The trip to the gorge is almost as eventful as the actual visit. The “shortcut” Erin’s cousin is taking is torturous, with narrow roads down steep hills punctuated with the kind of sharp S-turns that you only see in car commercials. The scenery is breath-taking, especially as we crest the top of hill and see the Alpine hilltops nearby. Every now and then we pass by a purple field of lavender and the atmosphere is bathed in the scent of the purple plant…almost like driving through a parfumerie.
The romance of the scent quickly dissipates however when driving along a cliffside road barely wide enough for 2 cars and with guardrails so flimsy that one would think they are merely symbolic or decorative. But finally we arrive at the gorge at Lac Ste-Croix which runs off the river Verdon and there is a collective sucking in of air as the scene takes our breath away. The gorge is a notch between two mountains with turquoise waters running though it. We park (parking, in this case, means driving through a small forest and parking between trees), stake out our spot by the beach and throw the kids in the water.
We have a quick picnic lunch then rent a couple of pedal-boats, strap some life jackets on the kids and head off beyond the bridge to the gorge. The atmosphere on the turquoise water is remarkable. The water is perfect to swim in and the face of the mountains on each side is imposing. There are dozens of canoes and pedal-boats navigating through the traffic jam on the waters. The kids jump off the bow and swim between the pedal boats.
We have another quick swim and, as the place starts to get crowded, we leave and head off to a small village in the Alps called Moustiers Ste-Marie. The traffic situation is critical with cars parked everywhere on the hilly roads of the village. We find a spot, regroup and walk through the village nestled near the mountain top. Up above, there is a chapel and a stone gate that is accessible via a path and a stone bridge. The sun is too hot for us to attempt the trek but, it is said, at the top of the hill is a relic of Mary Magdeleine who was chased here from Jerusalem, set adrift on a boat and ended up in Marseille and, it is said, found a cave in the hills of Moustiers and lived out her life in piety here. I suspect she made it up the hill and didn’t have enough energy to come back down because it’s one heck of a hike. Eventually we leave, head home and have a late dinner and watch the sun go down.