Driving times for Gorge du Tarn

Jan 8th, 2010, 02:25 PM
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Driving times for Gorge du Tarn

I'm in the early stages of planning for our Sept./Oct trip to Languedoc/Roussillon and Provence. In looking at the Gorge du Tarn area, via michelin says it takes about 35 minutes to get from Ste. Enimie to Meyruis via the D966 and approximately 54 minutes to get from Meyrueis to La Malene via Rozier and Les Vignes. I think we'll be staying either at the Chateau de la Caze or somewhere nearby. The Michelin Green Guide suggests allowing 2 hr 30min. from Ste. Enimie to Rozier. My question is how long should we allow to drive the loop from say the Chateau de la Caze via Ste. Enimie/Meyrueis/Rozier/Las Vignes and back to the Chateau de la Caze? We do want to allow enough time to enjoy the sites.

Thanks
historytraveler is online now  
Jan 8th, 2010, 03:26 PM
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There are lots & lots of places to stop & visit, vista points on top of the canyons you'll want to visit, caves with stalactites & mites - so I don't "relate" to driving times between A to B. I would spend 2 full days there - 1 night at a minimum.

Here is something I previously wrote:

Meyruels is at the east end of the very beautiful Gorges de la Jonte**. We thought that this gorge was almost as interesting as the much larger Gorges du Tarn.

Here are three options for staying in the Gorges (Jonte & Tarn) area. You can either stay in Meyrueis, or in a beautiful castle just northeast of La Malene on the Tarn River, or also on the Tarn in the very pretty village of Ste Enimie. I have never visited Meyrueis – we drove there but did not visit in ’04. My Michelin Red Guide lists a Chateau d’Ayres, which is 1.5K east of the town. It’s in a large park, has a pool, vaulted inside dining area, outside dining, and it’s very quiet. Rooms in my 04 guide are 111 to 114 E, and half pension is available. Just northeast of La Malene is the gorgeous Chateau de la Caze. It’s actually a 1 star chateau in the green guide. I’ve never stayed there, but we have walked the grounds & toured the castle – it’s quite remarkable. It has a pool, nice grounds, but as you might expect, it costs a little more. Rooms are 118 to 162 and the price of meals is higher than at the Ch d’Ayres. We did not go inside this hotel when we were there in ’04, but on the previous trip we remembered it being a little dark & cold inside. That, however, may be an appealing aspect. For less expensive accommodations, stay in Ste Enimie at the Auberge du Moulin. Rooms are 54E and ½ pension is available. We stayed there on a past trip & it was quite nice, although it’s a more “basic” hotel than the two chateaux that I’ve described. The advantage to staying in Ste Enimie is that it’s in a village with some interesting shops, cafes, etc.

Switch to map # 330

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.

Wednesday

Continue exploring the gorges, caves, and chaos. Perhaps visit the Grotte de Dargilan**

Thursday

Leave the Tarn & proceed to the next area –the lovely Lot River region – perhaps our favorite in the Languedoc.

If you are staying in Meyrueis, take the D986 over the Causse Mejean to Ste Enimie. If you’re staying at la Caze, drive to Ste Enimie along the Tarn. From Ste Enimie, head north on the then D998 to La Canaourgue. It’s a little difficult to get on the road from Ste Enimie, so pay attention & look for road signs. After the D998 crosses the D32, this route will become quite scenic all the way to La Canourgue.

La Canourgue+ gets our award as the cutest village never to be mentioned in any guidebook. It is a meticulously restored medieval village. It even has several artisan shops that lured my wife. As you drive into town, you will pass a large parking lot on the right in the middle of town. The old town is on the right & the not-so-pretty newer section is on the left of the road approaching the lot. Park the car in the lot & explore this town. Spend at least 45 mins in the village – if you spend any less time, then you have missed a section of town. The interesting part of the village is along traffic free cobbled roads. You will encounter a river rushing through town that is sometimes underground, and sometimes above ground. Keep exploring every section of town that has cobbled streets – you may have to cross a paved section that intersects the lot where you parked the car. Be brave – try to explore all the streets you can possibly access. Along the way, you may see some beautiful gardens behind a gate. I believe this is an assisted care facility & you probably can’t go in there.

Stu Dudley
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Jan 8th, 2010, 06:45 PM
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Thanks Stu, I do have your itinerary for the Gorge du Tarn and will review your notes. We will be traveling from Carcassonne and will spend two nights in the area ( Gorge du Tarn). We hope to see as much as is reasonable in that time period, but I do realize we won't be able to see/do all.
historytraveler is online now  
Jan 8th, 2010, 11:45 PM
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Just to say that part of the route can be slow, particularly if you are behind a few caravans.

September - October is out of the peak season, so I would allow a complete, and long, day.

Peter
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