Valcèzard – aka Provence Occitane
We are proud to say that the launch and success of our own Provence-West hiking tour persuaded the local office de tourisme to change its name from Valcèzard to that of Provence Occitane. Valcèzard or Provence Occitane is a tale of two rivers, the forest of Valbonne with its Carthusian monastery lying between the two, and sixteen ‘communes’ with 44 villages. Some are distinctive hill-top villages with expansive surrounding vineyards. The area offers myriad options for walking holidays.
To the north, the Ardeche Gorge cuts spectacularly into the limestone bedrock as it meanders downstream towards the Rhone Valley. The vertical, and occasionally potholed sides, contrast starkly with the meandering calmness of the river bed below, save for the occasional shallow rapids. To the south, The Cèze is much more topographically diverse, with serrated gorges, followed by expansive and flat floodplain, and abrupt waterfalls before calmness is once again resumed.
In stark contrast to the gentle stretches of the Ceze around Goudargues, where a canal flows down ‘Main Street,’ the river then carves great channels and cavities into the rocks at Sautadet, near Roque sur Cèze, the next village to the east, as its waters disappear into a complex network of galleries and cylindrical pot-holes, formed by the swirling movement of the pebbles. This Valcèzard site, the Sautadet Falls, was probably the result of some unusual uplifting of the limestone bedrock five millions years ago.
What gives the terrain its unity are the vines, the lavender fields and, yes, the unmistakable homogeneity of the undulating ‘Garrigues.’
For those who would like to get to know this fascinating area as part of a Hiking France tour, The Enlightened Traveller offers a hike-drive programme, featuring light hiking entitled Hiking Gard-Provence which, due to the gifted nature of the Mediterranean climate, is available all year round. France hiking rarely comes with a better finish than our ‘grande finale’ to this week’s hiking in France: a half or full-day’s hiking to the Pont du Gard.
Those of you who love short hikes punctuated by village ‘rambling’ or strolling will find this particular France hiking programme very attractive indeed. Valcèzard is in easy reach of Avignon or Nimes airports and getting between walks and villages is via quiet departmental roads that are a joy to drive on.
Some of the village highlights are described below…
It boasts some remarkable examples of rural architecture, like the old hospital. The abbey of Mons Serratus was founded In 1263. Twelve years later, the castle was built, but only its square keep remains. Later, the Pont du Moulin bridge was constructed over the Cèze. It is the setting for the Medieval Festival and the occasional French period film.
For an unforgettable hiking experience, please visit our Walking Provence-West tour page.
Click to visit The French Hiker’s Guide to Holidaying in the Hexagon and France self-guided walking, trips, trails, places & themes.Click to visit The French Hiker’s Guide to Holidaying in the Hexagon and France self-guided walking, trips, trails, places & themes.