At the end of our trip to France last summer, we decided to spend a few days exploring somewhere on our way home. We knew we wanted to go see someplace nice, and we weren’t sure if we’d find anywhere that quite compared to our trip to the Gorge du Tarn two years before. I loved that area, especially Castelbouc! We weren’t sure where to go this time so we asked my in laws for suggestions and they agreed that we should head to Ardeche.
What a great decision that turned out to be!
How beautiful is this area? I was so happy standing up on that hill looking down over the gorge. It took my breath away. What a drastic contrast to the flat Dutch landscape I’ve gotten so used to.
We spent two nights in the area, the first night we arrived after the drive from my in laws and spent what was left of the afternoon swimming and relaxing around the pool. We went out for dinner and then got an early night so we’d be fresh for the morning when we planned to explore the area.
Well, that was the plan anyway… I ended up awake all night with the most terrible stomach pains. It was the second night of sleep I lost to that during our holiday, the first the night before our trip to Mare Nostrum. I thought it was acid reflux due to my love of the French chorizo, but it turned out that it was my poor gallbladder begging for mercy.
Nothing was stopping me from exploring that day though. Even though I was dead tired and it was approximately a thousand degrees in the shade, we got up early, had a nice breakfast at the hotel and set out.
No really, I wasn’t kidding. I checked and it was a thousand degrees… My poor, poor, pale and bald husband couldn’t stand being out of the car for more than five minutes at a time because the sun was so hot beating down on him. Even after I tied a t-shirt around his head…
With the air conditioning on full blast the car was still warm, that is how hot it was.
I saw a lot of this.
Xander making mad tracks back to our air conditioned car, looking back and wondering when the hell I am going to stop taking photos. I couldn’t blame him, just after taking this photo I realized that the soles of my sandals had started melting and the little rocks on the pavement were getting stuck in the melty shoe goo.
I wish that was an exaggeration, I had to throw them away when I got home!
Can’t complain, I only paid 10 euro for them and they had a good run. Not an actual run, have you met me? They lasted a while, I mean.
The area was full of tourists, which we did know about going in. We were warned by the in-laws that this was an extremely popular tourist destination. So we spent a fair amount of time in the car waiting for traffic to move. We didn’t mind though as there was always scenery to look at or people to watch. Plus, it was cooler in there.
You know what was funny though? This:
Almost every car we saw was from the Netherlands! The place was crawling with them!
When we were checking in to the first hotel we stayed at the girl at the desk was commenting on how many Dutch people there always are in the area. She was telling us that there was even a giant camping / water park in the area that specifically caters to the Dutch, with groceries brought in from Albert Heijn, if you can imagine! I so wish I’d gotten the name of the place so I could link to it.
I got the distinct feeling that she (and a lot of others in the area) don’t like the Dutch and are pretty sick of having them flooding the place every summer. The funniest bit was when she complained that the Dutch always bring their lunches rather than eating at restaurants, and how it’s not good for their economy. That made me laugh, because I just knew she was speaking the truth. The Dutch just love their packed lunches!
It was worth adding to the Dutch vacationers flood, because it was truly beautiful there.
My favorite part of the area was Pont d’Arc, which is also the most famous spot for visitors. We had to park pretty far down the mountain in order to get out and walk up to the viewing area to take photos. It was totally worth the sweat and melted sandals because… LOOK!
Beautiful… just BEAUTIFUL! Nature at it’s best.
As I stood up on the hill taking photos I really envied all those people out floating in the water. Before we got up there we saw a lot of people lugging chairs and umbrellas while making the trek down to the beach. I didn’t envy those people. Not one little bit.
On the way back to the car I noticed this clearing in the trees where we could see people lazing on the rocks and using them as a platform to jump from. The looked so cool and refreshed. I bet their shoes weren’t melting!
No matter where you stop along the gorge you are guaranteed to see kayakers everywhere. It’s the most popular sport there and I can see why. Just imagine the view you get from the water, it must be spectacular!
Not to mention all the areas you get to stop at where the rest weren’t able to get access to. The shores were full of beaches and the kayakers had the benefit of being able to avoid the popular ones that could be reached by the roads, and stop along the way in less populated areas.
One day when I am finished with Project Fatass and feeling more fit, I am definitely returning to this area and giving the kayaking a go! I’ll start saving for my waterproof camera now.
By the end of the day we were both pretty exhausted. We’d driven a lot, walked a lot, sweated a lot and had a really wonderful day.
I think our best decision was taking our cooler along and bringing a packed lunch (I know, we totally fit the stereotype!), because when we looked at the few restaurants along the way we groaned at how busy they were. Plus, we were able to just park in a nice spot with a nice view and eat our lunch, which suited us just fine.
We headed back to our hotel around dinner time and spent what was left of the daylight once again swimming and lounging by the pool. We did a small bit of exploring in a nearby village that evening, had some dinner and once again turned in early to prepare for the long drive home. I managed to sleep that night, like the dead.
I love the south of France so much. There is so much to see and do! I’m pretty sure you could spend a lifetime of summer holidays there and still hardly cover it all!
We are returning again this summer for two weeks. Just writing this post has made me so excited. I can’t wait to see our family down there, spend time with them and do some more exploring. I’m not sure where we will visit this time but I’m sure wherever we go, it won’t be disappointing.
My in-laws that we’ll be staying with live in Languedoc-Roussillon, so if anyone has any tips on nice places to see within that area or somewhere that can be reached within a few hours… I’m ALL EARS! Or… eyes. You know what I mean, just tell me please!