The plan was to take a leisurely 2-day drive to Carcassonne so that we could take in the magnificent scenery at our leisure instead of having a stressful and panicky whizz through like the trip we had through Gorges du Verdon. We thought we’d find a cute little village somewhere along the way and spend one or two nights in a character-filled rustic hotel or B&B.
We headed north-west past Avignon, out of Provence and onto the road which took us along the ridge of the Gorges de L’Ardeche. Again there was the dramatic scenery with limestone cliff faces dropping down hundreds of metres to the river Ardeche. The deposits in the cliffs here seemed more vertical as opposed to the Verdon where there had been massive diagonal slabs as well as the vertical, and caves have been eroded out of the limestone. When Hugenots lived in this area and during the time of the religious wars, they often sought refuge in these caves, sometimes fortifying as fortresses as well durng the time of the religious wars.
It is a wilderness area with very few villages or even buildings, although the rare ruin may be spotted. The ‘national park’ people have organised stopping places throughout the gorge where it is safe to get off the winding road for a bit. Information about the flora and fauna of the region is etched into marble blocks that serve both as seats and bollards.
We spotted several groups of kayakers making their way down stream and finally discovered their ‘launch pad’ some kilometres deep into the gorge at Pont d’Arc (no relation to Joan).
So with many, many many stops for photo opportunities we suddenly found ourselves out the other side of the gorge at a time that I thought we should be looking for our cute and character-filled stopover for the night. We came across nothing that resembled this description as most of the villages like this had been passed some time further back. The medium-sized city of Ales was on our ‘pass through’ list but unfortunately became our ‘stop over’ due to fatigue.
We ended up in the Deltour Hotel (which really should have the L removed from its name). A clean but seemingly lonely place near a roundabout on the southern edge of the city, it certainly hadn’t seen new carpet since it was built (we suspect in the 1970’s) – so much for ‘cute and character-filled’. There was one other car in the car park – not always a good sign. But I was just too exhausted to drive on.
So this was it for the night. We entered our clean but cigarette smoke-scented room and basically didn’t come out. We ate into our food supplies as we’d been told the nearest French restaurant was some way away as well as a Chinese Restaurant. We were so tired we really just couldn’t be bothered.
Next morning we made up for it though in the breakfast room then made a hasty exit!
Tina and Heather