Starting in Grasse on Way to the Verdun Gorge Route
The original plan for transit from Nice to Avignon on this 3 week tour of France was a leisurely drive along the coastline but this needed to be reconsidered given our experiences with the continuing rain and clogged traffic on coastal roads. We had also missed the Verdun Gorge route on our trip through the mountains to Nice – so we decided to detour back north through the mountains for this travel day. After all, after the beach, where else would you want to be on a rainy day than on twisty turny mountain roads?
We made our first stop for café in the old town of Grasse. It was renowned for its perfume factories but we decided to pass on that tour – despite that likely being the only way we would find lavender on this trip (other than packaged as sachets). Grasse was another old medieval town sitting on the rock side with winding cobbled streets and a castle / fortress in the town.
There were several quite interesting pieces of public statuary that caught our eye as we drove through!
It was a short eat and pic stop because we knew our mountain trip on Verdun Gorge route in the rain would be even slower than our previous experience travelling through the French Alps from Annecy.
Back Into The Mountains Through the Verdun Gorge Route
We headed north to Castellane and then left the main road. We were soon forced to make a decision on whether we wanted to travel on the left or right bank of the Verdun Gorge route. At that point we didn’t have a good map so it was a bit of a coin flip. While I had initially wanted to be on the side of Pt Sublime to be at the summit, we ended up on the other bank, following mostly the top edge of the Verdun Gorge.
The Verdun Gorge route roads were wet, slowing us down but we had lots of stops in drizzle to take in the amazing views of the gorge, valleys in cloud, bridges spanning drops. At one point we were driving thru low clouds. Occasionally we would hit a valley but most of the drive hugged the edge of the gorge.
It was clear that the rivers along the Verdun Gorge route were to be taken seriously in flood season. While the rivers looked relatively tame as we passed, the signs made it clear that this would not always be the case.
We had been playing tag with a Polish tour bus – as each of us stopped at different points along the Verdun Gorge route. We caught it at one point heading away trailed by a long train of bright red Ferrari’s that must have been out on some mountain excursion. We could hear the growling engines as they held the cars in check behind the slow bus in a “no pass” zone.
As we came to the end of the Verdun Gorge route we came upon a bright turquoise lake (Lac de Ste Croix), taking pics from the bridge with the gorge on one side and lake and valley on the other. Lunch was a stop at a local brasserie in Aiguines.
The Route to Avignon
It had taken us 5 hours to take the Verdun Gorge route from Castellane through the gorge and when we looked at the map Avignon looked further away than when we had started. We had plotted a couple of local routes but finally decided we would take the faster (if not more direct) Autoroute thru Aix En Provence and into Avignon.
Our instructions to get to the hotel assumed an Autoroute entrance – but they were so confusing we needed all the help we could get. We managed to get ourselves to old Avignon and to the Pont du Avignon so that we at least had a major landmark to navigate by.
Unfortunately getting on the bridge to cross the river to our hotel would be a failure on the first pass – much to David’s disgust. Instead we had to double back through the cobbled streets of the old city, navigating very narrow streets, stalled cars and oblivious pedestrians. David’s sense of direction and driving a little like a local finally got us up on the bridge. Across the bridge was Les Angles and we easily found our hotel from there on the main drag.
Have you travelled the Verdun Gorge route? Did you travel when the rivers were flooding? Was the other side by Pt Sublime a much better route?