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Walking the French Riviera – discovering the lesser-known side of the Cote d’Azur

Walking Programme Manager Caroline Phillips and Self-Guided Product Manager Ali Butler set out for the Riviera on a recce from a stormy Farnborough for three days of walking. Find out how they got on and what were their surprises and highlights.


"We all know about the glam and the glitz – the private yachts, the rich playboys of Monte Carlo and chic ladies of St Tropez but did you know that just inland from the French Riviera (or Cote d’Azur as the locals know it) is a walkers delight? Well-marked trails pass through a breathtaking landscape of craggy limestone cliffs and beautiful perched villages. Hikers can enjoy incredible views both of the Cote D’Azur itself and inland to the snow-clad mountains of the Alps.

The main purpose of our trip was to test the route notes for our brand new self-guided walking trip to the French Riviera and discover an area that neither of us had visited before. The route notes have been compiled by our French partner and we found them incredibly easy to use. The written description of each day’s route is backed up by actual images from key places along the way such as path intersections. Having a visual confirmation that we were exactly where we thought we were was very reassuring and we had also been supplied with a ‘carte de randonnee’, walking map of the region.

Surprises
  • It's a little embarrassing to admit, but we were both thrilled at how exceptionally friendly and helpful all of the locals we met were. The outdated stereotype of the aloof and unfriendly Frenchman is forever banished from our minds!
  • The peace and quiet along the walking trail is another thing that struck us both. We hadn’t appreciated that literally just a few kilometres from the hustle and bustle of city life in Nice and Monte Carlo on the coast below, we would be so completely alone with just the sounds and smells of the nature around us. It was a sudden reminder of where we were walking when the only vehicle that passed us was a Porsche 911!
  • The weather on the Riviera also surprised us. We’d expected it to be warmer than the UK but hadn’t appreciated that the winter days here would be quite so warm and sunny. Benoit, our friendly host at the cosy ‘Frog’s House’ hotel in St Jeannet, told us that the best views are always in the winter months when the air is at its clearest and you can even see the island Corsica some 230 kilometres away!
Highlights
  • Watching the many paragliders taking off from the cliffs and and riding the thermals high above the azure Mediterranean and skyscrapers of Monte Carlo below.
  • Staying in and exploring the pretty ‘perched’ villages of St Jeannet, Gorbio and Sainte Agnes. We were both pleased with how much of our schoolgirl French we had remembered buying our picnics from the local grocer.
  • Rustic French fare – we enjoyed some on typical and tasty French cuisine and local produce including snails, rabbit and wild boar, plenty of crusty French bread and the sweet mandarins that were in season.
  • Stumbling into the 84th Lemon Festival on our arrival in the charming resort of Menton at our walks’ end. To celebrate the lemon harvest, 145 tonnes of citrus fruits are turned into a dazzling array of sculptures and carnival floats. All quite surreal!"
 

Caroline and Ali are both keen to get back to the Riviera to do some more walking. If you like the look of it too it our new Self-guided Walking the French Riviera trip runs on any day from February through to November.

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