Given yesterday was just plain awful, we’ve decided that this is the first day of our holiday. And it was a glorious day; so much better than yesterday. Though, to be fair, that wouldn’t have been too difficult.
Waking up after a decent sleep in to the sound of…well, nothing really…is wonderful. Obviously we missed the dawn chorus and, instead, had the breakfast crunch. The breakfast crunch is not some sort of cereal but, rather, the sound of the staff carrying the breakfast trays across the gravel to the residents who are having one. It is not unpleasant, particularly given it’s the only sound.
We didn’t have breakfast, instead grabbing a coffee (or two in my case) to have in the shade of the courtyard of the chateau. I had something to celebrate because although completely flummoxed yesterday, I managed to get the roof to open up on the car this morning. It just shows you what grit, determination and the successful download of an English language car manual can do.
So, happy and rested, we dropped the roof down and headed out to a boat hire place not far from us. Today we decided that we’d be seeing the canyons from water level, so from a dock just outside Quinson, we hired a small electric boat and headed into the gorge.
The woman who supplied us with the boat was incredibly friendly and her English was excellent. She assured us the boat was very simple to use (this was true) and also explained how far we should go and what we could see on the way. She insisted we go only as far as Esparron and return. This was despite the fact that Mirinda wanted to know how long it would take us to reach Spain.
Along the way we saw inaccessible caves where strange pilgrims once lived and bat caves and uninhabitable caves high up and well, other caves. And kayaks. We saw an awful lot of kayaks. In fact the river was, we thought, quite crowded though according to the guy at the hire place (and the photo above), today was reasonably quiet. In the middle of summer, you have to book a boat at least ten days in advance. I reckon you can’t get too far in the middle of summer because of the boat jams every day.
This part of the Gorge de Verdun is not the best from above but it’s pretty good in a boat. We headed west, towards the amazing picnic grounds at Esparron where we enjoyed a rather odd picnic ourselves. We’d picked up a bit of a hodge podge of salami, cheese and tomato at a small supermarket and, armed with scissors, proceeded to rip it apart and devour it while sitting in the boat moored at the dock.
The pace was slow, the day was warm, the amount of people we had to say ‘bonjour’ to was quite large. It was the boat equivalent of pootling and very, very enjoyable.
What a truly pleasant day, topped off by the fact that, tomorrow, we’re going on a bus trip around the top of the Gorge de Verdon, something no-one should miss…apparently.
We dropped the boat off and headed back to the chateau for a brief rest before heading off for our Michelin starred dinner at Moustiers.
Back at the chateau I discovered that one of the caves we saw high up in the gorge was supposedly a hideout of the Robin Hood style bandit of this area, Gaspard de Besse. Like Robin, Gaspard would hide in the forest and rob rich people in order to give some of it to the poor. The poor thought this was marvellous while the rich were not so agreeable.
Poor Gaspard while living a carefree and fun life, met a pretty awful end after being captured (for a second time) and sentenced to death. They finally nailed his head to a tree in the forest to put other people off of the same sort of life. I guess the moral to the story is if you want to die a nice comfortable death don’t rob rich people because they are vengeful bastards who love to inflict pain when you take their dosh.
Speaking of taking dosh, tonight we went to La Bastide de Moustieres for a delightful but extravagant meal. There was some confusion over our name at first. A waiter asked us what time our reservation was for and we said eight (huit in French) and though a bit confused he seemed okay with that.
Then Mirinda corrected herself because it was 8pm and said 20 (vingt) which had him even more confused. It turned out he actually wanted to know what name the reservation was booked in. It would be quite nice to book meals in the name of Mr 8 O’Clock everywhere but we said Cook and laughed a bit to hide our embarrassment.
This was not the only time related instance of today. In the gorge, a couple of women were on paddle boards and one had a border collie. We noticed them on the way up and then down as well. As we passed and yelled out a jovial bonjourn, one of them asked us the time. Mirinda immediately answered, telling her it was 2.15 except, of course that is two o’clock in the morning. I said to Mirinda that they probably understood it wasn’t actually 2am but, rather, 14:00. But you never know…
On the way home from the restaurant we joyfully spotted the following:
- A hare racing across a field having crossed the road in front of us,
- A weird bird that swooped and zoomed around us then stopped in the middle of the road just staring, that nothing would move until I climbed out of the car and went up to it and told it fly off, and
- A WEASEL! Yes,an actual weasel running alongside us.
Oh the joys of a convertible in the countryside.