Sunday, January 13, 2013

Hiking in the French Riviera

On the trail above Eze-sur-mer
Hiking? That's not really what the French Riviera is known for, but hey, that's great! If everybody's on the beach that means fewer people will be on the trails ;)

The Alps are close by, as we have shown in a previous post. The proximity of such quality beaches and quality mountains does not cease to amaze us, but without a car it's actually easier for us now to enjoy the coastal area than the snowy slopes.

Unfortunately as C has been busy growing a baby, I've gone alone on a few expeditions in the past few weeks. Below are some of the highlights from such day trips with the hiking shoes and the day-pack!

Coastal pathway around Saint Jean Cap Ferrat (~ 5.5 mi / 9 km)

This is one of my favorite hikes or walks simply because Saint Jean Cap Ferrat is one of my favorites places. Saint Jean is insanely quiet and peaceful considering its location, right on the outskirts of Nice. It's also not just a paradise for rich folks, but also for Mediterranean bushes and trees, and more or less a marine reserve.
I like it cause it's not overbuilt, and a trail (sometimes paved) goes all around it. The rocks, vegetation, and views are surprisingly varied too, even though it's a rather tiny peninsula.

Saint Jean on its southernmost side

View over the Eastern protrusion of Saint Jean at a distance and Monaco and the Italian coast in the background

The Paloma beach - beautiful water, serene pine tree surroundings, and a gorgeous view on all the Riviera East of Saint Jean!
Luscious Mediterranean vegetation right above the trail - and that's in December!

Quick 'n easy panorama over Nice and the French Riviera (~ 3 mi / 5 km)

From downtown Nice where the harbor is located, it is possible to hike up the Mont Boron to one of two forts: Fort Mont Boron or Fort Saint Alban. Last month I chose to spend a Saturday afternoon up Mont Alban. It's not really a hike because it's paved all the way, but man, was it a lot of stairs to climb!

Fantastic reward from up there though, on either the West side overlooking Nice, the bay of Cannes, and then the Esterel mountains at a distance, or the East side overlooking Saint Jean and further to Monaco. From Mont Alban one can also get a glimpse of the Alps North of Nice.
The old Fort (mid 16th century) on the Mont Alban from up close

The fort's entrance

Sunset over Nice

Peeking over on "the other side": Villefranche, Saint Jean Cap Ferrat and the Cap d'Ail (right before Monaco)

And on the North side...
Another mesmerizing sunset over the now dark blue sea!

Hike on Mont Bastide and toward Beaulieu (~ 6.3 mi / 10 km)

Now for a real hike! From Eze-sur-mer ("Eze-by-the-sea") to the picturesque perched village of Eze, all the way to the top of the nearby mount Bastide (~ 1,900 ft / 600 m), back down to sea level, and out over a pass down to Beaulieu-sur-mer. Most of the trail is actually on land that was purchased by the region to keep it away from real estate investors. It's actually the wildest area I have seen along the coast yet. Quite remarkable I could get there by train from the main station in Nice in about 15 minutes!

Enjoy the views! I found them just to be breathtaking. This is really a special place. So does Bono from U2 think as well, as you can view here and on some of the shots below ;)

Starting the hike: View of Eze-sur-mer; Saint Jean at a distance

Cliffs in between the two Eze
Seeing the bell towers and some roof tops up there!

Panorama of Eze-village and the bay of Eze-sur-mer

A t-shirt is really all that's needed to hike here at winter time!

Overlooking the bay of Eze-sur-mer - "Bono's island" is on the left side of the bay
Protruding out onto the sea, from left to right: Saint Jean, Cap de Nice, Airport!
Hiking down the "secret but rough" breach from Eze to Beaulieu-sur-mer
Panorama of Beaulieu-sur-mer and Saint-Jean

Coming up next: The red rocks of l'Esterel mountain between Cannes and Saint Raphael; I trust we can get there by train since the train line Marseille-Nice goes through it!

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