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Moustiers-Sainte-Marie has truly amazing roads, bridging between the Gorge de Verdon and the Plateau de Valensole, which is famous for its lavender fields. A mix of countryside, ancient towns, national parks, and lavender fields as far as the eye can see, the surrounding region is a driver’s destination packed with photo ops. It’s one of my favorite getaway spots – in the summer, extremely hot, compact and walkable, with plenty to do (or not – make sure you have a pool at your hotel). Two nights are ideal. On our last visit in early July 2023, it was crowded but not unmanageably so; we were told the real crowds arrive later in July or August. 

Moustiers-Sainte-Marie was a village of stationers, potters and drapers in the middle ages. It became famous in the 17th century after a monk from Faenza, near Bologna, introduced the secret of enameling (tin-glazed earthenware), and there remains a lot of local production still. My favorite stores were La Chaîne (traditional plus some interesting, more modern options) and Faïence Bondil (traditional). Architectural highlights include the church, with its pre-Roman vault, 14th-century nave and square Lombard tower, and the chapel of Notre-Dame-de-Beauvoir, a blend of gothic and Romanesque architecture, reached by 262 steps (steep, but only about a 15 minute climb with great views).

Lodging

This is a three-star hotel town, with many options that are all just fine. La Bastide may be the only four star, and a step above the others.

  • We loved ***La Bastide de Moustiers, including the Michelin star restaurant. Amazing food, beautiful pool, great service. It would be fun to stay for two nights and have the second dinner in town.
  • **Hôtel de la Ferme Rose was comfortable and had a nice pool. The main areas have a fair amount of decorative kitsch, breakfast was nicely done, and friendly staff. It’s out in the fields so expect bugs. Very well priced. We’d recommend.
  • **Hotel Les Restanques De Moustiers was a perfectly fine family option, within easy walking distance of town, with parking. It leans functional, but the pool is fine and the staff are friendly. Also well-priced.
  • Logis Hôtel la Bonne Auberge: not recommended, we checked it out, on the dingy side.

Food

  • **Café Marguerite appeared to be the local choice for cocktails at night – it has great views over the town and up to the chapel.
  • *Le Chardon-Marie will not get a repeat visit. The menu is trying hard to be fancy, with fancy prices. The major downside is the location, right on the main square. In the summer they have dancing, and a terrible/loud DJ, making for a jarring experience.
  • **Gaudineto was a good lunch option, with a patio on the back over the gorge. It’s a bit hippy – think avocado toast – but well executed.
  • **Ferme Sainte-Cécile: Just outside Moustiers, Ferme Sainte-Cécile offers delicious Provençal dining and a good wine list. It has a much more local/authentic feel than most of the restaurants in town. It’s a husband-wife duo, and the food was excellent.
  • Restaurant Les Tables du Cloitre looked appealing, one of the nicer options in town.

Gorge du Verdon

I can’t say enough about how excellent this was, particularly if you like wild scenery and windy roads. By car, along the top, take the D952 (***awesome road!) to La Palud-sur-Verdon, a picturesque 8,000-year-old former potters’ village with a Romanesque 12th-century church tower. From there, transition to the D23, a barrier-less cliff road called the Route des Crêtes, or Crest Road. An extraordinary 14.3-mile loop that ascends to 4,429 feet, with plenty of sheer drops and vistas down to the gorge below.

From the bottom, you can join the hordes of crowds for a kayak or paddle through the gorge itself. It’s a zoo, but fun simply for that reason. It’s not particularly long or strenuous, and there are various points to dive off the cliffs, or cool in the shade. You don’t need to reserve in advance (there are several places with rentals), unless you want an electric boat, which sell out quickly.

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