After two days driving through France we arrived at our gîte in Provence for a holiday.
It is a delightful place in a 40 acre estate of olive trees and a lavender field. There were no guests in the other gîtes so we had the whole place, including 3 swimming pools to ourselves. One border of the estate was a river and half a mile upriver was a waterfall or cascade as the French call them.
A walk to the waterfall
We took the footpath to the cascade. The path ran alongside a new environmentally sustainable water purification plant. This consisted of a large pond planted with reeds. As the water percolated through, it became clean enough to discharge into the river; luckily downstream of our gîte.
Reedbed water purifier
The path wound down a heavily wooded hillside with no sight of the river. Suddenly we stepped up onto a wooden platform and faced the falls. Two delicate veils of white water fell down from rocks high above us into a turquoise pool below. The tranquillity of the setting, the intricate patterns of the veils of falling water and the cool clear pool gave the place an air of tranquil beauty.
That night we sat high on the hill, overlooking the olive grove. There was crusty bread and Brie to eat and a cool rosé to drink. We could see clouds rapidly growing upwards like giant cauliflowers, reaching for the stratosphere. Someone will have a storm tonight, we mused.
That someone was us. The rumbling thunder grew louder and the lightening flashes brighter until the pat, pat of the first heavy raindrops. Soon the sound of the rain muffled the thunder, the lightening became continuous and lit the darkness to reveal trees lashed by wind and rain. Streams of water hissed and splashed from rooftops and ran in torrents down paths. It was not long before an instantaneous flash and bang left us in darkness with no electricity.
By morning the sky was blue again, the air clear and we wondered whether the storm had been a dream. What had become of the cascade? We could not see it from the gîte but spray rose like smoke above the trees.
When we arrived at the waterfall for the second time, the peaceful scene was transformed. The falls had become a brutal force spilling water over the cliffs in one continuous sheet of brown water. At its edges, the water bent and bowed trees in its path. It hit the pool below with a fierce thundering roar. We had to shout to be heard. The whole scene was viewed through a mist of spray which settle, then dripped from leaves like rain.
There were other highlights to the holiday.
Kayaking up the Gorge du Verdon, a stay at a vineyard with a ‘degustation’, a wine tasting. A visit to St Tropez is not something to repeat. Best of all is sitting in a shady square with a cool beer watching people go about their business and if you can get a copy of The Times and read good news about the Ashes, it is absolute heaven.