Friday, May 5, 2017

Marseille & Verdon Gorge

My last trip around Europe included a few days in both Marseille and the Verdon Gorge
Hiking outside of Castellane in the Verdon Gorge


After my final exams, I did some exploring in France. I hide my face as I admit that this was the first trip I took in France besides a few trips to Paris, one soccer game in Nancy, and day trips to other Alsatian towns.

I went on this trip with a friend from BGSU, Kiersten, and we had a lovely time. Marseille was charming, and two days gave us plenty of time to rest in the evenings while still seeing all of highlights in France’s third-largest city. We stayed at an Airbnb, and our host was oh so kind. One night she insisted on sharing wine and talking French politics with us for a bit. She didn’t really speak English and I don’t really speak French, but a little bit of patience and a lot of gesturing went a long way. Also, thank goodness Kiersten has studied French for a little longer than I have.

Marseille itself was quite nice. The old port was a perfect center to work from as we explored different areas of the city. I particularly enjoyed visiting Cathédrale de Major, and then later taking a longer uphill journey to Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde. We also had time to shop around, although baggage constraints make saying “No” to souvenirs and cute clothes just as easy as budgetary constraints at this point.

Look at Marseille:

Verdon Gorge

After Marseille, Kiersten and I were both super excited to go to Verdon Gorge. It was Kiersten’s idea… she found pictures of the gorge while looking around on Pinterest one day, and I lucked out big time by agreeing to join her. There are a few places I’ve traveled this year that truly took my breath away, and this was one of them. The water was shockingly bright. The land was remarkably unaltered from its natural state. The people smiled and greeted each other as they walked by. I think I could’ve stayed in Verdon for a month without tiring of its beauty and its restful essence. (If you're considering making this trip, please please please message me, so I can tell you how to get to the gorge/ Castellane from Marseille or Nice. It's not easy, and it's not straight-forward, however, it is worth it.)

Not only was Verdon beautiful, but Verdon was really good to us. Kiersten and I lucked out by finding an Airbnb in Castellane. Really it’s a normal B & B, but they use Airbnb as well for travelers like Kiersten and I to find them. Petra and Leo, our hosts, were wonderful, and I'd totally recommend this accomodation for anyone heading to the gorge: BNB Castellane.  (Again, please don't hesitate to message me if this is something you're considering!) Each morning, we woke up to a wonderful breakfast spread, and Petra insisted we take leftovers for sandwiches both days. They also recommended a wonderful spot for dinner where Kiersten and I both got the best ravioli alfredo made with incredibly fresh ingredients and served in incredibly sizeable portions... These two days really were a dream. 

Our full day in Verdon Gorge, Kiersten and I spent the morning hiking and went kayaking in the afternoon. It was still technically not peak season, so we were able to book kayaking the day of, although this is not recommended. Roman from Buena Vista rafting took us on an amazing kayaking adventure through the gorge, and this day was exhausting and wonderful. We made friends with a Dutch boy and his grandfather who were on this kayaking trip as well, and I have to say we were all impressed by this older gentleman. The fact that he kept along just fine makes me feel like I can't complain about the rafting experience, but I have to say it was quite a workout and by the end my (still slightly injured) right shoulder was pretty done.  

While we weren't hiking or kayaking or sharing meals with our hosts, we spent our time in Castellane reading great books and catching up on some much needed sleep. There's such an understated value to traveling to places like Castellane where you can spend a few hours a day relaxing without "missing out" like you do in bigger cities if you head back home early in the evenings. While this year was really an amazing opportunity to go on city trips throughout Europe, I completely understand why Americans love Florida vacations, and why my family loves escaping Up North to Murph's Camp in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Restful vacations are different than city trips, and although both are quite nice, right now I want to hide from cities for a bit. 

Here are pictures of our adventures in the gorge:
Roman jokingly suggested I do a back-flip into the gorge... Challenge completed.

These adventures were a complete joy, and I owe many thanks to Kiersten and the other special people who helped me experience these amazing days in the south of France. 
And thanks to Stephanie Danler for writing "Sweetbitter",this real gem of a book.
Keep your eyes peeled for my next posts! I'll be playing catch-up for the next little bit, and it's slow going because I'm trying to soak up all of the time I can with my family this week!

Love, Jules
"Wander with wonder and the whole world becomes home." -Tyler Knott Gregson
Strasbourg friends please laugh at me for my basic American girl moment,
but it's really really good to be home.

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