A 90-minute drive northwest of Nice along twisting mountain roads leads you to the medieval village of Moustiers-Ste-Marie, high on a limestone cliff at the western entrance of the dramatic Verdon gorge. A fast-moving
stream divides the village in two—the sound of rushing waters give Moustiers an Alpine village feel.Moustiers has been a center for faience(earthenware) since the 17th century, and today its narrow streets are lined with pottery shops. Escape the summer crowds with a steep climb to the 12th-century cliff-top church Notre-Dame-de-Beauvoir for beautiful vistas of the village, the Maire valley, and glacier-blue waters in the gorge below. Suspended above town from a long chain between two cliffs is a mysterious star—put there,
according to legend, by a knight returning home from the Crusades.At the base of the village is La Bastide de Moustiers, one of France’s most special inns, a gourmet retreat in a former master potter’s house and owned by legendary French chef Alain Ducasse. Or, stay in the charming cen-trally located La Bouscatière, a family-run bed-and-breakfast built into the rock with a fine restaurant and views of the town’s waterfall.
One of the most spectacular natural sights in France is the Gorges du Verdon, considered Europe’s Grand Canyon and a favorite spot for rock-climbing and hiking, rafting and kayak-ing. Use Castellane, Bauduen, or Ste-Croix-du-Verdon as a center for boating; for hiking, take the 9-mile Martell trail, a popular 9- to 12- hour route with sensational views. Windshield tourists can enjoy it all on a drive around the rim of the gorges on the Route des Cretes.