Un Petit Cadeau; a small gift. That’s how we recall that night in Haute Provence. . .
Nice, France was the place we would end our road trip through Provence and from where we would set sail on a Mediterranean cruise on the Windstar’s Windsurf for Rome.
Because our trips begin from the U.S.West Coast it take a full day, or night, of travel to reach European destinations. So, we pack as much into a trip as we can – that means a land excursion either before, after or at both ends of a cruise.
On this trip, we tacked 'land time' onto the front of the cruise, beginning in Paris.
We headed to Nice with six nights to spend on the road, taking a meandering route through Provence without set direction or plan. That’s how we happened upon a magical place set high up in the mountains of Haute Provence, (High Provence): Moustiers-Sainte-Marie.
This tiny commune, that blends into the limestone cliff on which it was built, had a population of 1,955 back in 1765. In 2008 the population was 710.
Below the town stretches a valley so intensely picturesque it was almost difficult to absorb it.
The valley floor was a checkerboard of homes, fields and pastures. We drove slowly through it hoping to find ‘just the right’ place to spend a night. And we did. . .
But it was more than a place, it was our petit cadeau, “Le Clos des Iris”. Its name, The Closed Iris, seemed particularly fitting as the flowers in its many beds had closed long before our October visit. It was late afternoon and we hoped there would still be a room available in this nine-room hotel. Despite the owner’s inability to speak English and our inability to speak French, we used broken bits of both and lots of sign language and smiles, and secured a room for 65-euros a night.
Our room was small and charming. As we snuggled in between the lavender scented line-dried sheets I recall pulling them over my head, inhaling deeply and suggesting that we skip the cruise and never leave this place.
The cheery breakfast room felt more like someone’s private kitchen than a hotel restaurant. We were sorry our scheduled arrival in Nice allowed us only one night here. We left vowing to return one day.
Moustiers-Sainte-Marie is considered a gateway to the Gorges du Verdon. And leaving our charming hotel we traveled the two-lane paved highway with sharp twists and turns – not for the faint of heart - along the rim of the Gorge. There are great views along the 25-kilometer-long (15 mile) stretch into a canyon that in places reaches to a depth of 700 meters (2,296-feet). The Gorge is popular with outdoor enthusiasts – especially kayakers, hikers and rock climbers.
Have you found un petit gadeau on your travels? If so, where did you discover it?
If You Go:
Le Clos des Iris, Chemin de Quinson, 04360 Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, 04-92-74-63-46 phone; o4-92-74-63-59 fax. Nine rooms with en suite baths, located 400 meters, or a quarter mile outside town.
Click this link for information about villages and activities near The Gorges de Verdon.
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