Whether from the movies, from Grace Kelly's history or from visits to Nice, the Grande Corniche to many is one thing: a road. It's the majestic road that rides the crest line from Nice to west of Menton. It's the elegant one among the three parallel sisters, the one that dominates both the Moyenne Corniche road right below and the coastal Basse Corniche at the foot of the hills.
But the Grande Corniche is also a park with a maze of footpaths, a Maison de la Nature visitors' office and an observation table that details the sites (to reach the observation table, hike up and left at the beginning of Forna path.)
Take a walk along the Parc de la Grande Corniche's footpaths. Looking inland, you see the mountains of the Mercantour scribble faint wave lines across the sky. The Pre-Alps draw more distinct and rounded hills.
Looking out the other direction to the sea, the coastline from San Remo to the peninsula of St Tropez shine in the distance. On a very clear day, you might even spot the island of Corsica to the south east, a dim shape floating on the horizon's curvature.
To bird observers, the Parc de la Grande Corniche offers a chance to spot an occasional eagle, a great horned owl, or another raptorial bird that hovers overhead.
To nature-lovers, the park may soon turn into more than just a pretty 700 hectares of protected land. The department's Conseil Général and the Nicolas Hulot Foundation announced last fall that the Fort of La Revère in the park would become a center dedicated to the promotion of sustainable development. The center will offer educational seminars and expositions on ecological themes across 7 conference rooms, a library, a restaurant and an outdoors amphitheater seating 300 people. A rain water recycling is also planned, in keeping with the future center's philosophy of sustainable operations. Fourteen million Euros have been promised toward the design and construction of the site which is planned to begin in 2010 and complete in 2011.
We look forward to its development! We'll let you in on it as it evolves.
In the meantime, if you're in Nice for a little while and long for a breath of fresh air and surrounding views, consider a hike in the Parc de la Grande Corniche. Combine it with a visit to nearby Eze-village, to La Turbie and its prominent Trophée des Alpes dating back to Roman times (built by Emperor Augustus).
From Nice, take the A8 highway for approximately 15 km and exit at La Turbie, highway exit toll #57 (oui, there's a toll). From there, take the D2564 to the col d'Eze then turn right into the route de la Revère. ViaMichelin.com can give you exact directions from other locations.
NiceLife reminded me of a better option to reach the park, one that's right in line with the plans to encourage environmental awareness: take the 10:45 bus 116 from Nice's Gare Routière up to La Turbie.