BB0625 Les Garçons de la Botte.

The 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!

Our 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.  

Early morning sun on St Agnes

St Agnes with castle and Maginot line fort

Firstly 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.

Secondly 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.

From 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!

First glimpse of Gorbio

Chapel of St Lazaire

A 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.

The crib in the chapel

Up, up and away!

Day 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!

We 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 spiders.

Leaving Gorbio

Team  picture on Mont Gros

On 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.

Jumping off spot for Monaco!


Returning 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 quite faint.

Intent 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.

Don, September 2006


PS  Click here to see the picture Tony does not want his wife to see!


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Slipper Strolls:



  • BB0631  Coppermines
  • BB0630  Relocation, Relocation, Relocation
  • BB0629  Stone Arthur and a Mystery Plume
  • BB0628  Knocking off Wainwrights.  Oh! Plus Skiddaw!
  • BB0627  Blencathra and the Mungrisdale Round
  • BB0626  The Deepdale Round
  • BB0625  Les Garçons de la Botte
  • BB0624  The Crookdale Horseshoe and then some
  • BB0623  Selside Pike revisited
  • BB0622  Round the Dunny!
  • BB0621  The Malham Experience
  • BB0620  Newlands Horseshoe
  • BB0619  Old Man Succumbs!
  • BB0618  Kentmere Horseshoe
  • BB0617 QH2QH High Street (the length thereof)
  • BB0616 Thornthwaite Beacon
  • BB0615  Fairfield Horseshoe
  • BB0614  High Street Racecourse
  • BB0613 The Coledale Round
  • BB0612  Well, Well, Well, Wansfell and Troutbeck Tongue      
  • BB0611  Carlin Gill
  • BB0610  Whitbarrow, Yewbarrow and a history lesson
  • BB0609  Clough Head and Great Dodd
  • BB0608  The Corpse Road and beyond
  • BB0607  Grim Fell!
  • BB0606  A Bit on the Side.....
  • BB0605  Angle Tarn with Surprises! 
  • BB0604  Hart Cragg via Dovedale
  • BB0603  Islands in the Sky with Brocken Spectres
    (or High Street via Gardiner's Grind)
  • BB0602  Holme Fell, Black Fell and Electric  Eyes
  • BB0601  Ingleborough
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