Continuing west we took the road that led down into the Gorges du Tarn. Instead of gazing down hundreds of metres we were now gazing up and oohing and aahing. The rock here seemed older and darker – darker greys, a bit of mauve-red, and cliffs and strange outcrops of solid rock without the striations. In places it looks like these huge stone figures have been frozen in the landscape and they may come back to life at any moment. Of course the houses changed too – darker rock, slate instead of tiled roofs, and different shapes to the castles, churches and rooftops. Here villages nestled in valleys or down by the river under the cliffs. The mixed forests were denser and taller – quite different from the Ardeche, but a luscious riot of different greens and spring growth.
Under rock arches and through tunnels we drove as we followed the Tarn River past picture postcard villages. Each time we passed one I checked my watch: Was it time to stop and find a place for the night? I was more determined than ever that at least our second night would be spent in a cute and character-filled place.
At 3pm we stopped at the tiny village of La Malene for yet another photo opportunity. Here I spied the Chateau de la Malene – Manoir de Montesquiou - a medieval establishment that looked like it belonged in an Agatha Christie novel. I decided. This is it!
Up the creaking and groaning stairwell in the tower we went. Sort of reminded me of the place in the film Inn of the Damned. But our room was lovely and looked towards the river and one of the massive cliffs we’d been seeing on the trip.
Heather continued to happy-snap into the twilight, but we eventually had dinner at their restaurant. A superb meal it was with a glasses of the local red and rose before going out in the 10 degree night to photograph the lit-up Madonna way up the top of the hill we could see through our window! In spite of persistent efforts, the photo didn’t work out over that distance, so we’ve included a night shot of the bridge instead…
Tina and Heather
Beautiful writing. We will be spending some time in the Gorges du Tarn in September and will actually be staying at Manoir de Montesquiou for 2 nights. It was fantastic to hear about your experiences and we loved your beautiful photos. It sounds fantastic – now we’re even more eager to begin our vacation. We’re even hoping to go down the river on one of the bateliers. Thanks so much for sharing your holiday with us.