos bikes were having the honour. As usual, we are always (Linda) or nearly always (Dirk) setting the support level on ECO, so it was still a decent workout.
Returning from the circuit around the canyon, you are passing the cute village Aiguines. Here, you find a lot of artisan shops and the one we can recommend is Creations Biala, a woodturner just below the village at the D19.
Another item on our wishlist was going in to the canyon with a kayak. We booked a hotel close to the Lac de Sainte-Croix and made sure we were at the kayak-rental early in the morning.
While we have been in Moustiers-Sainte-Marie before, when we had dinner in one of the little streets, we decided that this place was just to nice to already leave the next day. As usual, Booking.com gave us an easy solution.
Locals told us the best ice cream of Moustiers is at L'Etoile Givree.
Like most other tourists, we walked up to the 262 steps to the Notre Dame de Beauvoir's chapel but we also continued with a walk around the village through Les Claux. Here, we were again our own.
Map and GPX on the website of Moustiers-Sainte-Marie
Etappe 2 : Sisteron
Second etappe of our way back home was from Moustiers-Sainte-Marie to Sisteron, a little bit less than 100 km driving on departementale roads.
When seeing the dried lavender in the shops in Moustiers, we decided to make a little detour via Valensole, famous for the lavender fields of the Provence. For seeing the blooming fields, you need to visit between mid June up to the end of July. More info on the website : Routes de Lavande
Linda likes the smell of lavender and will sometimes add some lavender oil from this area to the laundry liquid.
Between Valensole and Sisteron, we stopped for lunch in the little village of Les Mees with the rather unusual rock formation rising up 100 meters just behind the village.
Sisteron is situated on the banks of the river Durance and is called the "Gateway to the Provence" because it's in a narrow gap between 2 mountain ranges. The city is best known for it's citadel which dates back to the 12th century.
During the French Revolution, the town was mainly royalist and they let Napoleon cross the river without too much hassle on his way to Paris. The Route Napoleon begins at Golf-Juan where Napoleon disembarked after his escape from Elba. His journey ended 100 days later when he was defeated in the Battle of Waterloo. Oh yes, that's 12 km from where we live.