- Please use the links below to explore the area and find out more about the region or view the Gallery.
|The Pont d'Arc||Labeaume||Millau Sky Bridge|
The Ardeche Gorge
|Vallon-Pont-d'Arc||Grottes (caves)||Chauvet Cave
For information about what is happening when in the Ardèche, please follow the following links.
This elegant and majestic arch has been created in the limestone rock over thousands of years and has become the emblem of the entire region. This famous landmark is the largest natural arch in Europe and stands an impressive 66m high (215ft) and has a span of 34m (110ft). Before the river managed to break its way through, the Ardèche ran around the side along the Coombe d'Arc where the road now is. It is along this Coombe ,half way up the cliff face, that the Chauvet cave was discovered in 1994.
Since the Ardèche was often a difficult river to ford, the bridge was a strategic route over which the Protestants and Catholics fought. After a battle, the victors would often invite their enemies to jump into the river, and pushed them if they seemed too hesitant. Since Louis 13th destroyed the cornice, it has become too dangerous to cross.
Higher up on the left hand side (as pictured) is the prominant rock of Charlemagne by which a family of Bonelli Eagles nest. This is visible from the Hotel and offers you a great opportunity to see these protected birds. The rock is named after the Great King because it resembles a famous image of King Charlemagne on horseback. Because of this the rapid which precedes the mighty Pont d'Arc is known as 'Charlemagne'.
The Gorges de l'Ardeche starts just after the Pont d'Arc which is seen as the gateway into the gorge. It is 24km long and winds through wooded slopes with limestone cliffs towering up to 1000ft above on each side. The only way to see this properly (other than from the view points above) is to travel through the Gorge on foot or by canoe/kayak. Our two-day river trips cover 32km which includes the top 8km (3 rapids and the Pont d'Arc) and the entire 24km gorge section (with about 26 rapids).
Classified as a Nature Reserve back in 1980 the Gorges de l'Ardeche are filled with more than a thousand different species of plant and animals including loads of fish (trout, carp, catfish, apron fish etc); wild goats; cicardas; lizards; bonneli's Eagles; wild boar; black kites; genets; beavers; otters and even a few Egyptian vultures!
To wild camp within the Gorges de l'Ardeche is strictly prohibited although there are two managed sites (Bivouac de Gaud and Bivouac de Gournier) which are right in the heart of the nature reserve. Although basic, these sites have acces to toilets/showers, drinking water, rubbish bins and have pre-built BBQ's on site for people to use - they even provide the charcoal for us! Other than this, the sites are open fields where you can pitch your tents for the evening.
The Ardeche Gorge is a very popular location and as such, the river can get busy during weekends and during July and August. Therefore, for the best way to experience this magical place, we recomend coming in April, May, June or September when the river is much quieter. However, with a guided river trip we will still ensure you get the most from your trip in July/August by timing our trip to avoid most crowds.
This small farming town becomes a splendid tourist resort in the spring. Sat on the edge of the Gorges de l'Ardèche, Vallon enjoys a mild Mediterranean climate. With water, sun and nature all around, Vallon Pont d'Arc is the perfect centre for many outdoor activities. It is also steeped in history and surrounded by the most beautiful landscape.
This area has been inhabited throughout the centuries but only recently has it been realised for how long. In 1997, next to the Pont d'Arc, the Chauvet Cave was discovered containing Cave art between 30,000-32,0000 years old. This is the oldest discovery made to date and shows that man has existed in this corner of the world since the beginning.
Vallon Pont d'Arc became a Protestant stronghold during the religious wars and in 1621 the town was placed under siege. In 1628, King Louis XIIIth ordered that the Castle and the fortifications were destroyed and a new Catholic Lord was appointed. In 1629, the King gave this new Lord of Vallon the possessions of his subjects as compensation for the destruction of his castle. However, in order to get their possessions back, the inhabitants of Vallon built the new Castle of their Lord not where requested but instead built it in the centre of the village itself. In 1846 the castle was sold to the townsfolk and was converted into the townhall. It still contains the tapestries of Aubusson which are listed as a historical monument, illustrating the crusades, and they can be seen during the Town Hall's opening hours. These tapestries were a wedding gift to Lady Charlotte of Montreal (wife of a Vallon Lord) and depict the deeds of the first Crusaders in the Holy land under the leadership of Lord Godefroi de Bouillon.
The lords of Vogüé! This family was undoubtedly the most powerful in the Vivarais. They were one of the greatest families in the Languedoc, if not in the entire kingdom. They were honoured with the title of Baron of the Languedoc and Governor of Provence. The revolution did not destroy them although they did lose some property and farmland. They succeeded in gradually buying back all the homes and properties anchored in the family history.
In the nineteenth century, they included two members of the French Academy: Charles-Jean Melchior, archaeologist and diplomat and Eugène Melchior who introduced the great Russian authors to the French intelligentsia. This medieval village is built like an amphitheatre in the curve of the cliff and is dominated by the 16th Century castle which replaced the earlier 12th century primitive fortress. It can be reached by a beautiful avenue of Chestnut trees planted in 1735.
Henri Charrière, probably better known by his nickname Papillon, was born November 16, 1906 in Saint-Etienne-de-Lugdarès in the Ardèche, he is buried a few kilometres south of Vogue in Lanas where his mother was a school mistress.
The main centre in the area, Labeaume is a small village on the bank of the river of the some name, surrounded by cliffs and rocks like majestic, twisted and ruined walls. It is extremely attractive and has been given the "Picturesque Village" classification. The church and town hall are surrounded by old houses.The main square, Place du Sablas, on the edge of the river with its clear, rushing water, offers tourists beguiled by this incredible site the welcoming shade of centuries old plane trees.
The Labeaume Music Festival draws yet more visitors to these fascinating places with a programme of superb classical music. Every year a musical festival is held here, one of the most remarkable events in Southern Ardèche. In July and August, Labeaume becomes a village completely dedicated to classical music. Famous and talented artists meet in the evening in the church, the gorges, the bridge or the disused quarries. Nature becomes a grandiose concert hall creating a friendly and inimitable atmosphere.
Although officially classified as a medieval village, not everything in Balazuc dates from before the 16th Century. Although the ochre of its facades standing out against the green of wild fig trees, the cobbled slopes, vaulted passageways and narrowing streets has often encouraged comparisons with a Moorish village, this is just a coincidence.
A colony of Saracens led by Emir Youssouf was established in Balazuc in 730 after the Battle of Poitiers but on the other side of the river. In the same way, the famous "Saracen windows" mentioned in some brochures (the three-lobed windows that decorate certain houses), are not connected to the Saracens. There is, however, a 16th Century Chateau and a10th Century Keep with no door on ground level. Prison or for defense? The mystery remains. At the bottom of this village there is a Romanesque church with a three arched bell tower which can be reached from the outside. The apse is heightened to form a defensive tower since Balazuc was an isolated Catholic outpost in a predominantly Protestant lower Ardèche.
Millau Sky Bridge
Less than 2 hours from Vallon-Pont-d'Arc, the bridge spans the River Tarn and was made by the same company who built the Eiffel tower. It stands at an impressive 343m (1,125ft) which is higher than the Eiffel Tower and only a mere 125ft shorter than the Empire State building!
The feeling of driving over the clouds is truly one to remember!
This walled city is one of remarkable history. It is famous for its Palais des Papes(Palace of the Popes) which is one of the largest and important medieval Gothic buildings in Europe. Seven Popes (all French) lived there during much of the 14th Century when it became the seat of the Papacy instead of Rome. The majority of the Palace is open to the public now, and houses a museum.
A famous theater festival is held annually in Avignon. Founded in 1947, the Avignon Festival comprises both traditional theatrical events and other art forms such as dance, music and cinema, making good use of the town's historical monuments. Taking place every summer betweem 10th July and 5th August, it welcomes approximately 100,000+ visitors. There are really two festivals that take place: the more formal "Festival In", which presents plays inside the Palace of the Popes and the more bohemian "Festival Off", which is known for its presentation of largely undiscovered plays and street performances.
Avignon is also well known for the Saint Bénézet bridge which is better know as "le pont d'Avignon" from the song of the same name. The bridge spanned the Rhone and was initially built between 1171 and 1185, with an original length of some 900m (2950 ft), but it suffered frequent collapses during floods and had to be reconstructed several times. Several arches were already missing (and spanned by wooden sections) before the remainder was damaged beyond repair in 1668 by a catastophic flood. Today only four of the initial 22 arches remain and on one of them stands the small Romanesque chapel of Saint-Bénézet.
In 1995 UNESCO included Avignon as a World Heritage Site due to "an exceptional group of monuments that testify to the leading role played by Avignon in 14th-century Christian Europe."
Avignon belonged to the Papacy until 1791 when it was reincorporated into France during the French Revolution.