Castellane

'Notre Dame du Roc'

Notre Dame du Roc

Castellane is a village located on the Route Napoléon. On March 1, 1815, Napoleon I, coming from exile on the island of Elba, set foot on French soil again at Golfe Juan accompanied by a small army. From there, the group traveled via Cannes and Grasse to Grenoble and onwards to Paris. In those days, large stretches of the road were hardly more than mule paths, but it is this Napoleonic trek that gives the road, also called Route Nationale 85, its name. The last time I had been to Castellane was in February of 2007 when I drove through it on the way to the Gorges du Verdon. I decided it was high time to head back to Castellane.

In addition to being on the Route Napoléon and at the entrance of the Verdon Gorge, Castellane is known for one more thing: Notre Dame du Roc. This chapel is located on the summit of a tall rock that juts straight up some 200 meters, or roughly 650 feet, from the west corner of the village. The first chapel was built in the early 13th century, though the present-day one dates from 1703. Today's trail was set up in 1868 and allows pilgrims to do the stations of the cross; indeed, there are 14 stations and 2 oratories on the way. Notre Dame du Roc is the first thing most visitors see of Castellane, and one cannot help but wonder what the view must be like from up there. On November 2, 2012, I decided to find out.

Click on any image to see a larger (1500 x 1000 pixel) version!


Arrival in Castellane before 11 A.M. A narrow village street A very narrow village street

Arrival in Castellane before 11 A.M.

A narrow village street

A very narrow village street


The main square Castellane's largest hotel

The main square

Castellane's largest hotel


In the older part of town Around the main square Fall colors frame 'Notre Dame du Roc'

In the older part of town

Around the main square

Fall colors frame Notre Dame du Roc


The chapel is visible from almost anywhere in town Colorful 'provençal' shops

The chapel is visible from almost anywhere in town

Colorful provençal shops

I enjoyed a delicious cup of coffee at an outdoor table of one of the local eateries; the temperature was a delightful 12º C, or 54º F (the forecast had called for 1º C or 34º F). When I settled my bill, I pointed at Notre Dame du Roc and asked the waitress how one got up there. "By foot!" came the surprising reply. I said that I hadn't expected to drive up there and just wanted to know where the trail started. At this, the woman kindly pointed me in the right direction, and I started my climb next to the Sacré Cœur church.


The climb starts out easily enough... ...but it quickly gets very steep and rocky. Luckily, there are easier parts, too

The climb starts out easily enough...

...but it quickly gets very steep and rocky.

Luckily, there are easier parts, too


A welcome bench to rest a minute... ...and admire the amazing view.

A welcome bench to rest a minute...

...and admire the amazing view.


Continuing the climb... ...to the next bench.

Continuing the climb...

...to the next bench.


The view is simply superb... ...on either side of the rock.

The view is simply superb...

...on either side of the rock.


Almost there! Looking westward Looking eastward

Almost there!

Looking westward

Looking eastward


On top of the rock! Inside 'Notre Dame du Roc'

On top of the rock!

Inside Notre Dame du Roc


View to the 'Gorges du Verdon'... ...and into Castellane.

View to the Gorges du Verdon...

...and into Castellane.


Heading back down A glimpse of the Verdon The Pentagonal Tower

Heading back down

A glimpse of the Verdon

The Pentagonal Tower

After having arrived back in the village, I drank a large bottle of sparkling mineral water, the kind I wish I had brought with me when I arrived at the top. Rather than drive back the same way I had come. I decided to make a small detour to admire the artificial Lake Castillon and the lower Lake Chaudanne. I then took the road to Demandolx and from there crossed over the Col Saint Barnabé; at 1,365 meters (4,478 ft), there were already traces of snow on the side of the road. The scenery on the drive into Soleilhas and from there back to the Route Napoléon and home was beautiful.



Lac de Castillon The dam

Lac de Castillon

The dam


On the dam It's a long way down!

On the dam

It's a long way down!


On the road to Demandolx Lac de Castillon

On the road to Demandolx

Lac de Castillon


Lac de Chaudanne The village of Soleilhas

Lac de Chaudanne

The village of Soleilhas


The photos on this page are also available at a higher resolution (3600 x 2400) on our Castellane gallery page.




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