Sunday, September 1, 2013

Excursion à Grotte de Camouse et Pont du Diable

Dimanche, 1 septembre.

Today we had our third and final excursion. This time, we took a short bus trip to Saint-Jean-de-Fos, a commune located in the same department as Montpellier. (Side note: This kind of commune doesn't mean a bunch of hippies farming beets ... it's just another level of administration, like a township in the States.) Saint-Jean-de-Fos is home to a couple of famous sites, including la Grotte de Clamouse, le Pont du Diable, and l'Abbeye de Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert. You'll have to stay tuned for more pictures from the town of St. Guilhelm because there was just too much pretty to fit all in one post!

First off: la Grotte de Clamouse. Caves. Lots and lots of beautiful caves. (And the view outside wasn't bad either -- check it out!)

The grottos are a very popular tourist site, but that doesn't mean that they're particularly easy to access. It's been a while since I was in Luray Caverns back in Virginia, but I'm pretty sure they're an easier climb. La Grotte de Clamouse is full of steep stairs, slippery stone floors, and some pretty far drops -- let's just say, I did NOT let go of the railing!

It's hard to wrap your brain around the age of the caverns. They weren't discovered until 1945, but they've been sitting like this, virtually undisturbed, for millions and millions of years. Even the tiny little stalactites that look more like icicles than anything else are thousands of years old -- they only grow a centimer every one hundred years!

Although the fancy stalactite formations are the most ice catching, I was fascinated by even the simplest of caverns. Imagine, this all used to be solid bedrock. Water -- the exact same as was dripping on my head from the cavern ceiling -- did all this. It's incredible.

You can see more (better) photos of the Grottes de Clamouse here on their official website.

After finally exiting the caverns -- by which time I was very happy to be back on my way to fresh air and sunshine --  we got back on our bus and headed down the road to the tiny town of Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert. Like I said, that post will have to wait for another day!

But in the meantime, how about we skip ahead to le Pont du Diable? One of the oldest Roman bridges in France, it was built in 873 and has a variety of entertaining legends about the origin of its forboding name. (You can try to read one here in French... I'll translate the basics in the comments if you're curious!) Now, however, the name is eerily appropriate because of the inherent danger of the bridge.

I know, it doesn't look dangerous at all! Like the Pont du Gard, the bridge crosses over a swimming-friendly river with a little rocky beach and shallow water for wading. Also like the Pont du Gard, the riverbank around the ridge is scattered with big rocks that tons of locals and tourists jump from. Some even jump off the top of the bridge. (We saw two!) However, UNLIKE Gard, it's not at all a safe bet. The jump is incredibly dangerous for those who don't know exactly where and how to jump and we were warned at least a dozen times to not even THINK about trying.

Although we didn't get much time at the little rocky beach, it was nice to get in the water after a long day of exploring! We were absolutely exhausted on the way home and fell asleep almost as soon as we got back on the bus, but I wouldn't have traded the experience for all the naps in the world. (And that means a lot, because I am seriously nap-deprived.) I'm really going to miss our excursions once the semester gets started -- almost as much as I'm going to miss our super cute French tour guides! Still, Christophe (our guide) told us to email or text him if we had questions or wanted advice, so I'm sure Molly and I will take advantage of his expertise when planning our first trips.

Last note -- happy twenty-third anniversary to my mommy and daddy! I wish you could have been here exploring with me (you two would just LOVE the places we visited), but I know you had a wonderful day having adventures of your own back in Virginia! Grosses bises!


  1. J'aime la legende du Pont du diable, qui n'aime pas que le diable soit vaincu...
    Connais-tu la legende du "Moulin du diable" de mon pays?
    Merci encore pour tes comptes rendus. J'adore!

  2. Very interesting! I would love to know more about any and all of it. Merci! Je t'aime!

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