The Gorges du Tarn with the family,
and the Boatmen
Our first holiday as a trio
For our first holiday with our little one, we wanted unspoilt landscapes, fresh air and calm. So, in a fine week in September, we headed for the Département of Lozère. More precisely, to La Malène, in the Gorges du Tarn. Eric was waiting for us, all smiles. Native of the area, he has chosen to continue a job that is nearly 8 centuries old: as a boatman. We made a connection straightaway. His professional attitude reassured us. The only thing left to do is to get on board.
Info for… photographers: if you leave in the morning, you have the sun behind you and can take better photos to immortalise the beauty of the Gorges.
More than a job, a passion
With the first few strokes of the oar, La Malène disappears behind us. Silence falls. A moment of serenity, communing with nature. You feel very small, surrounded by nature. Even Elliott doesn't stop staring at the countryside… when Eric finally starts speaking, he tells us stories as we glided along. We learn, for example, that in 1905, these boats nearly disappeared. But the boatmen fought to maintain their traditions. Those guys really love their river! And that changes everything.
An open-air Noah's Ark
OK, so we're getting carried away. But for a place as glorious as this, no adjective seems over the top. So let's talk about this place. The Gorges du Tarn. A world of water and minerals – a little paradise on earth. Protected by a National Park, the Gorges du Tarn contain an incredibly rich biodiversity. Herons, trout, vultures: in the peace and quiet of the morning, the animals are happy to be observed. So you keep your eyes wide open. You don't want to miss even a tiny bit of the spectacle.
the "Rock des Rocs". Have a good look, and try to see the mythical couple of the Gorges: 2 rocks, larger than life, that seem caught up in an eternal dance!
The Tarn, with its Zen side and its thrills
Then we get to the hamlet of La Croze, where you can only get to the little limestone houses by boat or via a basket! Waking each morning in this little timeless bubble, you can only be Zen, don't you think? While accepting our theory, Eric warns us: the Tarn is full of surprises… Then suddenly in front of us, an "unidentified flying object" appears! A man has just thrown himself off a cliff, with an elastic rope attached to his waist. Guaranteed shivers, for him as well as us!
At the deepest part of the canyon, the Cirque des Baumes
Leaving the UFO behind us, we thought we'd finished with goosebumps. But we hadn't counted on having to cross the Cirque des Baumes. It's the showstopper, Eric tells us. A concentrated version of the Gorges, where the canyon becomes narrower still, and, especially, higher. At this precise spot, there are 500 metres of rock above us. We couldn't help exclaiming at such beauty. Which made Eric smile. He is obviously used to this kind of reaction!
Paul, vacancier : "Le paradis, nous pouvons attendre un peu. Mais n’attendez surtout pas pour faire l’expérience de descendre le Tarn, paradis sur Terre" (Avis TripAdvisor).
Falling in love…
The last few strokes of the oar for Eric, the last few moments of pure magic for us. The time comes to get out of the boat. The boat is lifted gently into the air using a system of pulleys. It just remains for us to get into the minibus to go back to La Malène. As we leave Eric, we see the Gorges in a different way. And secretly, we've fallen a bit in love with them. So to prolong the experience, we are going to have a paddle in the Tarn, under the bridge at La Malène. Simple pleasures bring great happiness.
Where to sleep and eat, what to do?
BOATMEN OF GORGES OF THE TARN
RESTAURANT DU MANOIR DE MONTESQUIOU
MANOIR DE MONTESQUIOU
CHATEAU DE LA CAZE
HOTEL DU MONT SERVY
- By car, take the D907bis (2¼ hrs by road from Montpellier via the A75)
- By tourist shuttles (during the months of July and August)