Whenever we come down to Provence for a prolonged period we always bring the animals with us.It’s a Dog’s Life in Provence
Happily Pusscat immediately adapts to life here, switching from being a Devonian cat to a full-blown Provencal resident, spending her days chasing Lizards and Grasshoppers or stretching out in the shade under one of the chairs on the terrace……
For Millie though it’s a different story and although she loves her early morning walks in the cool of the day, she then spends the rest of her time stretched out on the stone floor in the cool of the ‘cave’, seeking out any chilly spot she can and avoiding stepping outside the door if she can possibly avoid it until mid-evening, when she feels she can just about cope with the heat…
Although she has been clipped and we brush her regularly, her thick fur is not really the most appropriate coat for summer in the South of France.
So last week we decided to take her for a walk along the Vallee du Toulourenc, which we knew would put a spring in her step that we’d been missing as she is never happier than when she’s wet and preferably dirty too… It’s important to check the weather before going as it is prone to flash flooding during thunderstorms or heavy rain, but the weather was set fair, so off we went
The Vallee Du Toulourenc sits at the bottom of the northern slopes of Mont Ventoux, running from Montbrun Les Bains towards Malaucene, where the landscape is so different to the open slopes to the South. The Vallee is sandwiched between the towering wooded slopes of The ‘Geant de Provence’ on one side and pretty villages (including Brantes) clinging to rocky outcrops on the other.
We started the day with breakfast sitting on the Terrace of the La Promenade De Justin, overlooking the lavender fields at Sault, grabbing a sandwich from the excellent boulangerie in the town…..
….before heading off along the lavender-filled, Aurel Valley towards Montbrun Les Bains, taking the road towards Vaison La Romaine, then pulling off into a wooded parking area by a bridge a few km beyond Brantes.
As soon as we opened the boot of the car Millie was off, running towards the water in the river below, immediately sinking down and lying in it as can only be expected from a water-loving Golden Retriever.
The walk along the River Toulourenc is different to so many other river walks, in that it isn’t a walk along a river bank, but a walk along a river bed instead. With little more than a pair of comfortable shoes and swimwear being needed you can have a great day ambling through the crystal clear, cool water of the river as it runs gently through the valley.
As we expected, Millie soon had a spring in her step, bouncing through the water and enjoying swimming in the deeper pools that form in the slow moving water under the steep banks…
She was fascinated that she could see fish just below the surface, often stopping and snuffling her nose under the water to see what she could catch …. needless to say she didn’t manage to catch anything!
For us too it was a delightful walk, spending just over an hour ambling through the water, which for most of the walk was calf-deep, although at times reached our upper thighs (hence the swimwear) always feeling cool, despite the temperature being in the mid 30s.
Not only is the Valley stunning, but it’s also incredibly peaceful, especially at this Eastern end as most visitors tend to spend time in the narrow Gorge, with its deep pools at the Western end near Veaux.A Beach, a Gorge & Waterslides – 3 cool & wet places in Provence for the summer.
In fact during the day we only saw a handful of people, all sitting on the banks near the access points, rather than walking through the flow.
As you walk through the water you get a sense of the changing geology of the valley, with the banks changing from pebbles to slabs of harder stone, eroded over thousands of years to create the channels for the river to flow through…
The only things accompanying our walk, apart from the splashing of a happy and cool dog, were the butterflies and dragonflies flitting around us and the Grey Wagtail dashing from stone to stone in the river ahead of us. Birds of Prey circled overhead and there was the constant chatter of Cicadas from the trees growing on the banks
We were surprised to see a Praying Mantis standing on a rock, apparently enjoying the cooling spray from a waterfall just behind it. I’m not sure which of us was more fascinated with the other … if I didn’t know better I would have said that it actually posed for this photo, turning its head to look directly at the phone just as I pressed the button!
After ambling for an hour we sat on the bank in the shade of the trees to enjoy our baguettes, although I have the feeling Millie was quite keen to enjoy some of it too!
Then we just sat and watched the world and water go by for a couple of hours. Millie just laid in the shade by us and slept, not panting for the first time since arriving in France 6 weeks ago … she was certainly at her happiest and we were pretty contented too.
Eventually we dragged ourselves back to our feet and started the walk back the way we had come … at least walking up and down a river bed there is only one option so you can’t get lost.
The walk back was just as gentle as the walk down with just one moment of interest when Millie was sniffing at a rock when all of a sudden a small snake emerged and started swimming towards us . I wish I could say we reacted calmly to the situation, but it was more like a scene out of a cartoon with our legs moving so quickly that we could (I’m sure) have run across the surface of the water if we had wanted to.
After another gentle hour’s walk we arrived back at the car with an incredibly happy, chilled out dog, who for once seemed to have seen the positive side of Provence
I have a feeling we’ll be back there again before we leave in a couple of weeks time to spend another cool, peaceful and delightful day in the river with the dog