paddle the gorges of france
Travel for travels sake in the Cevennes and the Gorges of the River Tarn and Ardeche.
“I travel not to go anywhere, but to go; I travel for travel’s sake. To get down off this feather bed of civilisation and to find the globe granite underfoot.” So wrote Robert Louis Stevenson in 1878 when he traveled in the heart of the Cévennes.
And so it is with this yearning for travel that we look forward to discovering for ourselves the land that Stevenson encountered for himself so long ago.
Travel with us to this rural and faraway part of France that is just waiting to be shared. The gorges of the Tarn, Ardeche and Cèze cut deep through the landscape to form imposing natural features with international renown.
The natural beauty of this region is amplified by the gastronomical delights of fine wines, savory meats, creamy cheeses, fruits and honey.
Trip Notes of When
and Where to go...and how to get there
We will meet at the Avignon TGV train station at 1:30pm to begin our journey. We will have about an hour drive to Goudargues where we will meet our canoe outfitter and get the canoes wet on the river C è ze. Around every bend we discover beautiful villages and hamlets. Paddling through this isolated countryside one acquires a different perspective on life.
In the late afternoon we will make our way to the small hamlet of La Bastide and our evening’s chamber d’hote. Located just outside the village of Goudargues, La Bastide was built on the foundation of the first convent of Goudargues by the Benedictines in the 8 th century. The Priory of Orniols was built in the 16 th century and was the home for 3 monks. Today the priory has been restored with charm and character and is a wonderful place to begin our journey. Welcome.
Lodging – Le Prieur é d’Orniols
After an early breakfast we will start our drive to the Tarn Gorge and river. It is a bit of a drive but the scenery is spectacular. This area has retained numerous traces of a rich and prestigious past. The originality of the Causse landscape, the surprising sculpted rocks and the vast lands are just a glimpse of what we will see from the river.
Our put-in is near the village of Ispagnac. Clinging to the hill above the river this village has been greeting travelers for centuries. The Tarn runs through peaceful landscapes of gorges and vineyards, scattered with pretty perched villages.
One such village is Sainte Enimie, classified as “most beautiful village in France”. Named after the legend of Princess Enimie the village was founded as a monastery in the sixth century. Thehistory of the village continued to unfold with a Benedictine monastery in the tenth century, and medieval architecture and chapels are still part of village life today.
We will take time out of paddling to further explore this village on foot and have time to enjoy lunch at an outdoor café.
We continue our journey down river after lunch and marvel as the gorge continues to reveal its magic. By late afternoon we will come around the bend to a wide sandy beach and our take out in the small hamlet of St Chely.
Located in the heart of the Tarn Gorge this picturesque village has retained its wild beauty and charm. We will be welcomed by our host at Auberge de la Cascade where we can enjoy panoramic views of the gorge in the evening and be treated to delicious regional food and wine. The perfect ending to a perfect day.
Lodging – Auberge de la Cascade 011.3220.127.116.11.82 www.aubergecascade.com
Note—Lunch is on your own today.
After a restful evening we return to our canoes and another day of paddling on the Tarn. The landscape continues to amaze us as we paddle gently through the heart of the Gorge.
By mid-day we have arrived at Mejean. A bustling village on the banks of the river, it reveals its character and legends as we stroll along the narrow crooked streets and alleys. An enjoyable lunch is the perfect way to pass some time before we return to our canoes and the final section of the Gorge. We will paddle through “the Detroits” a narrow stretch of the gorge where large rock formations and pinnacles tower above us. Truly breathtaking and amazing.
As we finish our day on the river we once again will have a long drive as we make our way deep into the core of the Cévennes. Protected as a National Park and a UNESDCO Biosphere Reserve the Cévennes is a maze of deep valleys covered by the traditional chestnut groves. An unruly land full of tradition, a little bit more is learned about the Cévennes with every detour from a winding road or path.
We end our day in the tiny hamlet of Cauvel. Nestled in an idyllic hollow we will truly get a sense of time past and time present as we settle in to this enchanting 17th century chateau for the next two evenings.
We have invited a park ranger to join us for dinner and share their knowledge of the park with us and answer questions we may have.
Lodging –Chateau Le Cauvel phone 011.318.104.22.168.75 www.lecauvel.com
Note—Lunch is on your own today.
Today is our day of choices, and no better way to start it than from having breakfast out on the large patio overlooking the hills that seem to go on and on like waves on the ocean.
We are in the heart of walking country here and directly on Stevenson Way. This is the long distance footpath that Robert Louis Stevenson traveled in the 1800’s. Our options are endless for walking and can range from a 1-2 hour loop up to an all-day venture. The choice will be yours.
One walk will take us to Saint-Germaine-de-Calberte. A quaint rural village where the pace of life is friendly and unrushed. Saint Pierre Castle – Restored since 1964 by a family of artists, its magnificent square keep dating back to the XIIth century and the XIVth century defense system can still be admired today.
Whatever we choose for the day by late afternoon we will return to Chateau Le Cauvel. We will have time to wander through the well-tended garden, catch up on some reading in the well-stocked library or relax on one of the many patios before gathering for a mouthwatering dinner of local fare.
Lodging –Chateau Le Cauvel phone 011.322.214.171.124.75 www.lecauvel.com
Today we leave the high valleys of the Cévennes for the deep gorges of the Ardèche. The Ardèche river flows through the wild and protected Ardèche valley and gorge. Magnificent points of view are found around every bend in the river. A rich patchwork of vineyards, lavender fields, olive groves and orchards cover the limestone plateau.
Our put in is near the village of Lanas. The river’s character immediately reveals itself with narrow channels fringed with green vegetation and over-hanging trees. A series of rapids takes us past limestone cliffs towering above us in wild grandeur.
Around a bend in the river we come to Balazuc, classified as one of “the most beautiful village of France.” The narrow stone streets and age old buildings invite us to get out of our canoes and do some exploring.
Back on the river we enjoy more gentle rapids and stunning scenery. The river alternates between limestone cliffs to open pasture land where goat and sheep herds are scattered about.
We end our day near the town of Roums. Today’s section of river is like an aperitif of good things to come.
At the heart of the Gorges of the Ardèche, the Belved'hôtel is located near the Pont d’Arc. This bridge is a natural arch overhanging the river Ardèche at more than 60 meters high. Our hotel offers wonderful views of the gorge and the evening light creates warm and intriguing colors on the cliff walls.
Lodging – Belved Hotel phone 011.334.75.88.00.02
Breakfast is served on the panoramic terrace and we look forward to our longest day on the river. This 24 km section of river offers us outstanding scenery and great paddling in one Europe’s most beautiful gorges.
Once in the gorge there is no road access. The river bends and cuts through the towering limestone cliffs taking us past the cliff fort of la Madeleine, through the Templars Loop and the Three Waters.
Throughout the day we are offered breathtaking views, inviting sandbars for lunch and swimming and plenty of exciting rapids.
We finish our day near St Martin where we have time to enjoy some refreshments at an outdoor café before bidding farewell to the Gorges of the Ardèche and returning to La Bastide where our journey began just a few short days before.
Lodging – Le Prieuré d’Orniols 011.3126.96.36.199.72 www.prieuredorniols.com
We can enjoy a leisurely morning as we prepare to pack and travel back to Paris. We may want to take time to enjoy the morning market in Goudargues, and pick up some last minute mementos or gifts.
Our short but intense visit to the gorges of the Tarn and Ardèche has delighted us with stunning landscapes, culinary pleasures and a great appreciation of nature. The rural and rugged
setting of the Cévennes is a reminder of our past and the heritage we have to care for and pass on.
We say good-bye to our hosts and begin our drive back to Avignon we can sincerely appreciate Robert Louis Stevenson’s concept of “travel for travel’s sake”.
We will return to the Avignon TGV train station in time to catch train #6174 that departs at 12:32.
Trip prices include lodging, all meals (except when noted) guide services and accompanying support van. Trips generally meet mid to late afternoon of the first day, and disband mid to late afternoon of the last day.
Prices listed in our printed material, or website is subject to change because the trip dates and prices have often been published a year in advance. Between that time and the time of the trip’s actual departure, we are occasionally faced with cost increases or currency fluctuations that we cannot absorb. We make every effort to keep our prices the same as published. This trip was last repriced February 2009, based on the exchange of €.75 to $1.00. Please visit http://www.oanda.com/convert/fxhistory for historical and updated currency exchange rates.
France Trip Notes Supplement
France Cevennes is rated II-B, which is easy to moderate, according to our trip
grading system. We will be paddling on up to class II rivers, and hiking
in open fells and mountains, 2 to 7 miles per day, following footpaths
and carrying only a daypack. The paddles and hikes will range from 4
to 9 hours in length, with stops for picnic lunches. Elevations will
not be high, but the hiking terrain can be rugged, with optional steep
climbs over uneven ground.
trip is appropriate for anyone in good heath, leading an active outdoor
lifestyle. Generally the more difficult sections are optional and often
we have more strenuous extensions available for those who desire a longer
day. Please feel free to call our office, and often you can discuss
the trip with a guide who has lead this trip and be able to share thoughts
in a foreign country requires one to be flexible and patient.
BATTENKILL CANOE LTD trips are designed for flexible, energetic
people who have a healthy dose of curiosity and enthusiasm about our
world, and who like to be active.
The most important requirements are a spirit of adventure and
a positive attitude!
emergency contact during the trip please contact our office in Arlington
at 802.362.2800. They will
contact the guides in France as quickly as possible, or you can call
the inns directly. France
is 6 hours ahead of Eastern time.
you have any questions or need special arrangements please call our
office. Regular office hours are 9:00 am to 5:30 pm in season. We are
open Sunday and Sunday for daily canoe rentals, but our office staff
is limited on weekends. We are generally closed Saturday through Tuesday,
November through April, but please leave a message with our answering
service and we will return your call as soon as possible.
trip prices include lodging; all meals (except when noted) guide services
and accompanying support van. We may be compelled to increase or decrease
trip prices due to matters beyond our control, such as currency exchange,
airfare, taxes or price increases. Gratuities for BattenKill guides
and other staff are appreciated, but left entirely to your discretion.
On the first day of the trip we will meet you outside the main doors of the Avignon TGV train station at 1:30pm. From here we will have about a 45 minute drive to La Bastide and Le Prieuré d’Orniols. If you miss the pickup, you may reach Le Prieuré d’Orniols on your own by taxi.
from Paris to Avignon
There is a full daily schedule of trains from Paris to Avignon. Please be aware when making your train reservation that there are two train stations in Avignon – Center and TGV. We will be using the Avignon TGV station. We will meet train #5100 that leaves from Charles DeGaulle airport at 9:58am and arrives at the Avignon TGV station at 13:08. When you arrive in Avignon come out of the station and then across and down to the car rental offices, your guides will be watching for you. For the return we plan to return to Avignon TGV for train #6174 that departs at 12:32 and arrives in Paris at Gare de Lyon at 15:18.
PLEASE NOTE WE ARE DEPARTING FROM (Charles DeGaulle) AND RETURNING TO (Gare de Lyon) DIFFERENT TRAIN STATIONS.
If you are already in Paris you can depart from Gare de Lyon on a train that will arrive close to the arrival of train #5100.
Round trip tickets are approximately 120 euros. Reservations are required and can be made on line at www.voyages-sncf.com or with Rail Europe at 800.848.7245 or www.raileurope.com.
If you have any questions or need assistance please call our office.
often fill months in advance, so we encourage you to make your reservations
early to avoid disappointment. To reserve space on a trip send in our
reservation form. Immediate confirmation is possible when you make your
reservations by phone. We
request a deposit of $500.00 to confirm your reservation for this trip.
Your confirmation letter will outline the balance that is due 60 days
prior to departure. Please note we may be compelled to increase or decrease
trip prices on trips due to matters beyond our control, such as currency
exchange, airfare, taxes or price increases.
Confirmation & Insurance
receipt of your deposit we will prepare a confirmation packet including
a full itinerary, personal equipment list, meeting location with driving
directions, and application for short-term trip cancellation insurance.
We strongly recommend that you obtain this insurance, which reimburses
you for nonrefundable costs and deposits, should you have to cancel
your trip due to a personal emergency.
a trip is full and you wish to be put on the Wait List, the deposit
is required. Periodically we do have cancellations, and if an opening
occurs you will be informed and transferred to the roster.
Canoe Ltd. (BCL) must receive notification in writing. If you must cancel,
but wish to reschedule for another trip, we will do our best to accommodate
you. If you must cancel
more than 60 days prior to a departure, a refund of 50% of the per person
deposit, OR a 100% credit valid for a future trip is possible. There
are no refunds or reschedules possible with less than 60 days notice,
for leaving a tour early or arriving late.
we are not able to make exceptions to this policy for any reason.
it is unlikely, if we must cancel a trip and are unable to provide another
that is satisfactory to you, we will refund all monies paid which constitutes
full settlement. BattenKill
is not responsible for any expenses incurred in preparation for the
trip, such as nonrefundable advance purchase airline tickets.
Dates & Small Trip Charge
Since you plan your vacation around our trip, it is our responsibility
to run every trip scheduled if four or more persons are on the roster.
A number of fixed costs make it more expensive to operate a trip with
six members than one with 12. We budget our trips with a nearly full
sign up, to enable us to price them at the lowest possible cost.
We will still run your trip if four or more guests are on the roster.
However, we will be obliged to add a small trip surcharge if there is
a low sign up of between four (4) and seven (7) participants. The small
trip surcharge is ten (10) percent of the published price.
If you make your reservations 6 months prior to departure, you will
qualify for our Earlybird Discount which saves you 10% on your trip price and guarantees your departure regardless
of the number of people on the roster.
an effort to capture the sprit of where we are traveling, the hotels,
inns and B and B’s that we use are usually family-run converted houses,
villas, or inns, full of
ambiance and colorful local history. That is part of why we are visiting.
Sometimes the rooms in these lodges are not always of uniform or international
size, however our leaders will always try their best of assign rooms
in a fair way so that all participants experience an equal advantage
throughout the trips as a whole.
standard accommodation is two per room, generally with a private bath.
Usually singles and triples are available.
BCL provides three meals per day, beginning with dinner on the
first evening and ending with lunch on the last day (except where noted).
you’re traveling alone and would like to assure yourself of a private
room, there is a single supplement surcharge of $45.00 per evening.
Singles willing to share will be matched with a roommate. If unavailable,
a forced single supplement of 50 percent of the full supplement will
We believe that sharing an adventure with your kids or grandkids
is a life-enhancing experience. Children twelve years of age or older
are welcomed on all trips. Special arrangements must be made for all
children 7-12. Regular discount is 25% off the trip price for folks
under 18 years old.
must understand that river trips involve some risk and you have the
responsibility to select a trip appropriate for your ability and interest.
We will be happy to discuss our trips with you, as well as provide names
of past participants who can describe their experience of the trip you
are interested in. You
will be asked to sign a Hold Harmless and Release of Liability form
prior to your trip. BattenKill
the right to substitute lodges and leaders and to alter the itinerary
when deemed necessary or advisable. BCL shall not be liable, directly
or indirectly for any delay, cancellation, mishap, inconvenience, expense,
personal injury or death, or damage of property for any reason whatsoever,
including acts of God. BattenKill
reserves the right to decline to accept, retain, or ask to leave any
person whose actions or deportment impede trip operation, or rights,
welfare and enjoyment of other trip members. No refund is possible under
these circumstances. Payment
of deposit and release of credit card number represents your acceptance
of these terms and conditions. All disputes shall be settled by binding
arbitration in Bennington County Vermont.
are delighted to arrange private and custom trips. Any of our scheduled
trips can be reserved for private groups. This is important for groups
whose desires; dates or goals may not fit into one of our regular departures.
Our published price and small trip surcharges apply on private trips.
custom trip allows the flexibility to alter the itinerary, dates, and
to introduce other activities into your outing.
Don’t let our current selection of adventures set the limits
of your wanderlust. Please call our office to begin planning a custom
for the inn and food portion of your trip are paid by BCL. Gratuities
for BattenKill guides are
appreciated, but are left to your discretion. As
a general guideline, a tip of approximately 10% of the trip price is
an average for attentive guiding. However, if you are not satisfied
with your guide service, please also outline your feelings on your evaluation
so that the office will be able to address your concerns with the guide
year the guide staff of BattenKill
Canoe pledge to pool a portion of their tips and donate them
to an outreach program. Over
the past several years these outreach programs have included a scholarship
program for a high school student in the remote village of Yorkin in
Talamanca, Costa Rica, supporting the Ninos in la Calle program (alternative
education program for the street kids) in Somotillo Nicaragua, financial
and educational support to the BattenKill Watershed Council and an annual
donation to the Vermont ACLU.
you would like to find out more about these projects or have suggestions
for other projects your guides would be happy to visit with you.
This is just one of the ways we are able to reach out to the
greater community and practice socially responsible travel.
airline desk is able to assist you in making your airline reservations,
and we are pleased to do so. We can book with all the major carriers and would be happy
to assist you with your travel plans.
Services of BattenKill Canoe Ltd for pre-departure information and guide
services to help you get the most out of your vacation.*
All ground transportation during the trip
Pick up and return to the Brive train station at scheduled times
accommodations and meals (except where noted)
Riverside or trailside picnic lunches
All canoe and paddling equipment
escorted, exclusive BattenKill Canoe tour of France
dinners and lunches that are in a restaurant, cafe or deli
ound trip transportation from hometown to Brive France
to drivers and guides.
taxes and other government fees.
of personal nature such as laundry, phone calls and beverages.
of delays including delays due to bad weather, canceled or delayed flights
or delays on other modes of transport, sickness or other situations
for which BATTENKILL CANOE or its agents cannot make provisions.
entrance fees to regional attractions (approx $75 limited use of credit
U.S. passport valid beyond your anticipated date of return to the US
is essential. Holders of
foreign passports must check with the Embassy of France for details.
Our office may be able to assist you.
currency unit is the Euro. Prices
in France are quoted in Euros. Most credit cards are accepeted and there is good access to ATM's. As of October 2011, the exchange rate was €.75 to $1.00
list is intended to be skeletal, and we anticipate you will have your
own ideas of what is "necessary."
In general bring half the clothes you think you will need and
twice the film.Getting
wet is always a possibility when participating in outdoor activities. Clothing has to keep you warm even when wet.
Avoid cotton clothes for hiking and canoeing.
The problem with cotton is that once it is wet it absorbs water
and does not dry out quickly.
Jeans, while fashionable and comfortable are unacceptable for
inns we have selected are informal, so “fancy clothes” are not necessary. Remember that the weather in France can change very quickly,
even minute by minute. For
summer trips the evenings can still be cool and possibly damp. Fall trips plan on dressing in layers, and Fall clothing should
lean toward polypro, wool and/or fleece and good rain gear is important
any time of the year.
Passport (carrying a photocopy of your passport is also a good
idea--just in case).
Inns and B&B are casual so cotton or cotton mix clothing--for
off river and evenings is appropriate.
Sturdy, comfortable waterproof hiking boots .
It does rain in France, so good quality rain gear is necessary
and should include a jacket and pants
Nylon pile, polypro or capilene undershirt and pants
Lightweight/medium weight long sleeve top.
Heavier weight fleece top or wool sweater for spring and fall
Wide brimmed hat.
Glasses/sunglasses with security strap.
Sunscreen, insect repellent
Lip balm, chapstick
Camera and film
Day use backpack
Clothes for Paddling
T-shirts or comfortable paddling tops
Canoe shoes that can get wet for paddling such as sandals, or
Collapsible walking stick
Field guides, bird books, and travel books
Journal notebook, pen, good book
you have any questions on what to bring or how to pack please give us
a call at 1.800.421.5268.
Books of interest
Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes by Robert Louis Stevenson
To Travel Hopefully-Footsteps in the French Cevennes by Christopher Rush
The Rebellion in the Cevennes, a Historical Novel Vol I and vol II by Madame Burette
Sixty Million Frenchman Can’t be Wrong by Jean-Benoit Nadeau and Julie Barlow
A Distant Mirror by Barbara Tuchman
The Discovery of France, a Historical Geography by Graham Robb
The Road from the Past, Traveling Through History in France by Ina Caro
France A Traveller’s History, sixth edition by Robert Cole
The Four Queens, the Provencal Sisters Who Ruled Europe by Nancy Goldstone
A Concise History of France by Roger Price
BattenKill Canoe, Ltd.
800.421.5268 or 802.362.2800 fax--802.362.0159
©2002 BattenKill Canoe, Ltd.. All rights reserved