Alpes-de-Haute-Provence (04500) Population: 274 Altitude: 380 m
Quinson is a large village in a beautiful setting, with an interesting old town and some interesting sites for visitors (at least in the summertime). It is a village, though, so there's not much commerce and shopping is minimal. There are a couple of "alimentation générale" shops, with boulangerie and presse-journaux.
The setting is lovely, and a little strange. The village is placed in a wide north-south valley with a line of steep cliffs on each side, yet the Verdon rivier that passes by flows east-west, cutting through a narrow gap in each of the cliffs to flow across the valley, sideways as it were. This is also part of the Pays de Valensole lavender region; there are some nice lavender fields along the Quinson-Riez road.
A dam in the rugged eastern cliffs [photo-4] provides electrical power for the EDF (Electricité de France). There's a low barrier at the western end ,where the road bridge crosses, just before the river tumbles into the lower gorges (Basses Gorges du Verdon), forming a long lake for watersports [photo-1].
The village itself has a lot of well-restored old houses and a general feeling of being well cared-for. Lots of natural stone walls, pastel colored buildings and brightly painted shutters add gaiety and charm. Many of the doorways and doors are ancient (like the one in photo-8), and a few of the old fortified portals remain in the medieval walls. Among the medieval remains are two towers, including the stone clocktower with its 18th-century campanile [photo-11]. We would normally be calling this the old village (veille ville), but it's pretty much the village.
In addition to wandering through the inner village streets, there are nice walks around the fields at the top edge of the village, with lovely views, beautiful wildflowers, small orchards and vineyards.
There are newer, modern villas in the countryside immediately surrounding the central village, but the real Vieux Quinson is located on top of the cliffs overlooking the village from west. This original villages, now not much more than stoney ruins, on the high ridge dates back to the Romans, although that's pretty much recent history in the life of this village.
There are a lot of fountains in Quinson, many small but a couple of fairly large ones [photo-10], and they all seem to be engraved "1877". We got the feeling that 1877 was the year the travelling fountain salesman passed through.
Parks and Playgrounds
Just across the street from the Mairie/Office de Tourisme is very nice, large park, with lawns, gardens, fountain and a kiddies play area. From here towards the river, also, are fields, the "Village Préhistorique", and the river-side activities, like paddle-boats for rent. This is a good place to bring the kids.
The Village Préhistorique is an open setting with full-sized replicas of various Peolithic and Neolithic dwellings [photo-12]. It's a good place to take the kids, fun and educational. During the summer the village holds animated activities there.
Museum of Prehistory
The Musée de Préhistoire that opened in Quinson 28 April 2001 is really excellent, and is bound to bring a lot of visitors to the village.
History of Quinson
First record, The village area has been occupied continuously from the Iron Age on. The name comes from Quintius, a rich Roman who lived here.
Prehistoric: The surrounding cliffs obviously offered shelter and defence for prehistoric man. Paleolithic grottos have been discovered in the area, and several artifacts were located in the iron-age grottol Points-Rouges.
Celto-Ligurian: No clear vestiges of the Celto-Ligurians have been discovered at Quinson, but some remaining walls and other modified geographical features indicates their presence.
Gallo-Roman: The Romans lived in the original "Vieux Quinson", perched on the ridge above the present-day village, a position that controlled access to Gorges de Verdon. Ancient texts mention this as "Castrum de Quintio" and, later, "Castrum de Saint-Michel".
• GPS: 43.701384, 6.03936
IGN (1/25,000) #3343 OT "Greoux-les-Bains, Rians"
Didier Richard (1/50,000) #19 "Haute Provence Verdon"
The main hike through this area is the GR99 (Grande Randonnée) that crosses east-west on the southern bank of the Verdon river. East of Quinson, the GR99 goes past Baudinard-sur-Verdon, Bauduen and Aiguines, then along the southern edge of the Gorges de Verdon. To the west, the GR99 trail goes towards the Basses Gorges du Verdon (looping around to the left of the steep gap in the cliffs), then heads south past La Verdière an on towards St Maximin.
Petite Randonée (PR).
The local PR trail is a loop that goes up to the top of the ridge west of the village, the "Vieux Quinson" hike. It's an excellent after-lunch hike, but too steep in some places for casual walkers.
You can start by the cemetery at the top edge of the village for the easier climb, although it is fairly steep in a few places. It's marked as a 45-minute hike to the top, but plan on a bit longer if you had a big lunch. At the top, you head south (left) along the ridge, and at one place you'll pass "Vieux Quinson", mostly a jumble of rocks in the bushes, although one dry-stone dwelling seems mostly intact. At the southern end, with the best view, the trail goes down pass the chapel at the bottom and back to the village.
You can also start at the little chapel on the road between the village at the bridge over the Verdon. The climb up from this side is pretty steep, with some clambering over the rocks using your hands as well as feet (completely safe though, this is NOT rock climbing).
It could actually be easier to clamber up the steeper trail from the chapel than going down here. You can also go up the easier slope from the cemetery, along the ridge to the end, and then back the way you came.
There are four restaurants in Quinson, including the small bar-restaurant in the heart of the old village. We ate at L'Origan and were quite satisfied.
Tennis and a municipal swimming pool, and water sports on the Verdon. Paddle boats, of course, but also electric boats are available fro visiting the Gorges du Verdon (April - October).
Cycle Rental. VTT (mountain-bike) rentals at a little shop in the village (at the left in photo-9]) cost about 90 F a day; the shop is small but the bikes are modern.
Cycling. "Circuits des Lacs" cycling routes are available on a brochure from the local Offices de Tourisme. Three loops are listed, short, medium and long (graded by time/distance and climbing), varying from 59 km (2-3 hrs) to 96 km (3-5 hrs). The loops pass through the villages of Quinson, Montmeyan, St-Julien Le-Montagnier, Gréoux-les-Bains, Esparron-de-Verdon, Allemagne-en-Provence Montgnac Montpezat, St-Laurent-du-Verdon.
Open: 28 July - 14 June: 6 days, closed Tue; 10h-18h
15 June - 16 Sept: 7 days; 10h-20h
16 Sept - 15 Dec: 6 days, closed Tue; 10h-18h
16 Dec - 31 Jan: annual closure
Entry: About 7 €; children 6-18, about 4 €.
Tel: 0492 740 959; Fax: 0492 740 959
Quinson is fairly easy to get to by car, being about 35 km from the A51 autoroute near Manosque and 43 km from the A8 autoroute at Brignoles. Some additional distances listed on the museum brochure are: Marseille 100 km, Toulon 95 km, Nice 140 km, Avignon 150 km, Grenoble 250 km, Lyon 400 km, Montpellier 250 km, Turin 350 km.
Public transport would be by train to Manosque (Marseille-Gap-Briançon line), then bus to Riez and Quinson.
Department 04, Alpes-de-Haute Provence Buses
- See Beyond's Alpes-de-Haute Provence (04) Bus Schedules for downloading Alpes-de-Haute Provence bus-lines map and bus-line schedules [pdf for each line] (link for PDF files).
Riez - Quinson Bus
- The Riez - Quinson bus line has 1 bus a day (each way); trip time is 30 minutes. Schedule available via the Riez town website (see Beyond's Riez page). Stops: Riez, Montagnac, St Laurent-du-Verdon, Quinson.