A Summer in South Central France (Cevennes)

For our local summer trip this year, V took the lead and planned a family trip with his sister and her kids. For myself, I was curious to see how a typical French summer trip would be like.

After much debate, they finally ended up choosing a camping in the Cevennes. I have never heard of Cevennes until that time, and I’ve only ever been once to a camping in Houlgate (Normandy).

CAMPING

For those who do not know, camping is like… a resort (kind of)… but in a large area wherein there are grounds for actual camping (as in tents) and with mini cottages that are these ready made houses that can be transported (I forget the term). We don’t really have a similar concept in the Philippines so it was very new to me. Anyway the main difference is that you just literally rent the place (or the ground if you’re camping). Sometimes you have to bring the sheets (or you have to put the sheets and remove them), do inventory, make sure everything is clean etc. In any case, they’re normally cheaper and you can only rent them on a weekly basis. Target customers are normally families with children as there are a lot of activities in the camps in the evening or morning for the kids.

We stayed in Camping Cap Fun Filament, which as you will see in the map, is in the middle of nowhere. The grounds were huge, it has 2 swimming pools (also big ones) and a lovely river (albeit a bit stagnant) running in the back. The place had a restaurant opened at night and lunch and a mini store that was open til lunch. Most of the time we just got all our supplies from the nearby Lidl and cooked. There are a bunch of activities for kids everyday of the week and basically if you’re well equipped, you can pretty much play any outdoor sport you can think of.

CEVENNES

The Cevennes is a huge national park found well, in Cevennes, found somewhere in south central France. Check out the wikipedia page because anything I have to explain about the Cevennes is covered there. The whole area is basically all green forests, mountains, rivers and of course, vineyards. Absolutely gorgeous place. Almost (Almost!) tropical like feeling in the summer as it was hot and relatively humid.

Getting there

I cannot recommend any other transportation other than going by car. You can perhaps take a train to one of the big cities nearby (Nimes, Avignon, Montpellier) and rent a car from there… but bottomline, you need a car in Cevennes and the surrounding areas.

We drove all the way from Douai at night and this took us around 10 hours (with stops) until our first destination (Aven d’Orgnac). It’s a long drive and we encountered some traffic in Lyon going and coming back, so I guess you really need to be motivated to drive.

So now you’re in Cevennes, what can you possibly do aside from lounging in the pool all day? The answer is A LOT.

Below I list down just some of the things of interest we did or went to in one week:

hide out in a cave: Aven d’Orgnac

Huge natural cave near the Ardeches. You can take a guided tour inside the cave which shows and explains the amazing rock formations and landscapes within. Not sure if they offer the tour in English though.

We saw some groups rappeling inside the cave so I think that is also possible with a guided tour.

Entry to the cave is paid. Check out their site for more.

visit a tropical forest: La BambouSerai en Cevennes

If you read the paragraph on Cevennes, I mention there that the climate in the Cevennes is a bit more humid than normal, thus a Bamboo forest was built. Ok it’s not just a bamboo forest. It’s a huge “garden” showcasing some tropical plants in themed areas. Expect to spend at least an hour.

It was a bit underwhelming for me as these are plants native to my home country but quite a trip to point them out and explain what they are to my French fam.

Entry to the Bambouserai is paid. Check out the ticketing area in their site for more.

explore the small villages: Lasalle

V and I took some time to explore the small villages around the camping. It meant having to walk a bit on the highway, but the views were still quite nice. We ended up walking some 3 kms to a small village called Lasalle, which I totally love because it’s the name of the university I went to.

Canyoning: river gard

Brochures Galore!

When we got to the camping, we picked up a bunch of different brochures of different activities being offered nearby. V had already done canyoning so I was quite interested to also try it out for myself. We decided to try the introductory canyoning of 3 hours with the company Sentier Vagabond.

What exactly is canyoning? Basically it’s traversing through canyons via any means possible. Hiking in dry land and water, climbing up rocks, swimming, and best of all, jumping off huge rocks or cliffs.

We were a group of around 10 of varied ages (from 8 to 40). We met in a nearby city and a guide from Sentiers Vagabond drove us to the side of a valley by the Gardon river. Here we parked and were given some special wetsuits to wear. The wetsuits keep you warm (the water is cold) and help you float. You’re advised to wear hiking waterproof shoes (do not wear flipflops). You also cannot bring anything that you don’t want to get wet. It’s impossible. The guide had one bag and some people only put some food.

After all the preps, we hiked down to the river and started our trek along the river. It’s quite hard to explain really, only that you hike, you swim, and you will have to jump off cliffs. The more daring ones (for example the last one we did was 6 to 8 meters – depending on what you choose) were optional of course, but once you see that your 8 year old group mate can do it, it makes you motivated to at least try. One tip, don’t look down.

Picture from the parking – we went down this valley to the river

Amazing activity. I’m quite sad to not have any other pictures but I don’t have a water proof camera so I’ll just keep this in my memories forever.

hiking: Ravin des arcs

We took a half day to check out some interesting hiking paths. Considering we had kids in the group, we had to choose one that was interesting, yet realistic enough for kids. We ended up doing a small tour of supposedly 1.5 hours (which ended up to be a 3 hour hike) in the Ravin des arcs.

As the name implies, it’s a small tour around a ravin. Our big mistake was going in the middle of the day, so in the times that we were out in the sun, it was quite difficult. It’s quite nice though as the path takes you through a dried up riverbed (perhaps not so dry during rainy days) so you are walking in huge rocks, which is quite fun (but difficult).

Swimming: take a dip on the River Herault

After the hiking, we decided to drive a bit further and ended up in the city of Laroque. Here, there is a quite nice beach area in front of the river Herault wherein you can just chill and swim in the river. Super refreshing after a hot day of hiking.

One of V’s friends knew a small secret area right on the other side of the church. It was less populated and more quiet than the “main beach” area.

View from the beach

CITY TOUR: NIMES

We drove an hour from the camping to the historical city of Nimes. Spent one day in this lovely (and quite big) city. Maybe will do a separate post someday but my favorite things were the Roman Arena and the Jardin de la Fontaine.

swim again: Cascades dU Sautadet

As one of our last activities before leaving, we decided to go and check out the Cascades du Sautadet. From the parking, you will see a lovely city called Laroque sur Ceze. You have to walk a bit from the parking to the waterfalls, just follow the river and you will end up at the waterfalls. The area is quite huge, picturesque and popular.

TAKE PHOTOS: LAROQUE SUR CEZE

As mentioned, the parking of the waterfalls is actually at the bottom of a village called Laroque sur Ceze. It’s actually a member of the beautiful villages of France, and rightly so. If we had more time, it could also be interesting to visit the city along with a visit to the falls.

This is just a short list of things that are possible in the area. To be honest, exploring more of France has made me realize how rich and varied the land is. I look forward to exploring more!

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