Family Kayaking in Southern France

Pont-du-Gard

When I think of traveling to France, I envision long romantic dinners,  strolling hand in hand with my husband and savoring an afternoon espresso at an outdoor cafe.  This was how I experienced France in the past. Without kids.

(Insert record scratch….)

Not this time.  Enter baseball hat, bathing suit, copious amounts of sunblock and splash-happy  kids loaded in two orange kayaks while gliding below one of the most magnificent World Heritage Sites on the planet: The Pont-du-Gard.  Because our kids led us to experience something so totally different than what I am accustomed to in France, kayaking on the Gardon River is now a favorite French memory for me.

Our family of four travelled to the Gard region last summer at the encouragement of my husband’s parents and fell in LOVE with the area.  The Gard, tucked neatly between Provence and Langudeoc,  allows for the best Provence has to offer but at the affordable Languedoc prices.  It’s also paradise for outdoor lovers.  Tons of hiking, rental bikes and vineyards to explore. And of course water to cool you off.

Before our August trip, we knew kayaking was an option and thought it would be fun for the kids to try, but didn’t know what are options were.  We researched the three outfitters on the Gardon River all of which are located in Collias and all of which looked fairly similar.  We opted for Canoes-Collias and were thrilled with our choice!  They were friendly, accommodating, reasonably priced and picked us up (on-time) at the end of the float.

Admiring the “Pont” before the adventure!

Collias, located about 8km up river from the Pont-du-Gard is where our adventure began.  Before entering the (cute – must-go-back-to-visit) village we found a  patisserie where we stopped in to grab baguettes, snacks and drinks for the voyage. We then headed on to Canoes-Collias which is easy to find and very hard to miss!  All of the outfitters have ensured their signs are posted at every roundabout and intersection.  Literally.  You cannot miss them!

Upon arrival, we parked up the hill in the private parking lot near the owner’s home.  There was plenty of parking so if you are like me and stress about finding decent parking in small European towns, you need not here.

We met with the canoe crew down by the river and since we reserved a kayak ahead of time (suggested during the busy summer months) our process of getting checked in and geared up with life vests was pretty fast.  The manager on duty was hilarious.  He knew we were from the northeastern US and promptly started cracking baseball jokes about the Red Sox and Yankees! My kind of guy.

The young college kids they have working loaded us into the kayaks (we rode 2 per boat, 1 adult & 1 kid) and then they pushed us downhill into the water.  Splash-down commenced and we were off!   Kids were a-shreakin’!

The 8km journey down river is gorgeous.

You paddle through little dips and swirling water holes, past caves (which you can lightly explore), weathered limestone cliffs and quiet, pebbled beaches.  The water is crystal clear and the kids had a blast just watching the fish swim below them.

Picnicking along the river bank was a great option for us.  We were thankful that we stopped at the patisserie in Collias for provisions.  The kayaks have a watertight plastic barrel on the back to store your essentials which makes a picnic a viable option.  We spied a little beach and swimming hole up river and paddled over to hop out. Eating ham baguettes and crisp palmiers while sipping Orangina, with an ancient chateaux behind us, the bright Mediterranean sun above us, and cool, clear water before us made for the kind of day that goes down in the record books.  Add happy, engaged kids to the mix and we were in heaven.  THIS is what family vacation is about.  Something that makes everyone burst with pure joy.

Our lunch was followed by some swimming and chatting with other kayakers floating down river.

We eventually hopped back in our boats and continued our voyage.  By the time we reached the magnificent Pont-du-Gard the crowd had grown as did our excitement.  We had visited the site the day before and witnessed THE CLIFF JUMPERS!  This had drawn the attention of our son whom, at the time, was 8 and was so desperately wanting to join the fun.

Although there is a popular spot for jumping in directly underneath the famed aqueduct, we stopped just before the Pont-du-Gard and found another spot that was just as fantastic, but less pressured.  Our eight year old son mustered the courage and finally jumped in the Gardon 12 ft. from above!  We were so happy for him!

Our daughter, who was 7 at the time opted for another jumping hole, just past the Pont near the swimming holes.  She  loved it!  Plus this spot allowed us to take advantage of some more swimming and rock wall building with new friends.  A great opportunity for the kids to try out their French with their peers.

The journey ended about a 1 km past the Pont where kayakers pull their boats out on a little beach (again, you can’t miss it) and hop in a van to go back to Collias.

Our experience on the Gardon led us to do it again a second day.  It really was that incredible!  Not only was it FUN but we were able to incorporate a bit of Roman/European history. Sneaky parents…

Overall, this was the expedition that made our family experience in France really gel.  It combined unforgettable family fun with local culture and history.  We were allowed those small moments, to laugh and learn and enjoy a different aspect of France’s rich, natural beauty that we never dreamed of experiencing.

Pont-du-Gard, France

QUICK FACTS:

Canoe Collias:  http://www.canoe-collias.com/

Prices: 20 Euros per adult, 17 Euros for children 13-17, 12 Euros children 6-12.

Distance from Uzes: just under 10 Km (8 miles) about 15 minutes

Distance from Avignon: just over 23 km (17 miles) about half an hour

Distance from Nimes: about 16 km (10 miles) about 20 minutes

Food Options: Picnic, or wait until you reach the Pont-du-Gard for restaurant service.  There is a nice outdoor restaurant on the Right Bank, Les Terrasses.  Food is ok, a little pricey, but great views and laid back atmosphere. http://www.pontdugard.fr/fr/content/restaurant-les-terrasses

 

 

 

Comments

  1. I love it! It brings back some of my favorite memories ever!

  2. France and central Europe in general is a beautiful region. Nature trails are a great choice for traveling with kids. Keep on traveling as a family!
    Roni recently posted..Niagara Falls – US and Canada viewsMy Profile

    • Thanks, Roni! We agree – so beautiful and we’re looking forward to hitting some European hiking trails with the kids next month in Spain! New territory for us 🙂

  3. What a beautiful setting to kayak! Only in Europe can you just pleasantly paddle past Roman remains.
    Suzy recently posted..Memphis, Tennessee Wishes You Were HereMy Profile

  4. What a great family day! And how great is it to say – I kayaked in France! 🙂 Stunning!
    Kieu ~ GQ trippin recently posted..Holi Cow.. Groped in India!My Profile

  5. That does look like a lot of fun. I’ve briefly been in the area before, but it was on a bus tour and we certainly didn’t get the most out of the place.
    Sam recently posted..Quebec City Winter CarnivalMy Profile

  6. Awesome pics, im sure this will be a moment engrained in the kids memories!
    Ash recently posted..Meteora, Greece: A Hard Act to Follow…My Profile

    • Thanks Ash! You’re right – I think they’ve branded this day into their memories :-). Amazing how much detail they still remember.

Speak Your Mind

*

* Copy This Password *

* Type Or Paste Password Here *

CommentLuv badge