Summer 2015
The Other Face of France

Gorges du Verdon
Also known as the "Grand Canyon of France," the Gorges is a canyon located in Provence. Previously under water, the distinctive, striated limestone rock formations with aqua water below are a sight to behold.  It is said that the most stunning part is the canyon between Castellane and Moustiers Sainte Marie, where the valley can plunge 700 metres / 2,300 feet deep, offering dizzying views downwards and breathtaking vistas across the valley.

More info on the Gorges, and when to visit, is available here. 



Bruoux Mines


One of the most unusual attractions in Luberon's ochre country is a tour of the Bruoux Mines in Gargas, a disused underground quarry converted into an imposing cathedral of color. Visitors can steep themselves in history by touring the mines and learning about their role in the Second World War, and also in the lives of local married couples. 

More info at



Mont Ventoux


If you've ever wanted to walk, cycle, or drive up a mountain (or do all three!) Mont Ventoux is for you! Today, boosted by its regular presence as one of the toughest stages on the Tour de France circuit, Mont Ventoux is a Mecca for cyclists. But the

rich variety of ecosystems, flora and fauna, which is now classed by UNESCO as a Biosphere Reserve, is accessible to anyone scaling the mount, even those by car.


Learn more.
Pont du Gard


The Pont du Gard is a major Roman monument, a masterpiece of engineering, a thing of great beauty. The Romans built the Pont du Gard in around 50 AD: there are no surviving records of the project, but it can be dated roughly from archaeological excavations.  


More info at
The Calanques


The calanques (pronounced "kalonk") extend for almost 20 km / 12.4 miles south-east along the coast between Marseille and Cassis, snuggled in the folds of a mountain range of which the highest peaks are Marseilleveyre (432 metres / 1400 feet) and Mont Puget (565 metres / 1850 feet). A spectacular series of looming white limestone rocks scored through with deep valleys, they're the backdrop to a unique ecosystem, colourful fishing villages, peaceful creeks with intense, clear turquoise water and a wide range of sporting activities. 



More info at


At the western edge of the Luberon's ochre country, russet-red Roussillon sits on a hill 10 km / 6 miles east of Gordes and is one of the Plus Beaux Villages de France (Most Beautiful Villages of France).


The sudden explosion of brilliant colour in the landscape - set off by green forests of pines and oaks - comes as a dramatic surprise as you drive through this area. It's still not known exactly why the geological changes should have caused these pigments precisely here and not elsewhere in the region, but one explanation involves a troubadour, a ch�telaine and a doomed love affair!


More Info





The route des Cr�tes takes you on a magnificent ride between Cassis and La Ciotat, with 360 degree views over some of the most superb scenery in Provence all along the way.  



More info at




As Greece faces a difficult economic turn, the country is relying on tourism for a financial boost. With prices plummeting, this might be the perfect season to visit Greece, just make sure you bring some Euros with you.


The Guardian makes a case for visiting the country now.


Time has some tips, should you choose to go.




Carnival, the largest cruise line in the world, announced this week that it received approval from the US Department of Treasury and the US Department of Commerce to begin travel to Cuba. Exactly what that travel will entail - and whether Cuba will also approve it - remains to be seen. Vice  has the full story.


Let's Travel! highlighted Havana, Cuba, in our Winter 2014 Tattler. To read our highlights, click here.



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Our Travel Style:
Go with the Flow



 I've already come out as a fan of loosely making, or making and then breaking, travel plans. It seems to me that the entire point of travel is openness: opening one's heart to new sights, new foods, new places. And, more deeply, new relationships, new cultures, unforeseen adventures, surprises. 



It's tough to be open to surprises. To be sure, there are plenty of travel options in which we can go to a fairly secluded beach, eat all of our meals there, and interact with others very little. There are travel options that boast a fine schedule and menu, all featured in American English. No doubt, those vacations have merit, too. But, even if we do count them as this meaty, rich thing that is travel, I question if they're fulfilling in the same way.



This past June, I went to France on a work trip that ended in Nice. I realized that, in Nice, I was merely hours away from the Gorges Du Verdon, an incredible gorge that lives up to its nickname as the "French Grand Canyon."


The Gorges, c/o Arava Biton


I had to go. However, a few French connections and the trusty Trip Advisor all confirmed that the Gorges couldn't be reached without a rental car. Public buses drive to the closest town, Castellane, but the Gorges is still too far to walk (unless you're prepared to hike for a day or two) and too mountainous to bike.


For a number of reasons, including stick-shift skills that are poor at best, renting a wasn't an option for me. Still, it seemed unwise to give up on the Gorges altogether (when was the next time that I was going to be within hours of the site?). I stubbornly plopped myself on a bus to Castellane and said a few prayers for luck.


Notre Dame du Roc, Castellane


In Castellane, the woman at the Tourism Office confirmed that, without a rental car, reaching the Gorges wasn't possible. It became clear that I had three options: 

1. Take a shuttle that would drive there the following day (I waited for it the next morning; it never came); 

2. Walk 6-7 hours to the Gorges and walk the same distance back (there are no food/bathroom options en route); 3. Don't go at all. Headstrong, I resolved to have lunch in Castellane and try to beg a taxi driver (this would require first finding a taxi driver, which is not so easy in a French Medieval town) to drive me there that afternoon.


I was mulling this over on the cobblestone street when Denisa and Arava approached me. They were both my age, and they were traveling together; they also had come to Castellane to see the Gorges. They had a rental car, and they wanted to go white water rafting on the Gorges, but they needed a third person.


Oh, were they in luck. Oh, was I.


Swimming in the Gorges


In the end, I ended up not just seeing the Gorges, but white water rafting in it and then paddle-boating in one of its lakes. It was a lucky break that Denisa, Arava and I ran into each other, and luckier still that they turned out to be two of the funnest, loveliest travel companions I've met to date. My "plan" --which was to show up in Castellane and hope for the best-- worked. But I realize it could have just as easily gone the other way.


Sometimes, going with the flow and not having a plan works out brilliantly. Sometimes it ends up failing miserably. But, whatever the outcome, if you're shown one gesture of kindness, if you lay your eyes on one beautiful thing, if you have your breath taken away by one simple taste of goodness, it all becomes worth it. Maybe, admittedly, testing one's boundaries, taking a leap of faith, venturing out without a true plan, isn't one big walk on the beach. But, then again, that's travel.


Image c/o Arava Biton


 I've included info on the gorgeous Gorges du Verdon in the column on the left. And, for those wise enough to rent a car, there's info on road trips through France (including the one that Arava and Denisa did!), too.


Whatever your travel style, here's wishing you happy travels.


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