French Riviera & a visit to Gorge du Verdon
Saying goodbye to friends is never easy and after being looked after soooo well made it all the harder! But it was time to get back on the road and living the adventurer lifestyle. We were now heading back into France towards the sunshine on the French Riveria before moving inland to visit the Gorge du Verdon & national park.
The journey back into France was easy going as we cruised along the toll roads in order to reach our destination in quick time. We knew the campsite, Sandaya Rivieria D’Azur had a number of pools and with the sun beating down on us, we were excited to jump in!
Sandaya Rivieria D’Azur Campsite
We arrived late to a huge campsite with a variety of facilities including 3 pools (With slides), kids club, restaurant, pool, mini golf, large park (with bouncy castle) and oodles of mobile homes as well as pitches for mobile homes/caravans. It even had an entertainment programme running and it wasn’t even summer season!
This place was massive and somewhat of a luxury, but we had the urge to just slow down for a few days in the warmth and let the boys go crazy. I caught up with some jobs and the boys had a great time using the leisure facilities. It was great.
We took one afternoon out for an explore and found the beach near St Argyle. It was windy on the shore front and found ourselves in the middle of kitesurfing heaven. It was great to sit and watch them while the boys dipped their toes into the sea. However, the weather was changing and thunderstorms were on the horizon so we didn’t stop long.
The days flew by, as you’d expect, and before we knew it we were saying goodbye and moving on. However we weren’t quite ready to leave France and decided to investigate the area of Gorge du Verdon.
Gorge du Verdon
Approximately 1 and a half hours drive inland towards the french hills we drove towards Lac de saint Croix. A beautiful lake approximately 10km by 3km wide and it’s a stunning aqua marine colour. There are many villages dotted around the lake, but we opted to park our motorhome in an Aires on the outskirts of Les Salles sur Verdon. Its an easy 10 minute walk into the village and down to the lake from here.
There are rentals available all around the lake, as we found in Les Salles sur Verdon. However, the effort required to paddle or canoe your way to the Gorge (which is the highlight) would be too far. Not only due to the strong currents but also the thermic winds which blow across the lake. These can be a challenge at times.
Where best to start
The best place to rent is from the northern tip of the lake, Pont du Gelatas. This is the entry point of the Gorge and a lovely place to take a photo from above. As you arrive from the East you will find a number of large car parks, some have barriers and some not, so check beforehand on google maps if you have a high vehicle.
What to rent
We were there in May 2018 and there were several places open to rent pedal boats, kayaks & electric boats. I’m not sure if more places set up for summer. There were rental places in Les Salles sur verdon, but I’m sure most people wouldn’t have made it as far as the Gorge as it was too far away. I was shattered after 2 hours kayaking!!
When we arrived at Pont du Gelatas we found you could hire electric boats or Pedal boats on one side of lake (West). On the other side it was pedal boats or kayaks/canoes only. We were looking for a boat to fit 2 adults and 2 children and the canoes did this perfectly.
We also found that the kayaks were the faster of the flotation devices and could easily overtake both the pedal boats & electric boats. Not that I’m competitive or was racing them!!
Note: we did notice more of a queue on the other side of the lake, for the electric boats and I’ve read it pays to be early.
What to wear
If you are planning to take out a canoe or kayak you will get wet. Not because you are planning to jump in (or maybe you are) but with the paddle movement it’s inevitable. This is less likely if you are in a paddle boat and you can act like king and queen in the slow moving electric boats!
So my advice is to wear swim wear, especially because it affords you the opportunity to jump in if you get the chance.
What to see
The gorge is around 25km long, however, you are only permitted to enter for about 2.5km. I’m not sure why but there was a sign saying no further (I think!) and so we didn’t risk it in case we found ourselves in rapids!
The row itself was easy but we had to negotiate around several people as it was very busy… and it’s not even summer!
Within the gorge itself there were mini caves, we saw climbers head up the 700m cliffs which towered above us and pass nearby a waterfall. We would have attempted to go under but fear of filling with water and capsizing got the better of me! ha ha.
Sillians la Cascade
Today we left the Lake in search of waterfalls. As we are based in a national park we were keen to get out and stretch our legs now that Keith’s knee is feeling a little better. So after some research we found a route starting in Sillans la Cascade and looping round into the village of Salernes (where we are staying tonight) and back again.
We parked in a nearby car park for EUR9 for 5 hours to ensure we had enough time with a lunch stop and maybe a little dip.
First we visited the largest waterfall (easily signposted) before heading along the country roads. We were surprised that the first half of the journey was all on roads, but we saw lots of olive trees, picked wild rosemary and breathed in the French outdoors. It was great and the boys were on good form.
As we were nearing Salerne we needed to navigate off the roads, clearly we got a little lost – standard! But luckily Keith had used the Maprika app to copy the route and we could see where we were going wrong. The route was not clearly marked and so a map or detailed directions are required.
Once we reached Salerne we stopped at the lake for lunch. There were signs which suggested it wasn’t suitable for swimming and yet there was a rail and steps into the water. So we let the boys dip their feet in and have an explore. If anything, just to cool off as it was might hot in the midday sun!
Soon we were dressed and off on the second part of our journey. This time we were heading into the forest and were on a rugged footpath which made things more interesting. It was further along this route that we rejoined the river and found a number of waterfalls (a cascade of waterfalls in fact!). The area was beautiful and even though the path was a little slippery and muddy in places it was perfectly passable.
As we grew nearer to Sillans la Cascade we met with more and more walkers. Clearly the walk from here to the waterfalls is a popular route and can be shorter than the loop we took the boys on today!
We bought a well deserved ice cream on the way back and were very proud of the boys today. All of us were feeling it but glad we got out to explore.
Tomorrow we start our journey to Italy with a little stopover to Monaco!