Archive for Ardèche

Saoû

Posted in Kids, Mountains, Travel with tags , , , , on May 3, 2010 by xi'an

Right after the fateful (!) descent of Ardèche, we went for dinner to the little village of Saoû, near Crest. The place is quite interesting for several reasons:  (a) it has a very specific architercture, with high houses and a nice Roman church; (b) it is surrounded by cliffs with many possible climbs at all levels, including a solitary rock promontory almost in the middle of the town (I wished we had spent the day there rather than facing the rocks in the middle of Ardèche!); (b) despite its very small size of 500 inhabitants, it has a very rich cultural life with concerts of classical and folk music all year long; (d) a microbrewery, Markus bière,  with unfiltered and unpasteurised beers ranging from white to dark, a beergarden, and occasional concerts; and (e) a terrific restaurant called L’Oiseau sur sa Branche that serves very imaginative dishes based on local products in a pseudo-grocery environment or on the village plaza. (We went there for dinner about ten years ago fnd my daughter (harmlessly) fell in the plaza fountain, much to the amusement of the other dinners if not ours!) So this was a most pleasant ending to a very full day…

or dinner

Hell’s ride down Ardèche

Posted in Kids, Mountains, Travel with tags , , , , on May 1, 2010 by xi'an

Being in vacation in Ardèche, south east of France, we went for a “white water” canoe trip along the Ardèche canyon. The river sounded peaceful enough for a 25km family trip down the river and the company who rented us the three (sea) kayaks dumped us at Pont d’Arc with the boats and waterproof barrels without any explanation about handling the boats or managing the 30 or so rapids along the way. We had used sea-kayaks in Australia for turtle watching near Mission Beach with no other damages than sunburned feet, but this trip almost ended up dramatically! After passing the first half of the way most pleasantly (or in blissful ignorance), we ended up hitting a huge rock in a naughty passage that made our boat capsize. I hit the rock as well while my wife had a difficult time getting from under the boat and it is only thanks to the other kayaks in the group that we managed to recover our boat! I lost my glasses in the event and spent the rest of the descent in a colourful fog. And experienced a fit of hypothermia from spending five minutes swimming in the 10C water. (We capsized a second time in a milder passage with no further consequence and another boat in our group also capsized, hitting a rock that cut deeply my brother-in-law’s hand…)

We came back to the kayak bases with those few cuts and no further accident, but I am fairly unhappy with the whole trip! In restrospect, the potential dangers of the trip were too important to be ignored and the lack of warning from the companies renting the kayak is appaling in that they present the trip as fun and thrilling, while omitting to mention the high accident rate (that we discovered a posteriori). This irresponsible attitude is equivalent to providing beginners with ropes and harnesses and letting them rappel a 10m cliff on their own! Especially when kids above 7 can take part in the trip with only a life jacket and an helmet. (When the boat capsizes in a strong and swirling current, it is impossible to get hold of anyone else: I got separated from my wife by a distance of twenty meters within a few seconds!) On the positive side, the views were terrific, the weather very nice, and I even avoided the usual blisters! But I am not considering repeating the experiment without first pairing with an experienced kayaker.