Did you know that France has its own Grand Canyon? Al never actually saw many of the spots in my photos, because he refused to look over the side!
Les Gorges du Verdon is much smaller than Arizona’s Grand Canyon, but it’s still pretty cool to see. Up to 700 m deep, the 21-km-long canyon varies in width between six and 100 metres at the bottom and 200 to 1500 metres at its rim.
We started our drive at the end of the canyon near Moustier where the river flows into the artificial lake known as Sainte-Croix-du-Verdon. It’s a popular spot for renting paddle boats, and we saw people heading out on the green hued water which gives the canyon its name.
Even though Europe’s Age of Exploration began during the 1400s, people thought the deepest parts of the Verdon canyon were impenetrable into the 1800s. Only a few woodcutters entered the canyon on ropes looking to harvest box wood that is used to make balls for “petanque” or lawn bowling.
It wasn’t until the 20th century when Edouard-Alfred Martel became the first explorer to make it through the entire canyon. The trail he created is still used by hikers today.
The area was so beautiful that we decided to go back for a second look. We wanted to do a short hike as well as visit the Museum of Prehistory. Unfortunately we woke up to rain, so we settled for just the museum.
The Gorges du Verdon is home to some of the oldest human artefacts in the world dating back 400,000 years, roughly the same time that humans harnessed the power of fire. There are approximately 60 archeological sites in the area including cave dwellings and paintings.
There was a race in the early 1970s to examine and catalogue archeological sites when the government decided to build three hydro dams in the area. The water was set to rise 100 metres and would likely cover many sites. In the end the most important cave was saved, but an entire village, a Roman bridge and other sites were covered by water.
Every so often I freak out about how much “school” the kids have done this year, but then we remind ourselves that school doesn’t need to be done in a classroom. Today the kids learned about science, geography and social studies.
They can describe what makes us human, know why sea levels fall during ice ages and understand how landscapes are shaped. They also picked up a few words in French, and saw some of the coolest dioramas simulating caves in the area.
They were excited to see Olduvai Gorge mentioned in the information, as we had passed by it on the way to the Serengeti. I’m thinking they’ll remember the info better than if they had read about it in a textbook!
Too bad our GPS does not have the same access to book learning. Today we were directed to turn left up a set of stairs. I know alleys can be small in Europe, but… seriously?