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Traditions in the Verdon

​The markets of Provence

Weekly appointment of inhabitants and visitors, the market is a time friendly and unavoidable. Under the colorful stalls tarps, the products are varied and also coloured: shades Brown and green olives to the multiple varieties of dried fruits, red and green vegetables, white goat, fresh, dry cheese, peppery or flavoured with honey golden yellow tea. Summer, more question to cross this day there places by car: Provencal fabrics, earthenware and boxwood merchants have invaded the sidewalks. And it is a joyful animation made noise, it is hails, perfumes and heat. Taste the abomasum, the feet-packages (ancestral recipe that passes for the nec plus ultra of Provencal cuisine...), wild boar sausage, the fougasse to spatter, oil, olives, oil (because the oil can taste) and if it is winter, look for truffles. Some producers offer markets. We must ask and from behind the stage were you released a carton or a basket full of these still covered wonders of Earth. The choosing is trickier. It should be firm without being hard, scented without being stale, but you'll get the right touch them, smell them... and talk. Do not hesitate. In general everything ends up at the nearest cafe.

Harvesting and distillation of lavender

The traditional harvest with a sickle is virtually abandoned in favour of mechanical cutting. If you hike on this crossing of the Haute-Provence between July 15 and September 15, you will certainly the opportunity to attend the harvest or meet on small mountain roads, heavy loads of lavender boots routed to a distillery.Thereof, identifiable by its high fireplace flanked by shed, is always installed next to a Creek, a sink or a source, because huge amounts of water are needed to cool down the coil.
Distillation of lavender is conventionally performed by training of fragrant esters in a current of water vapor that passes through the boots of flowers and condenses in a coil. The mixture of water and gasoline is then decanted in a vase: the essencier.
As distilled 'straw', it is used as a fuel in the household and is largely sufficient to this operation because it is often around the stills.

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The uses of lavender

If the qualities of lavender and lavender are multiple, the perfume industry absorbs the largest part of the production:
•    luxury perfumes use fine Lavender;
•    cosmetics are lavender and lavandin essences;
•    detergents maintenance or deodorant products only use lavender.
The pharmaceutical industry, such as Provençal rural tradition, know since long the virtues of True Lavender whose essence is both antibacterial and healing, thus used for the treatment of wounds, burns and insect bites. Lavender oil is also effective in friction and massage against aches and muscle fatigue and sportspeople use it even to warm up the muscles. As the small bags of dried flowers and simple bouquets of lavender, everybody knows their power to keep away moths while parfumant linen. Finally an infusion of lavender has many virtues.

Magnan or cultivation of silkworm

Magnan or magnanerie, are widespread in Provence toponyms. These are also common family names. The word refers to the breeding of silkworms, activity which developed throughout the region from the 18th century and remained more or less until the second world war. The breeding of worms or sericulture was significant for families leverage. He was directly to the House where it sometimes reserved him a whole room during the three months of activity, because the larva needs heat. Worms, "seed", purchased from a producer or at a fair, were installed on wooden racks and fed daily of leaves of white mulberry (amourié) which they are particularly fond. A breeding of silkworms can consume more than a ton of leaves in a few weeks. The presence of BlackBerry bushes near the magnanerie was therefore essential, plantations went well during all the 19th, century, encouraged by the public authorities. They sprang up along roads and paths and the heart of the villages. Municipalities were also sometimes award the municipal tree leaves. Harvesting of these leaves, as the supply of larvae was often the work of children. For convenience, the trees were cut down in tadpole. Arrived at maturity, needed to smother the larva until it is hatched and burst the cocoon, which was then sold to mills. The activity of the inhabitants so reduced to that of nurse... There is the trace of this local economy throughout the southern region of the Park: Valensole plateau, Vallée du Haut-Var and Verdon. A few remarkable Mulberry by their form today remain in the landscape.


Charbonnier, what job! Coal mining activity is attested since the 13th century different tempting documents (already!) to reason the exploitation of the forest in Haute-Provence. In the last century, and until the 1960s, being coal is a profession in its own right. Some specialized companies employ twenty charcoal burners.But that could well make all this charcoal? The previous centuries have made it a huge consumption. The first craft: blacksmiths, farriers, faïence... fed their forges or their charcoal furnaces. The development of industry and the growth of the cities also favored this source of energy, light and easily transportable. After the last world war, the use of coal to wood, already put to evil for a long time by "coal", is raréfia, requiring the charbonniers to change activity and resulting in the loss of their know-how. As carbonization is an extremely precise art. It takes several days to build the coal: wood are gradually aligned vertically around an axis hollow, formed by four straight branches, kind of chimney by which, introduced the fire. The "wheel" thus formed is then covered smaller branches, then leaves and Earth.This is the 'skin' which ensures a certain seal construction. The art of the Collier is then to control fire so the wood does not ignite. Larger coal carbonization may take several days or even one to two weeks. Need careful monitoring, increase print runs, or instead to smother the flames. This attention at all times obliged the charbonniers to live on-site in a small shelter built for the occasion. When the wooded site had given all he could moved a little further. The interpretive trail to Baudinard Charbonnières, through the immense area of the Eouvieres, today owned by the Conservatoire du Littoral, brings to life this activity while driving the Walker until the lower gorge bordering the municipality.

Saint-André-les-Alpes sheets

Region for breeding, transhumance region: sheep were instrumental in the economy of the high-Verdon. Raising animals for meat but also for its wool, which, with hemp, provides most of the domestic fabrics and clothing. In the 19th century, the upper Valley of the Verdon, and particularly Saint-andre-les-alpes, develops industry cloth, hitherto confined to the family production and a few weavers. Quickly, the activity thrives. The 1840s, the whole Valley has more than 20 factories employing 300 workers. Saint-André is size the lion's share with about 100 employees, combers and weavers. It must be said that the conditions are particularly favourable: wool, local raw material, is abundant. The Verdon River and its tributaries provide the energy necessary to looms mechanical, and more harsh than in lower Provence, climate imposes an "inside" job in the winter. The cloth industry is a seasonal activity that is practiced for six months of the year. De Castellane in Allos, produced fairly coarse, called "ordeillats" or "cadis" paintings. But these extremely resistant fabrics were renowned and exported in Provence and the Dauphiné. At the beginning of the 20th century, victim of the weakening of the herds of the rural exodus and especially, of deficiencies of channels of communication in the region, cloth activity died out gradually. Alone, Beauvezer managed to keep the tradition until the 1960s. Privilege of longevity requires, there is talk of Beauvezer cloths...


Transhumance is a highlight of these Territories dedicated to the breeding of sheep. Less than once perhaps, but with the same regularity pendulum, it beat the year. It's a moment poetic, almost magical; just see the inhabitants of Castellane exit on their doorstep and welcome the passage of the herd to be convinced.Transhumance moves not only tourists... Transhumance has a music. The tolling of the bells, in addition to the bleating of sheep, the rustle of their steps, the men cry. A blast raises us, a sense of freedom wins us... It is around mid-June that herds, large or small, turn on and cross the Provence to reach the Alpine Highlands.Once midsummer fires marked the departure of the shepherds. At St. Lawrence in the middle of the period of transhumance, the priests would bless the men and beasts in the Alpine pastures... Transhumance seems to have existed for all time, but this is probably the major abbeys who developed the practice around the 12th century, when the quiet political revenue, and strong huge pasture areas, they placed their wealth in herds. Thousands of sheep then crossed the country, edges of the Mediterranean to the peaks of the Dauphiné. The transhumance routes were fixed. We call these paths of drailles * and the carraires *. Their importance was such that the city of Arles, on the shores of la Crau, land farmed, acquired its own drailles to allow the passage of his flocks. On the Valensole plateau, the "herds of Arles draille" is still noted on the cadastre... Today, many herds transhumance in truck. The process is faster and less tiring for men who, during the time of the trip, sleep little and walk the night. But some shepherds will tell you than traditional transhumance: walk, respects more the balance of the beasts, accustomed them to the change of air. In three to four months, men will remain only on the mountain pastures, attentive to the time, storms, to the assalies: these flat stones on which the salt lick the sheep there. The conditions of life of the shepherds have however improved considerably with the advent of 4 x 4 cars and the mobile phone...

Mule trail

Around Castellane and Saint-André, our routes often use old roads so-called "Mule". These paths have played in the past economic and social role essential.Before the 19th century the "passable" road network is underdeveloped in Haute-Provence. Our modern roads, connecting worthy or Moustiers-Sainte-Marie in the Gorges du Verdon date back only to the end of that time. But we should not believe that the villages have lived in total isolation. There was, instead, a whole network of roads linking the inhabitants and one did not hesitate to do several hours of walking to get to a fair, at a party or attend a vigil. These paths, the Mule commuters ensured an economic and social link between the town and villages, between the high and low Provence. They carried mainly local products: sheets of Saint-André, prunes from Saint-Julien-du-Verdon, cheeses of Thorame or surplus wheat in good years. To return they related foodstuffs that the regions do not produce: the olive oil, wine, salt, SOAP. They also carried the good and the bad news, messages, gifts... Each Mule had several animals and is often a whole group of men driving a real Caravan. The journey typically lasted several days, where the development of hostels, farriers and troughs along the road. In the villages the Group of carriers was important. In the 18th century, on the 100 houses that were Saint-André, 20 was occupied by a mule. They had their corporation and their patron saint: Eloi.
Away from mule to go more quickly, our modern roads have chosen to borrow the valleys, lengthening the distance but reducing the time and the difficulties of course. The technical means helped overcome the altitude to open rocks, around the mountains. Formerly paths allow hikers to circulate safely, without forgetting that others have traveled before as evidenced by the many oratories and terminals scattered here and there.

La Sagne, House of products from countries

Sagne House, bleeds, Chassagne or Chand are very common place names in the South of the France. They refer to a wet, almost marshy area. By extension, the word Sagno, of Latin origin, refers in Provençal a characteristic plant of the backwaters: typha latifolia, commonly known under the name of Reed Cattail. Its broadleaf (sharp) for the wickerwork of chairs was formerly used. Obviously La Sagne to Trigance farm is located in the Jabron Valley, near the river. It is a beautiful building, typical of farms in the Artuby, who since 1999 has a new vocation. Restored and furnished as part of a European programme of rural development (Leader II), La Sagne became a space for promotion and sale of (very) local products. Twenty craftsmen and artists have found here a common venue of the exhibition: earthenware, leather and wood turning combines culinary delights, goat cheese or cooked dishes, wines and jams. The discovery of dandelion jelly can also be part of the journey! There is even the "House of products from country" of jets and antique furniture which are not presentations that have decoration...

The Bacchu-Ber

On August 16th during the Saint-Roch, in Pont-de-Cervières, a nearly hamlet of Briançon, continues the tradition of the Bacchu-Ber or Ba-Cubert. It is a sword dance, performed by nine or thirteen men dressed in white and red girded under the guise of a wreath. The chorus of women, briançonnais costumes, rhythm dancing on a melody in two stages. The dancers move in turn by the sword neighbor without releasing its custody or the tip of the blade. They outline and stars, triangles, circles, and squares, and complete their ballet pointing their swords on the kneeling leader. The meaning, origin and etymology of the name of this dance, which there are variants donations Italian valleys ceded by the Treaty of Utrecht, remain obscure: commemoration of fighting, solar rite, symbolic sacrifice


Everyone looks at his door. This was true in the last century , in Briançon and Queyras which houses the most remote hamlets were on their facades, painted sundials . Progress of watchmaking lowered installation but there are still many - five in Saint -Veran - and reveal great diversity. All carry a motto, often in Latin, on the theme of the passage of time and the fragility of people and things : Vita fugit sicut umbra ... wounding omnes ultima ... Necat Appear , also , moral sentences or religious currencies to the glory of the sun, epicurean maxims : It's time to drink . The decor reflects a fruitful and sometimes full of folk art fantasy where cosmic symbols dominate plant and animal motifs , often chimerical for them. The human figures are rare and limited to registered faces in the solar disk. The college boasts a Briançon supported by two painted dial Atlantean ; it is also one of the oldest ( 1719 ) . The influence of different architectural styles can be felt : the oldest dials on the scrolls and shells, are similar to Louis XV style Empire style , relate more austere achievements. These works were performed by anonymous artists except Piedmontese Giovanni Francesco Zarbula who realized from 1833 to 1870 forty of these easily recognizable by their exotic birds colorful dials and their baskets of flowers overlooking a geometric framework painted in imitation of marble or sham. For fifteen years, sundials Hautes-Alpes are carefully restored and each year new creations continue this fine tradition .


The tradition of the ruido meant solidarity and social organization that existed formerly in an heir Queyras principles of the Republic of Escartons . Twice a year , the heads of families gathered in assembly, to make important decisions of village life : harvest dates , baking bread, maintenance of common property , social support ... The assembly was chaired by an elected for one year by the inhabitants prosecutor. The prosecutor maintained a register where he wore the challenges and decisions relating to the village community ; he worked , too, the right to police . Bell campanile civil , such as Brunissard , alerted the public informed of fires and deaths , sounding twice that of a dead man , three, that of a wife and four to that of a child ; she summoned the villagers to meetings or chores . The bell housed also the communal oven of the village.

Escrins , couyers , jacous

Traditional furniture high valleys thoose treasures have disappeared, re-used for other purposes or cut into firewood ! However, donations Queyras villages once cut off from the world during the winter, a craft unequaled had developed , with the sculpture of furniture and everyday objects . Chests decorated or Escrins are the flagship of this popular art which was a golden age in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Carved into the soft stone pine with warm colors, firmly sitting on four flat feet, they are, despite making a rustic , decorated with geometrical patterns curvilinear or linear engraved knife , sometimes the needle. The reasons are not specific to Queyras , but belong to the symbolic archetypes based on simple and repetitive geometric shapes : rosettes, roundels , star , cross, rafters ... These chests were made on the occasion of marriage and girls carried them with their trousseau ; the date of the ceremony is often engraved , as well as initial and sometimes dedications or endearing sentences. Other furniture chairs, beds , cribs and many everyday objects were similarly , worked, sometimes by women : salt to said hinged lid sarreyrons , couyers ( holsters for stone used to sharpen the scythe ) , grain measures , cattails , drums lace, sometimes surmounted impellers roosters of Queyras , jewelery boxes ... As for toys , traditional jacous , carved wooden dolls , reborn today from the hands of artisans Trades: in 1920 , a cooperative revived this craft , and produces small sets of objects ( miniature furniture , animals, games) painted at home as in the past .

Nativity Scene

It is at Greccio where St. Francis of Assisi settled first nativity , in 1263 . The Poverello wanted to testify to the poverty of Christ . At the end of the seventeenth century Neapolitan crèche realized with small clay figures . This craft took root in Europe in the late eighteenth century , particularly in Provence and Marseilles, where the figurines were called Santon of Provence " santoun " little saint . It is with the clay Santon is made . A first copy is modeled : it is used to make a mold of white plaster , necessary for the production of a series of several identical copies . For each copy, the santonnier up a ball of clay into a mold half and press with the second. This is called stamping. The santon is stripped , trimmed , smoothed with a sponge, then allowed to dry before being baked nine hundred and fifty degrees. It is finally decorated with watercolor . A Champtercier , a few kilometers from Digne, a craftsman , Mr. Patrick Volpes perpetuated with passion and talent, tradition. Like other santonniers he has St. Francis of Assisi as patron .

Saint-Pancrace - Digne
Bléone Valley - Digne

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