5 days in medieval Moustiers Ste Marie (24th to the 28th June)

the village of moustiers ste marie and the cliffs behind lavender fields

All along the way from Barcelonnette to Moustiers we drove through the stunning countryside of Provence with its legendary lavender fields that came into bloom almost coinciding with the day we arrived (On the first sighting of these trippy purple fields I started to squeal and Bastion spontaneously stopped the car, jumped into a field to pluck some lavender for me. Approaching the village of Moustiers Ste Marie from the distance, the views of clusters of little houses on the hillside flanked by steep chalky cliffs looked simply magical.

We had 5 days here and had made sketchy plans to visit Marseilles and Aix en Provence, but once we got to Moustiers and its surrounds (the Pays du Verdon) we were captivated. There was so much to see, do and experience right here. The flying was really good and put a big smile on your face. We soon slipped into easy flow holiday mood.

5 days of spectacular flying, exploring the stunning Gorges of Verdon, doing some radical rock climbing and retreating each night to the comfort of Philippe and Karen’s captivating home a medieval Provencal farmhouse home 4 km from the nearest village surrounded by mountains covered with pine forests and grassy meadows. Sitting there under Vincent’s stars listening to the cicadas and the occasional barking deer, eating a fabulous meal cooked by Karine and enjoying compatible company was simply fabulous.

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Paragliding in Moustiers Ste Marie

The main home site here is Courchon and the flying is mainly late afternoon. dsc01366.JPGThe takeoff is located on the cliffs above the village of Moustier (900 meters)  from where the steep calciferous cliff faces give way to gentler sloping hillsides covered with low scrub vegetation about 300 meters below. The landing is at 450 meters altitude and about couple of kilometers ahead as the crow flies. The take off is fairly clean but there are bushes ahead so in a low wind you have to keep running.  In summer the area is known to have a strong west wind but we had equitable conditions which made me very happy. One gains height by thermalling out over the lower hills when you gain decent height you can hop across over the gorge to the left or fly out over the village to the right– a very pretty picture.

As you go out and loose  altitude over the landing you can smell the lavender in the lifting air as you fly over the fields and then as one descends further you ride over the wafts of intoxicating fragrance of the sweet smelling bright yellow bushes of Spanish Broom until you descend to earth. Pack up in the soft golden evening sunshine and make your way back up the hillside to Moustiers to meet up for some honey beer ( the famous lavender honey beer of Moustier Ste Marie) and mingle until its time to head back through the stunning gorges back home for the night.

Moustiers has a sizeable population of local pilots who turn up here on a good day – quite the Shelar super Sunday atmosphere. I was totally fascinated by an ancient roman trail here that Philippe pointed out to us. Flying here I kept imagining the roman legions marching by a la Asterix and Obelix was another trip.

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Pavilion Takeoff: One day we did an early morning flight from another takeoff above Moustiers called the pavilion takeoff which is located at 1600 meters altitude. A nice walk over undulating hills and many sheep later we reached the top of this mountain to encounter stunning views of the gorges hills and plains below.

We took off facing due north turned west down the slope and headed out through the hills over a gorge and out towards the top of the Courchon takeoff (900m ) and further ahead to the same landing at (450m) this left us free to  wander through the village and the lake or take a boat and head out through the gorge on the Verdon to find a shady place to do a spot of rock climbing and hunt for fossils  until it was time to fly again in the afternoon.

Aiguines – the takeoff is called ‘Crete des Vermis’ at an altitude of 980 located above the village of Aiguines that is nestled above the lake. From here too the cliffs give way to gentler sloped scrub covered hills going  down in terraces to meet the lake and a sandy beach where the pilots land.

The take off is very limited in terms of space,  the slope is steep and one takes off in a thermic gust, uses little thermals to gain lift on the slopes and over the gorges or head out to fly above the lake and the landing is out ahead on the sandy beach. I did an awesome tandem flight with Philippe from here. A thrilling takeoff gaining height by scratching really close to the hillside and then crossing over the back of the mountain and over the gorge with the river snaking and glinting way below. We maintained a height of about 1700 meters, enjoyed the most breathtaking sights and flew along the entire back face to land at Moustiers

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After 5 days of sun, scents, high imagination and adventure and high emotion we said goodbye to Karine Bastion Sam and headed out with Philippe in his van to Annecy approximately 4 hours away.

Click Nirvana in Moustiers Ste Marie to see more pictures of our experience here.

We lost our camera at on the last day in Moustiers. Luckily Sunith had a little camera so we do have some pictures.

Click here to see some fascinating pictures of Moustiers ste Marie