Garçons de la Botte.
Alpes Maritimes in France offer a totally different style of walking
from the Lake District. It's not the weather-
it was just as good when we did the Coledale Round,
for example- although it might be more reliable. It's
the opportunity to catch a local bus at one euro a time to
the top of where you want to go and then enjoy a mainly
downhill saunter in pleasant countryside with stunning
views. Of course, Bryan would no doubt be tempted
to do it rather differently but we, or at least Tony
and I, are not in that league!
first outing started by taking the bus to St Agnes.
This is the highest coastal village in Europe,
allegedly, although it is mostly hidden from view from
the coast as it nestles around the corner of the hill.
It is a typical French perched village but with
two other claims to fame.
morning sun on St Agnes
Agnes with castle and Maginot line fort
it is at the end of the Maginot line and boasts a fortress
with a commanding view of the coastline but proved of
little value as the Germans went round it. Sadly
it was not open the day we were there.
it has a medieval castle on the very top of the hill,
a shortish but stiff climb above the village to a height
of 766 metres. From here there are fabulous panoramic
views over to Italy and along the French coast plus
a delightful small reconstructed medieval garden. Well
worth the climb.
St Agnes we planned to follow the Grand Randonnée
51 as far as the next village, Gorbio at 356 metres,
and then catch the bus back to Menton. We got
off to a bit of a confused start, not help by a Frenchman
directing us the wrong way but we soon put that behind
us and began the gentle descent along well used and
generally well marked paths. What was particularly
striking was the profusion of butterflies along the
route. Unfortunately they would not keep still
long enough to take a decent photo!
glimpse of Gorbio
of St Lazaire
couple of hours later we reached the abandoned chapel
of St Lazaire and then Gorbio with time in hand for
a good nosey round the narrow streets before catching
the bus. One of the buildings housed a tiny chapel
with the most remarkable crib- these little figures,
or Santons- being a speciality of the area. As
this was a relatively short walk it gave us time to
explore Menton where the local school kids were releasing
balloons and where William Webb Ellis rests in peace.
crib in the chapel
up and away!
two started with Tony complaining he hadn't had a wink
of sleep all night and Stan complaining about Tony lying
flat on his back and snoring for hours!
took the bus back up to Gorbio with the intent of following
the GR 51 westerly again but cutting off down to Roquebrune
(yet another perched village albeit rather lower- about
250m). Again the butterflies were out to greet
us as were the geckos - about 0.5m long (notice all
measurements are in metric here!) and quite sizeable
picture on Mont Gros
reaching the turn off, we decided to take an extension
and do a proper climb up Mont Gros (686m). This
took us past another abandoned chapel and some spectacular,
if slightly hairy view points but the most remarkable
feature was the very top. Scrambling up through
rocks and bushes to the summit, the last thing you expect
to find is a perfectly manicured lawn. Or astro-turf
to be precise. What could the purpose be? A
teeing-off spot to see if you can hit a golf ball all
the way down to Monaco? Or a device to ensure
that the view from the top is never spoilt by the undergrowth
getting too overgrown? The answer is more adventurous.
It is literally a jumping-off spot for hang-gliders
who seek to land on the beach at Cabbé way below.
off spot for Monaco!
to the junction we made our way down the ridge to the
top of Roquebrune where we asked for directions to a
restaurant in our best French and this charming young
lady who seemed to take a shine to Tony answered us
in broad Scots to try La Grotte. We did and it
was very good- mixed grill with chips being exactly
Tony fuel. I should have mentioned that we had
not packed any butties and as it was by now gone 2 p.m.
and way past Tony's refuelling time, he was getting
on going down to the coast to catch the train we made
our way down an everlasting set of steps to reach a
road, still some way about the beach, but on the bus
route so we waited for the next bus. When it arrived,
an octogenarian lady took one look at the condition
Stan was in and offered him her seat which he promptly
took and watched her shuffle down the bus. Tony
sat next to him and promptly fell asleep.
Click here to see the picture Tony does not want
his wife to see!
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