Last summer, we did a 10 day road trip through parts of Germany, Switzerland, Italy and France. Our itinerary was: Berlin – Weimar – Heidelburg – Freiburg – Lucerne – Lake Como – La-Spezia – Cinque Terre – Bussana Vecchia – Monaco – Éze – Gorges du Verdon – Moustiers-Sainte-Marie – Valensole – Chamonix – Tübingen – Swäbisch Hall – Berlin.
Our friend’s brother tipped us off about Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, one of the most beautiful villages in France, and we made a point of stopping there enroute from Éze to Valensole. In my previous trip entry, we had taken a paddle-boat on the Lac de Sainte Croix at the end of the Gorges du Verdon, Europe’s biggest gorge. Moustiers-Sainte-Marie lies at the western entrance of this gorge, tucked away among the rocks. There are a couple of special things about it:
- This medieval village has been an important centre for pottery since the 18th century, especially faïence, a kind of painted pottery. We spotted many beautiful pieces here, mostly beyond our budget. However it’s a perfect place for picking up a memorable gift for somebody, treat yourself, or alternatively just enjoy window shopping. There is a museum about the history of pottery making in Moustiers.
- There is a star strung across the town from one side of the gorge to the other, making it feel like you’ve wandered into a nativity scene. Legend has it that the knight Bozon de Blacas promised to hang a star over his village if he managed to return home after being a prisoner of war during the crusades, sometime in the 10th century. The original star has been replaced many times.
- The village has a “Stations of the Cross” that follows a steep limestone path up into the gorge, leading to the church at the top, Notre-Dame de Beauvoir. Walking up this route feels like a mini-pilgrimage and was very special. It also offered breathtaking views over the red-tiled rooftops of the village at sunset. The path is a little bit slippery as it is limestone, so take care. A hand-rail is provided.
- Down in the village, another defining feature of the village is the beautiful church Notre-Dame-de-l’Assomption
- You can take scenic walks in the area. A Roman road runs through the village, and there is a waterfall right in the town, as a spring flows out of the limestone cliff against which the village is built.
- My own experience also included one of the best ice-creams I’ve had at an ice-cream shop near the entrance of the old town (rum and raisin with real rum, for those who are interested!) and a delicious gallette with blue cheese and walnuts for dinner.
To finish, a few more photos of charming Moustiers-Sainte-Marie. Following our gallette supper, we headed off to our overnight resting stop, another medieval village called Valensole, in the middle of the lavender region of France.