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September 2007
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November 2007

Hiking: L'Estérel Rocher St. Barthélemy


Last week's rains lasted only a couple of days, and this Saturday we woke up to clear blue skies. The temperature was a mere 10C in the early morning and I commiserated with the boulangère at the corner shop on how chilly it has gotten. We're getting spoiled beyond belief!

T'was a perfect day for a hike in the nearby Estérel Mountains. If you're ever near Cannes or Fréjus, or anywhere in between, make a bold move - escape the crowds and come ramble in the cork-oak woods and the grand rocky pitons of the Estérel. You won't regret it. Until then, here are a few pics:

Hiking to Rocher St.Barthelemy


Rocher St Barthelemy


Getting there:


The loop from the Parking lot ahead of the "Cap Roux" sign to the Rocher St.Barthélémy and back is just over 3 kilometers (0.62 mile). It's a paved road blocked to motorized traffic, but open to pedestrians and bikers. To reach it from Agay, take the D100 road at the Agay roundabout. Head inland for 1.5 km and turn right into the Estérel Mountain road just after the "Mas du Rastel" campground. Continue beyond the forester's house (Maison de Gratadis), going right and down, then over a cement ford, back up and zigzag your way to an intersection. Turn right at the sign "Rocher St.Barthélémy" and park where the road ends.

Oui, de la pluie!

Yes, it is finally raining on parts of the Côte d'Azur. While the rest of France enjoys warm weather, a few  enclaves in south-eastern France have gray clouds bursting with water and, less happily, plenty of wind to boot. Corsica and parts of Côte d'Azur Provence are under the weather.

And that's wonderful news.

In the Var, the Argens river has dried up for a stretch of 3 kilometers. In the Gorges du Verdon, usually wet with an average of 500 mm of rain water during the Fall had only 13 mm as of two weeks ago. On the hillside of the Lachens mountain, you can see wide brownish spots where pine trees are drying up. In the Maures, we find a growing number of ill maritime pines like we saw on a recent October walk (photo below) by Roquebrune-sur-Argens.


 Weakened by months of dry weather, the maritime pine trees are more susceptible to the pine-damaging scale insect, the Matsucoccus feytaudi.

Opinions vary of the future of the Mediterranean forests of Provence Azur - to many, local forests are the product of long periods of droughts and are thus well capable of adapting; to others, without human intervention, the forests are changing as less drought-resistant species slowly die off and make way for more resilient ones. From what we see, the second opinion better reflects the state of the forests of the Var and the Alpes-Maritimes.

Forêt Mediterranéenne is holding a round-table seminar on November 8 and 9 in Marseille regarding the impact of global warming on the local forests. We will be talking to experts from the Minister of Agriculture then.

Although we all prefer to hike and explore the region in dry conditions, let's hope it continues to rain for a few more days.

Hiking: Circling the Mont Peygros, Auribeau-sur-Siagne


Hiking Mont Peygros

It’s on the Côte d'Azur, so close to Cannes, but you would not know it. Mont Peygros is a small hill (peaks at 301 meters) part of the Tanneron hills, admired for their expanse of mimosa trees that turn yellow in February, and for the touch of wilderness they bring to an otherwise generously built area between Grasse and Cannes.

Hiking up Mont Peygros, you find wild mimosa trees, the darkened trunks of knotted cork oaks, a couple of black and white spotted European Magpies bouncing on the GR51 Sentier de Grande Randonnée footpath, the muffled barks of dogs below, two rectangular patches of fluorescent blue by villas to the east, bright among the dark green on the hill and the golden crust of the earth. You might even spot a Golden Eagle circling above the hills and casting a wide shadow against the sky. Footprints mingle on the dirt path. Horses, humans, dogs, mountain bikes all share the trail that loops around the quiet hill.

They say the best time to come here is winter, when the mimosas bloom. I say come anytime. It’s a great place to get away and get energized, off-the-beaten-track on the French Riviera.


Getting there:

Off the A8 highway, exit at Mandelieu. Take the D109 towards Grasse and Pégomas. Then follow the signs for Auribeau-sur-Siagne, taking the D109A, then the D9 which turns into the D509. Park at the Place Léon Mallet in Auribeau and head down the wooden steps on the GR51, then up the DFCI de Peygros to loop around the Circuit de Peygros.