The Grand Canyon it was not, but the Gorge du Verdon was certainly one of the most beautiful natural landmarks I have ever seen. Because C and L were attending a wedding in Northern France for the weekend, P and I decided to do our own little road trip to Gorge du Verdon, about 3.5 hours east of Montepellier. We planned a rafting and canyoning adventure with Aboard Rafting. Unfortunately, that weekend, the weather was supposed to be so terrible (T-storms were expected) that we almost cancelled the trip altogether. But, we were assured by Aboard Rafting that the weather during the day time would be dry though cloudy, so P and I made the long trek to the Gorge. In order to avoid the heavy tolls and enjoy the French countryside, we took the local roads through the different villages, taking us about 4.5 hours. Despite the extra hour, it was totally worth it when we came upon some blooming poppy fields, vineyards, fresh local fruit from street stands, and beautiful villages along the way.
After swerving through what seemed like hours of mountain road (I was clutching to the “oh shit” bar for dear life for the majority of the time), we came upon an awesome view of the Gorge below with its turquoise water and finally made it to our hotel, Grand Hotel Bain, in Comps-sur- Artuby. This hotel has been in the family for seven generations and is in the Guinness World Records for longest family run hotel. It’s also one of the nicer and more reasonable accommodations in the area. After we checked in, we tried to walk around the village looking for some restaurants but soon realized that the only place for dinner was our hotel. So, we headed back to the hotel and enjoyed a filling meal before we passed out like the old folks at 10pm.
Cano-Rafting and Whitewater Rafting in Le Verdon
The next morning, we ate a hearty breakfast of croissants and more croissants and headed to the upper Verdon region for our cano-rafting in the morning and whitewater rafting in the afternoon. When we arrived at the meeting point, we were immediately given wetsuits, life jackets, and a helmet and were introduced to our guide, Tom, a friendly Frenchman who loves rafting. I didn’t have a waterproof case for my camera, but I did get some shots of P and I in our sexy wetsuit gear.
Cano-rafting is essentially 1 or 2 person canoeing in an inflatable raft. This is definitely not floating down the Saco River in a canoe with a tub of beer in between the both of us. My fingers blistered and my arms ached from the 2 hours of flying down a viciously rapid river, hoping not to fall into the tumbling and cold waters.
After lunch was the whitewater rafting excursion with our guides and an entire bachelor party, consisting of 20 men, including the bachelor who was forced to wear a penguin suit for the entire 3.5 hour rafting trip. The rafting wasn’t so bad because we were grouped into teams of 6 or 7 and we worked together in a larger raft with a guide steering us. Therefore, I had to do less work, and I had some entertainment from the rest of the team who were part of the bachelor party. We purposely ran into big rocks and cliffs only to bounce off of it because why not? All the men in my raft would jump into the freezing water so that his teammates could grab him by the life jacket and pull him aboard. And when our guide said “Avant! Forward!” they would frantically paddle with their oars screaming in unison like a disorganized crew team. Paddles would be flying and water would be splashing all over the place. At one point, I just decided to sit back and relax, taking in the gorgeous scenery and dipping my fingers into the blue blue water. It was all very funny and made the rafting trip much more bearable considering it was cold and at some points, rainy. As enjoyable as the rafting was, it was so nice to come back to the hotel for a hot shower and a hot meal to re-energize us for tomorrow’s activity of canyoning before we headed back to Montpellier.
Canyoning in Le Verdon
This was my first time canyoning, and I had no idea what to expect. I watched a few youtube videos of what canyoning consisted of, and the people in the video made it seem so easy. So, when we arrived at the meeting point, I was pumped and ready to start sliding down some rocks. I didn’t realize that we first had to hike half and hour to the canyoning area with our gear and hike back uphill about 40 minutes to the meeting point again after an hour of canyoning. Let’s just say that I earned my lunch and dinner that day.
Our small group consisted of two Italian women, a couple from Finland, and P and I. Our guide spoke little English, but it was easy enough to follow along. I loved sliding down water gushing chutes and climbing up the slippery rocks. But jumping off a 25 foot cliff… nuh uh… I kept shaking my head as I stared down at the water below. I eventually just plugged my nose while trying to maintain the jumping position and went for it. We had to jump a few more times, making each time easier, but I never looked forward to it. I was so proud of myself for finishing the whole course. On our way back to our starting point, P and I bonded with the Finnish couple over our love for travel and languages. By the time we packed up our things and were ready to head out, we had exchanged emails in hopes of visiting each other in the future.