It’s nearly 9pm and it’s still around 30 degrees on the terrace this evening.The weather over the last couple of weeks has been bizarre, ranging from the day I got in the car at Uzès to see the display reading 47 degrees to a week ago when the temperature dropped to an unseasonable low of 20 degrees. Over the last week though we have settled into reliably warm days where the thermometer has constantly reached about 35 degeees – a little too warm for pusscat who is shedding her fur at a rate of knots and has taken to finding any patch of shade to stretch out in. I must admit to loving the heat and there’s real pleasure in being able to sit out into the late evening without having to consider adding a layer or two!
That said there are some days when you just fancy cooling off a little and I thought I’d share 3 very different places to visit if you enjoy water-based activities.
Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer is quite a drive from us (2 hours with a good run) but it’s always worth the effort.
Whenever we visit the small coastal town in the Camargue we feel as if we have been transported to a different land.
The landscape changes the minute you leave the motorway at Arles and start the long drive down the peninsular.
The main road takes you along the spine of the Camargue, passing through paddy fields, where the famous Camargue rice is grown…..
Before passing through salt-marshes (already dry and cracked this summer), where you may catch your first sight of the black bulls or white horses that the area is famous for, or even the pink shimmer of a flamboyance of flamingos in the distance.
As you draw nearer to Saintes-Maries then you notice the distinct thatched roofs on the low buildings that again make the area appear so completely different to the surrounding departments.
Saintes-Maries de-la-Mer itself is a bustling place (market day on a Monday) – with narrow streets in the pretty old town that sits behind the beaches and marina.
The beaches (and there are many) stretch along the coast and even in the height of the season you can still find a quiet spot to relax & swim in the beautifully clear sea.
One of the boys’ favourite activities is to hire a pedalo (with its own slide) for an hour and to pedal out beyond the main swimming area to just enjoy the water.
The town is a great place to visit, a far cry from the many built-up resorts further along the coast.
It has a wonderfully relaxed charm about it and is certainly a favourite beach day out for us, even in the height of summer.
About 10 years ago we were staying on a farm camp site at Lagnes and got chatting to the couple next door, who recommended that we visit the Vallée Du Toulourenc.
The boys at that time were 9 and 7 and as the site didn’t have a pool we were keen to find activities that would keep them cool, apart from playing in the farm’s sprinklers, which to be honest was a firm favourite of theirs!
From our first visit to The Toulourenc we were hooked. When the couple said it’s a nice walk up a river, we didn’t think they meant it literally!
Parking near Veaux, tucked under the northern flank of the Giant of Provence, Le Mont Ventoux, you walk down into the river valley and then just wade up the river.
Most of the time it is ankle deep, but in places deepens in narrow limestone cuttings, worn smooth over many thousands of years by the river.
There are little waterfalls to be scaled and large rocks to clamber across – wearing sensible shoes (e.g. old trainers) is a must!
To be honest it’s hours of entertainment for anyone with active kids, who doesn’t mind the occasional bruised or scratched knee.
I always imagine that back in the UK anything similar would be littered with warning signs and barriers, but that would just ruin what is a wonderful day out and a fantastic way to keep cool on the hottest of days. Don’t forget to pack a picnic & plenty of water as there is nothing there apart from an ice cream van on the bridge at the start!
The only note of caution I would make is don’t visit if there is any threat of a thunderstorm or heavy rain as the potential for a flash flood there would be high.
3. Splashworld – Monteux
This is really the only activity that costs money, but if you enjoy water slides, or just drifting in a ‘lazy river’ then this is the place to go. http://www.splashworld.net/fr/parc-theme-aquatique/attractions.html
Over the years we’ve visited parks close to Marseille and along the Riviera, but Splashworld opened in the last couple of years and is much closer, in fact within an easy hour’s drive, which makes it a much better option for us.
The smart new waterpark is easy to find and is situated next to the Lac de Monteux just off the main road to Avignon a few kilometres south of Carpentras
It’s a new, purpose-built facility covering a large site and has some great rides for those seeking a bit of an adrenaline rush….
But also the chance to just lie on a lounger, jump through waves in the well designed beach area or simply grab a ring and bob around in the gentle flow of the ‘lazy river’.
There’s also a great area for smaller children with slides, pools and watersplashes.
The other great thing about is is the view. Mont Ventoux towers in the distance and the uninterrupted view of it makes the climb up the towering slides worth the effort.
It isn’t a cheap day out with a family ticket costing just over 100€ and no food or drink no is allowed in (bags are searched on entry) so you have to factor that in as well, but for a one off day it is worth doing & the boys (and friends) have always had a good time.
The great thing now (as they are in their late teens) is that they are happy to go in on their own, which gives us the chance for a few hours wandering around nearby Carpentras market, or the antique shops of L’Isle Sur La Sorgue.
Of course there are lots of other water-based activities to keep you cool on the hottest of days, including other beautiful beaches, kayaking on the Sorgue near Fontaine de Vaucluse or the visiting the spectacular Gorges de Verdon.
Alternatively there are many local public swimming pools, but be aware – wearing ‘budgie-smugglers’ for men is obligatory!
Now what to do tomorrow?