BB0836 : Reet Grand Randonnées

15th - 19th November 2008

Remarkable as it seemed to us, it is over two years since the BOOTboys temporarily metamorphosed into Les Garçons de la Botte (see BB0625).  Time, therefore, for another French encounter; this time with Bryan added to the team.  This did cause us some worries as we anticipated that his greater ambition might mean that we might actually have to climb uphill rather than letting the buses do the job for us.  We were not wrong!


Saturday 15th November 2008

Nice airport excelled at the speed at which it delivered our luggage and what might have been a tight timeframe in which to catch the bus to Menton, proved easy.  

A bit of excitement en route.  Police everywhere on the way into and out of Monaco, including the bus being stopped and the passengers inspected. No hint of why they were so interested.

Arrived Menton in time for sunset on a glorious Riviera November day.  

Time also to stock the fridge with Tony's essentials.

Beer, cheese and ham for Tony!

Went to Le Stanley for dinner.  Told the waitress that one of our group was, in fact, Stanley.  I had hoped it might have more impact than just having the proprietor coming over and merging the two participants of a famous meeting with the comment “Stanley Livingstone, I presume?”  No doubt the trick has been tried before!  The meal (€22 menu) was ok but the portions were rather small and the tradition of the complimentary grappa or limoncello was not observed.


Sunday 16th November 2008

Acclimatisation day.

First, a bit of culture.  

There was an interesting watercolour exhibition in the Palais de l'Europe- paintings of old Menton and the area.

Next, the ascent of the Annonciade.

I had intended to take the group up by the Winter Palace, there to pick up the Chemin des Rosaries- the old steps to the chapel with the Stations of the Cross at regular intervals.

Somehow I chose the wrong road and ascended to the Summer Palace instead which turned out to be a cul-de-sac.

The Bastion at Menton

However it gave Tony the opportunity to ogle an Africa Twin and me to photograph a long abandoned car by a No Parking sign.  On the bonnet (click on photo to see front view) it said ARLANE.  But I can't find anything about a car called Arlane.  See Afternote.

Tony and the Africa Twin

A car NOT named Arlane

Further up the Route de Sospel, I found a set of steps I had not seen before- quite a brutal climb, really, before meeting the Chemin des Rosaries and reaching the Annonciade. I think the boys were impressed.  It is so serene and the views are inspiring.

The Annonciade panorama

Tony tried to explore the crypt which gave rise to Bryan remarking on it being a KrypTone Factor challenge!

Returning to the town, at the market was a lady walking her ferret and a Chihuahua with three puppies.  I am not sure if they were for sale or if the stall holder had just brought them along to look after them.

The lady with the ferret

Mother chihuahua and pups

After lunch on the terrace we climbed up through the old town, newly gentrified but still with electricity cables all over the place, up past the old cemetery, past a strange motor bike with two front wheels to the Trebuquet cemetery.  

The motor bike with a spare front wheel!

French War graves

Outside, there is a sign announcing a commonwealth war grave but we could not find it. However there were many graves of the French fallen, particularly of the first world war, plus some Italians.  Given that Menton was little touched by that war other than having its Belle Epoque hotels commandeered as nursing homes, we thought it likely that many had been brought there from the fronts to convalesce but did not survive.

Ulysses, Menton and le Roc de l'Ormea

We continued along the Boulevard de Garavan to the olive grove park where there were lots of families, some seemingly hosting birthday parties for groups of children.  

It was a lovely evening.

Sunday night’s meal was at the Moroccan restaurant, Le Taureg.  Tony, a die-hard steak and chips man, was persuaded that a lamb tagine with vegetables would not kill him.  He even discovered that cous cous is actually edible and subsequently confessed that this was actually his favourite meal of the whole trip.


Monday 17th November 2008

What we had feared about having Bryan with us came to fruition.  Somehow he talked us into an early start for the bus to Sospel from where we would walk back along the GR52, taking in at least one Munro sized peak.

The hills were looking splendid with the remains of the autumnal colouring glowing in the sun.  We got a good view of the old railway viaduct- what a trip that must have been.

The old railway viaduct from below.....

.... and higher up

On the bus was a Canadian couple who were planning to do the same thing.  Except they did not have a map and had been told that it was an easy four hour stroll.  Our guide book, a Rother serious one, suggested six hours.  Indeed we were a little concerned that we might run out of daylight, particularly if we took too many detours.  We left them at Sospel looking at the times for the return buses.

Sospel with its washing

Sospel from the GR52

The temperature was distinctly colder and the sky was quite veiled as we set off to find the start of the route.  We made a couple of mistakes- the waymarking is not always very clear when it needs to be- but Bryan’s expertise with the map quickly got us back on track.  It was a pleasant if unrelenting climb through lightly wooded countryside with excellent view of an increasing number of snow capped mountains.

View back to the North

At this point I need to comment on our attire.  The day before we departed we had been to the Lowe Alpine Factory Sale and kitted ourselves out for the trip.  So here we are posing for our Lowe Alpine team picture, each of us pointing to the logo as proof!  Will they sponsor our future overseas expeditions?

The Lowe Alpine Team  Picture

Memorial to the Maquisardes

We passed a memorial to some Maquisardes who had been executed by the Germans and reached the Col du Razet, the watershed from where we could begin to see the Mediterranean, on schedule.  

First glimpse of the Med

We were contemplating what had happened to the Canadians when the he part of the couple appeared.  The she part had done the commonsense thing and gone back by bus whilst he had done the commonsense thing and bought a map.  We saw quite a lot of him over the next couple of hours, an interesting character whose first language was Hungarian, second French and third English who was attending a medical software conference.  

Tony probably wishes our companion had gone back with the lady.  For a while we were some distance ahead, then Tony took off a layer of clothing and in the process unwittingly dropped his glasses case.  Some distance later he realised what had happened.  Bryan saw this as an opportunity to do a bit of fell running and volunteered to dash off back for it. Whilst Bryan was missing, our Hungaro-Canadian friend came by.  When Bryan returned with the glasses case, Tony discovered it had been stepped on and his glasses broken. So who might have done that?  It was not exactly a crowded trail!

The day was improving progressively and the views were spectacular.


Looking west from the GR52

We parted company at the Col de Berceau.  We had not yet bagged a Munro and, even though time was slipping, the Roc de l’Ormea was crying out to be climbed.  It was with some trepidation that I approached it as the guidebook said that hands were necessary. Not so on the way that we went up.  Steep and rocky, yes, but not difficult.  But what views!  This is the hill that is just inside the boundary between Italy and France and dominates the bay.  3,714 feet high and only two miles from the coast.

On the Roc de l'Ormea

Ventimiglia from  the Roc

The route down seemed long and, apart from the Plan de Lion plateau, unrelentingly steep.  Tony spotted a Praying Mantis that took a shine to his boot. Bearing in mind their mating habits, when it started crawling up his trouser leg, he started to get worried and brushed it away!

Tony's Praying Mantis

Nearing Menton

It was getting quite dark as we reached Menton.  Somehow, just below the motorway, we took a wrong turning down a very impressive metal staircase and then a, fortunately, illuminated path before rejoining the GR52 on the Boulevard de Garavan.

A Menton sunset

On reaching the promenade, it was time for Tony’s reward for all the pain we had put him through.  

We found a little café and settled down, largely and unusually at Bryan's insistence, for what Stan termed an “elegant sufficiency” of grand bières before heading for the one restaurant guaranteed to provide red meat- La Boucherie.  

Four lots of steak and chips.  Good chips, nice sauce but sadly the steak was poor- old camel, Stan called it.  

This one goes on the best-avoided list.


Tuesday 18th November 2008

The weather had gone off and it was much cloudier with mist on the hill tops. We caught the bus to St Agnes, the highest coastal village in Europe.  The drive up the winding roads would not disgrace a fun fair.  The original plan had been to climb the Cime de Bausson and continue round the back of the hill to Gorbio.  However, after the exertions of the previous day an easier day was essential!  Consequently we decided to take the direct route to Gorbio via the GR51.  But first we took breakfast at the Sarasin restaurant- a welcoming fire and a very happy proprietor, cheered by the opportunity to serve up yesterday’s stale bread as toast!  

Next we examined the Maginot Line fort then climbed the castle, one of my favourite view points and quite a steep little challenge.  Unfortunately the central keep was closed so the panorama was not complete.  Nonetheless the medieval garden is delightful (and extended from when I last visited).

St Agnes from  the castle

The medieval garden

It really is a superb vantage point, even though visibility was not what it had been the previous day.

 The Roc de l'Ormea and Menton from St Agnes castle

We had a different type of challenge on the GR51.  

The way was blocked by an electric fence.

Big decision.  

To stride over like Stan?

To crawl under like Bryan?  

Or, in Tony’s case, to limbo dance under it?  

Or do as I did ?

Simply unhook it with the insulated handle!

Bryan crawls whilst Tony limbos

St Agnes behind us.....

..... and Gorbio ahead

The stroll was nice and easy and would have taken little more than an hour had there not been some climbers tackling the cliffs whom the boys wanted to watch for a while. Personally I do not like watching rock climbers- they make me feel quite strange. Rather them than me!

Sadly the restaurant in Gorbio is only open on Sundays through the winter so we had to eat at the bar, Les Terraces, on the other side of the square.  Tony was happy enough- more steak and chips but our ravioli was sauceless and decidedly uninspiring.

After we had finished we were joined by Jilly- the lady who runs the Menton Daily Photo, an excellent website in which she publishes photographs and anecdotes of “One of the most Beautiful Towns on the French Riviera”.  She really ought to be given the Freedom of the City, or whatever the French equivalent might be, as the promotion of the town through her photographs is far more impressive than the official town website.

Whilst I am  taking a picture of Jilly.....

..... Jilly is photographing the BOOTboys

To return to Menton by road or bus was the final decision.  No contest; the bus won.  In the evening we dined at Le Bistro du Jardin, overlooking the Biovès gardens that were built more than a century ago over the Carei river.  Excellent.


Wednesday 19th November 2008

We had been warned that today was Monaco’s independence day so there would be lots going on.  However it was our day to go home so to make sure we didn’t miss the plane we caught the bus an hour earlier than might otherwise have been the case.  Of course, Le Chatelier’s principle, or as we know it, Sod’s law, applied.  Monaco was creepily quiet. Lots of flags but no traffic.  Record time for the journey to the airport!

It was an otherwise uneventful journey home to a cold and damp Cumbria.  Still, we have happy memories of “reet grand” randonnées to keep us motivated until we can next get out on the fells.

Don, 19th November 2008


I know this is similar to one above, but I like it!


Pasi from Finland followed the link from Menton Daily Photo and identified the car as a Simca Ariane, not an Arlane.  

A forgivable mistake on my part, I think, given the evidence!

But thanks to Pasi for solving the mystery.



To find what happened next, see Aftermath

An arbitrary rule, but only those walks involving a Grande Randonnée have been counted!


17th November

18th November



12 miles

3 miles

15 miles

Height climbed:


4,751 feet

5,887 feet

459 feet

1,587 feet

5,210 feet

7,474 feet


Roc de l'Ormea





For the latest totals of the mileages, heights and Lakeland Fells Books Wainwrights see: Wainwrights.

If anyone wants to claim other peaks, please let me know and I will submit them to the adjudication committee!


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BOOT boys

This page describes an adventure of BOOTboys, a loose group of friends of mature years who enjoy defying the aging process by getting out into the hills as often as possible!

As most live in South Lakeland, it is no surprise that our focus is on the Lakeland fells and the Yorkshire Dales.

As for the name, BOOTboys, it does not primarily derive from an item of footwear but is in memory of Big Josie, the erstwhile landlady of the erstwhile Burnmoor Inn at Boot in Eskdale, who enlivened Saint Patrick's Day 1973 and other odd evenings many years ago!

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2008 Outings

  • BB0801 :
    Avoiding the Graupel;  
    Wednesday 16 January
  • BB0802 :
    Lyth in the Old Dogs;
    Tuesday 22 January
  • BB0803 :
    That's Lyth;
    Sunday 27 January
  • BB0804 :
    Tony's Memory Lane;
    Wednesday 30th January
  • BB0805 :
    Fell's Belles!
    Thank You Mells
    Wednesday 6th February  
  • BB0806 :
    The Langdale Skyline
    and a Fell Race!
    Wednesday 13th February
  • BB0807a:
    An Outbreak of Common Sense;
    Thursday 21st February
  • BB0807b:
    Askham Fell and
    the Lowther Estate;
    Thursday 13th March
  • BB0808
    Thanks to the MWIS
    Wednesday 19th March
  • BB0809 :  
    High Street and Kidsty Pike
    but no Fairy
    Friday 28th March
  • BB0810 :  
    Prelude to Spring
    Wednesday 2nd April
  • BB0811 :  
    Spring in Lakeland
    Sunday 6th April
  • BB0812 :  
    Wet, Wet, Wet Sleddale to Mosedale Cottage
    Thursday 10th April
  • BB0813 :  
    What's It All About, Tony?
    Thursday 17th April
  • BB0814 :  
    The Hidden Mountain
    Tuesday 22nd April
  • BB0815 :  
    The Bowland CROW
    Thursday 1st May
  • BB0816 :  
    High Cup Nick:
    The Gurt La'al Canyon
    Wednesday 7th May
  • BB0817 :  
    Travelling Light
    Wednesday 14th May
  • BB0818 :  
    Pensioners’ Day Out
    Thursday 22nd May
  • BB0819 :  
    The Northern Tip
    Thursday 29th May
  • BB0820 :  
    The Bannisdale Horseshoe
    Wednesday 11th June
  • BB0821 :  
    Black, White or Grey Combe?
    Thursday 19th June
  • BB0822
    Thunder on the 555
    Thursday 3rd July
  • BB0823
    We'll Give It Five
    Thursday 10th July
  • BB0824 :
    Shelters from the Storm
    Thursday 17th July
  • BB0825 :
    The Big Wind-Up
    Wednesday 23rd July
  • BB0826 :
    Tony’s Third (and wettest) Alfie
    Wedmesday 30th July
  • BB0827 :
    A Visit to Mud Hall
    Tuesday 19th August
  • BB0828 :
    The Tale of Randy Gill
    Tuesday 27th August
  • BB0829 : Mosedale Cottage Revisited
    Wednesday 3rd September
  • BB0830 : Mist Over Pendle
    Wednesday 10th September
  • BB0831 : Luncheon Chez Monty
    Thursday 2nd October
  • BB0832 : Escape from the Madness
    Thursday 9th October
  • BB0833 : Only on a Thursday
    Thursday 16th October
  • BB0834 : YIFT
    Wednesday 29th October
  • BB0835 : Reflections on Thirlmere
    Thursday 6th November
  • BB0836 : Reet Grand Randonnées
    15th - 19th November
  • BB0837 : Back to Real8ty
    Wednesday 26th November
  • BB0838 : Ladies Invitation Day
    Thursday 4th December


 The Comback Trail

  • CBT01 : Helm, direttissimo
    Monday 22nd September
  • CBT02 : Cunswick Fell and back in the dark!
    Monday 29th September



  • BskiB08 : Bootski Boys in the Sella Ronda  
    23rd February - 1st March


Click on the photos for an enlargement or related large picture.



To download a log of which Wainwrights have been done by which BOOTboy in the "modern" era, i.e. since the advent of BOOTboys click on Wainwrights

If anyone wants to claim other peaks, please let me know and I will submit them to the adjudication committee!



 BOOT boys