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Sillans-la-Cascade and la Chapelle St. Laurent

My family set out for another day of hiking and this time we settled on an area in the high Var near a town called Sillans-la-Cascade. Just across the road of the old ramparts of the town is a trail that leads you to the Cascade de Sillans (aka the waterfall of Sillans).

Ample and free parking is across the street and the walk to view the waterfall is only 5 or 10 minutes from there.

At the first fork in the road you will come to a sign which says Panorama view of the Cascade and points to the right. Take the trail up a few feet and veer towards the left and you will get a terrific view of the waterfall.

The trail continues on up through the hills and the hike gives you a terrific bird’s eye view of the surrounding area to the left. The valley is dotted with houses, vineyards and olive trees. You don’t have to worry about getting lost or wandering too far away from where you started as this trail makes a circle and brings you right back to the waterfall and the area where you started from (the first fork in the road). Trails like this are wonderful and happen to be my favorite kind. It makes hiking simpler when you are able to end your hike at the same place you began. It’s just more practical when you are only hiking for a few hours or for the day, and not there to camp out and make it a weekend trip!

This particular hike was only a few kilometers and we easy hiked it at great leisure (stopping to admire the view and take plenty of photos) in about 2 hours. Towards the last 20 minutes or so of the hike we came upon an old house in ruins. I bet in its heyday it was a great place to be. You can’t see the waterfall from this spot but you can definitely hear the sound of running water which happens to be a sound I absolutely love! It has to be one of the most soothing sounds you could listen to.

Once back at the fork in the road, make your way down some concrete stairs. This path will wind around and become a dirt path which takes you to the base of the waterfall. Unfortunately you can’t get near the falls as they are blocked off with fences due to the danger of falling rocks. The river which forms at the base, however, offers every advantage to get as close as possible. There is a wonderful area not far down the path where it would be a lovely place to venture out on the large rock and bring a book, read and listen to the running water. I must remember to do that next time (with my picnic lunch!)

You can only travel so far on this path and then it dead ends and you must turn around and go back in the same direction from whence you came. I never saw one person on the hiking trail above, but down at the base, there were a great deal of families and couples strolling near the water.

There are other trails to hike in the area and we proceeded to follow one to the Chapelle St. Laurent. You can get to this chapel the easy way, which means you head back to the parking lot and follow the trail up the hill that is behind the parking area. Reaching the chapel this way will only take about 15 minutes.

We decided we were going to follow the signs and go the “back way” which takes you past some houses, a corral, across the main street and through another housing track before connecting again in a wooded area. It also takes you past two World War II monuments of men who were killed in the area by the Germans during the war. Once you past the two monuments, the chapel is just around the corner. This way takes about an hour or so verses 15 minutes going through the parking area, so which way you go depends on how you really feel about hiking!

The chapel itself is no real treat to look at, though it has been nicely restored by the volunteering town’s people. The real treat is the view you get from the back side of the chapel. If you go around the right side of the building and out onto the rock, the view of the farmlands, houses, the town of Sillans-la-Casade and the olive tree groves is amazing! I could have stayed in that spot all day just drinking it in. I was so grateful and lucky that the day happened to be warm, bright, sunny and there was no wind. It made for a wonderful site to see.

After resting there for quite some time, we headed back down the trail on the right of the chapel (opposite of the trail we arrived on). This took us down to the parking area and offered us closer views of the old chateau in the town just behind the ramparts. This chateau is now a government building and houses several government agencies.

If you’re looking for a hike that is more on the easy side, then hiking around La Cascade is a trail you would want to take. You can approach it leisurely and it is pretty safe for both young and old and everyone in between. The hike to the Chapelle St. Laurent is a bit more difficult so I would discourage taking very young children. There is also the danger, when you reach the top, of being on a very steep cliff which offers no protection if one should fall.

If you have been to the waterfall or the chapel, I would love to hear all about it and if there are other trails around the falls you have hiked on, please let me know. My family is always looking to find interesting hikes to explore.

If you want to see more photos of Sillans-la-Cascade and la Chapelle St. Laurent they appear on Flickr. To get there just click on the “More Photos” option under Photos on Flickr.

Roussillon

I love the town of Roussillon. The few times that we’ve gone there I always take advantage of the hike through the Ochre Trail. It’s cool and refreshing and the colors that surround you are like no other.

Since enjoying the Ochre hiking trails back in 2004, the town has changed it up a bit. One used to be able to go around more areas and even climb on some of the cliffs. No longer can you do this. I was a bit sad at not having the chance to see as much of the trails and cliffs as I used to, but I do understand the reasoning. With so many people climbing and playing on the cliffs it causes them to erode faster and that would mean less time in the future to see these beautiful wonders of the world.

I love it here. The walk is so peaceful and there are many areas where one can sit and just gaze out at the cliffs and enjoy the breathtaking beauty. You could seriously stay all day. Bring a book and a camera and you got it made! There is a modest entry fee of around 2,50 Euros, but well worth it! During the year it’s open almost every day except for when the weather is extremely bad. There is no time limit to be there so make the most of the hike. It’s fun for all ages, too. You might want to bring extra clothes and shoes for small children as the clay will get everywhere!

One can also visit the Colour Conservatory that gives guided tours and informs you on everything Ochre related. They also offer classes and workshops throughout the year. I have yet to take advantage of this, but plans are in the works.

Take some time out to visit the town, as well. The colors of the village houses and buildings are due to the Ochre used in painting them. It’s magnificent! The town is cozy and quaint and there are many areas from where you can get a terrific view of the valley.  There are some great restaurants with absolutely brilliant hilltop views, too.

You will need to pay for parking unless you park really far away and plan on hiking it to the town so bring your change with you. In spring and summer it’s very busy with buses of tourist and locals alike enjoying the scenery.

The few times we have venture to Roussillon I marvel at how truly beautiful this village and the Ochre Trail really are. It never gets old.

If you want to see more photos of Roussillon they appear on Flickr. To get there just click on the “More Photos” option under Photos on Flickr.

If you’ve been there I would love to know what your favorite part is. Have you been to the Colour Conservatory? If so, is it worth it?

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