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Suggestions for travel from Vaucluse area to Lot/Tarn area?

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How would YOU travel, and what's to see, between the above areas?
1. Orange to Rodez, for example, is 3:20 via Montpelier, largely motorway (with tolls) and probably unremarkable scenery.
2. same, but via Nimes to Millau, is 4:30, offers maybe a little better scenery ??, but what else?
3. same, but via Ales & Florac, is 5:00, a little scenery, but what else?

Then there's Gorge du Tarn, but I suspect driving near it isn't anywhere near the same experience as canoeing thru it.

We're puzzled, and could use some help.

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    You can get "up close" to the Gorges du Tarn without canoeing down it - unlike the Gorges du Verdun. That's why I try to downplay the Gorges du Verdun & push the Tarn gorge.

    The Tarn road follows the river at the bottom of the canyon - where there are villages, chateaux, and other interesting sites. You can view the gorge from above at Pt Sublime, and on the Causse Mejean from several viewpoints. There are also several caves in the immediate area with stalactites & mites.

    You did not state how many days you're taking to make this journey. There are other gorges, interesting villages, chateaux, rock formations, caves, & rivers in the region.

    Do you hve my 35 page Languedoc itinerary??? It describes many of the sites & roads in this region. E-mail me at StuDudley@aol.com & I'll attach a copy to the reply e-mail.

    #1 & 2 above are not that scenic. You will need to get well off the autoroute to really see beautiful scenery.

    Stu Dudley

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    I try to stay off the autoroutes in the south of France, so even though getting through Alès is a huge PITA at some times of year, I'd opt to head up around the Gorges du Tarn, which offers a lot of spectacular scenery (if you're not a wimpy driver), not just canoeing. The Cévennes are fascinating, but you don't say how long you have for this part of the trip, so I won't start listing what I've enjoyed there except to say that our stay at this place (a friend of a friend owns it) was incredibly enjoyable: http://www.tripadvisor.in/Hotel_Review-g1384541-d2080651-Reviews-La_Baume_en_Cevennes-Saint_Privat_de_Vallongue_Lozere_Languedoc_Roussillon.html

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    I didn't receive a request for my Languedoc itinerary from you today (I received 6 other requests however). So here is a portion of the itinerary to the gorges du Tarn region.

    Touring the Gorges de la Jonte** and the Gorges du Tarn***.
    Please don’t try to see these gorges in 1 day. They are remarkable, and the gorge walls appear different at various times of the day with sunlight patterns shining on the ochre colored faces of the cliffs. The roads through these gorges are at the bottom of the gorge. When driving from east to west, you will see different things than what you saw driving west to east. There are many lookouts you can drive or walk to, that give you panoramic views of the Causes (Causse in French) (see description), and the canyons – don’t miss these lookouts. There are also many medieval villages & castle ruins scattered here & there. You will go through a lot of film.

    I won’t describe a set itinerary for visiting the Gorges. We visited only the Gorges du Tarn in 6 hours one day, and returned several days later to see it again with a different sun perspective. On the second trip we also visited the Gorges de la Jonte. All total, we probably spent 10 or more hours exploring the gorges. In the guidebook, they describe a “Causse”. This is the plateau above the gorge that often stretches from one gorge to another. For example, the Causse Noir is between the Canyon de la Dourbie and the Gorges de la Jonte. The Causse Mejean is between the Gorges de la Jonte and the Gorge du Tarn, and the Causse de Sauveterre is north of the Gorges du Tarn. These causses are quite picturesque too.

    Here are some sites not to miss on the Tarn Gorge:
    1. Ispagnac+ Northeast end of the Tarn. Very cute town with a smallish town square. There is a large Romanesque church, which is worth a visit. To the right as you enter, you can punch a button to get an “audio” guide from speakers in the church. Also, lights focus on the various things described in the audio.
    2. Quezac Only OK – stop & explore if you are planning on visiting the gorges area for 2 full days.
    3. Castelbouc* Old castle ruins with a small village at it’s base. Park the car along the road & try to limit your pictures to only 3.
    4. Chateau de Prads Nice chateau.
    5. Ste Enimie* This is probably the only village worth spending some time in, and it’s classified as one of TMBVoF. It’s a great village to explore the nook & crannies. There are several places where you can get a bite to eat or pick up a sandwich (jambon/buerre) to eat on the run.
    6. Cross the river at Ste Enimie & take the D986 south. Drive for a while & you will be rewarded with a fantastic view of the Gorge du Tarn, looking down on the village of St Chely du Tarn and the Cirque de St Chely*. Retrace the route back to Ste Enimie.
    7. Chateau de la Caze* If you are not staying here, at least explore the chateau as much as they will let you.
    8. At La Malene, cross the river and take the switchbacks up & up & up & up to the Causse Mejean. Pull off as you start the ascent to get a fabulous view of the town of La Malene & the chateau at the front of the village. Don’t be afraid of the switchbacks - they are “doozies” but the reward at the top is well worth it. Once at the top of the cause, turn right on the D16 and then right again to the Roc du Serre** and the Roc des Hourtous**. Visit the Roc du Serre first. Park the car when signs say you can’t go any further, and walk to the lookout over the Gorges du Tarn (it’s an easy 15 min walk there & 15 mins back). This is why you should spend 2 days exploring this region – you probably would not take this detour on a 1 day trip. Read about both these Rocs in the Green Guide under “Malene”. After the Roc du Serre, drive a short distance to the Roc des Hourtous, park the car, pay the entrance fee, and walk a few paces to get another lovely view over the Gorges du Tarn. This spot has a place where you can get some refreshments, and there is a WC. When you are finished with these two Rocs, don’t return to La Malene along the switchbacks (I probably won’t need to convince you of this). Instead, continue west on the D16 to Les Vignes – the descent back to the Gorges is not as bad as the ascent. Return to La Malene – this drive along the gorge floor is the prettiest part of the Gorges.
    9. Point Sublime*** This view is why we returned for a second visit. We wanted to see this panorama with a different sunlight exposure.

    Visit Aven Armand*** You can get there by driving over the Causse Mejean from either Ste Enimie or Meyrueis on the D986. Remember, there is a lunch closing, except in July & Aug.

    Visit & explore the Chaos de Montpellier le Vieux***-. We spent several hours there. See the GG under Montpellier le Vieux. If you have trouble walking, perhaps this is not for you. The most spectacular places to view the rock formations require some walking over rocks, boulders, stairs, etc. My wife “opted out” (bad feet) for the walk to the best viewpoint. There is a “petite train” that will take you to a good viewpoint, so it’s possible for some in your party to see the best sites while others take the less strenuous option. Here is my recommendation for exploring this area. When you enter the Chaos, you will pay a fee & get a map at the entrance. Proceed & park your car in the big lot. There are lunch facilities there and also a good WC. Both the Green Guide and the map you get describe the various walks you can take (strangely, the map you receive at the entrance gate has north at the bottom). All the various walks are very well marked. The Petite Train has a lunch break. Inquire about the next departure time for the train. If it departs soon, hop on it (don’t know the fee – we didn’t take it) and explore the area reached by the train (I’ll explain later). After returning from the train trip, or if the train does not depart for an hour or so, take the red “main route” to the Douminal. The view from the Douminal is by far the best, although it’s the difficult one to get to that I described earlier – especially the last one-quarter of the walk. After viewing the panorama from the Douminal, return to the parking lot and either take the train or leave the Chaos. For the train ride, it is kinda bland. They stop at the Belvedere, let you get out, view the panorama, and then return to the train. The train continues and then stops at a roundabout (see the map). I recommend getting out here and walking the “yellow” walk until you tire or things become a little repetitious. Find out the time of the return train, plan your walk accordingly, & take the train back to the parking lot. Here is what we actually did. We walked to the Belvedere. It is not a difficult walk, but it’s not that scenic either. We took in the view at the Belvedere, & then proceeded along the red “main route”. It immediately became difficult. Instead of following the red “main route”, we walked down to the paved train road, saw the signs that said “no pedestrians”, and proceeded along this route to the roundabout. It was the lunch break & we knew there would be no trains. We did the yellow walk & returned to the train road & proceeded back to the car park. The lunch break was over while we were on the road, so we hid in some bushes when we heard the train coming.

    Stu Dudley

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