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Le Sanglier & le Hiker

Boar footsie, Wiki CommonsLes sangliers.

Obelix (from cartoon character series Asterix) loved them, especially roasted on a pit fire. Hunters in the Var and Alpes-Maritimes love them too.

As a hiker, I love them only from a great distance.

Wild boars (Sus scrofa scrofa) abound in the denser forests of the French Riviera. Their short, sturdy, scrubby bodies and large pig heads give them a rugged appearance, like a haggard version of a pig.

They forage the Côte d'Azur forests, digging burrows in the dirt with their long snouts. They're snorting around for acorns, chestnuts, mushrooms, roots, berries, anything to gobble up.

But they wouldn't gobble up a hiker? Or would they?

At dusk, below the Maison Forestière du Malpey in the Estérel Mountains I spotted one last week. It crossed my hiking path, sturdy head down, pig tail up in the air. It stopped and looked at me.

I must have looked like one strange animal with my red backpack, my hairless peach-colored top and a vague smell of lavender soap around me.

Sanglier wiki commonsI didn't impress him (her?). It continued to trot down the road and disappeared offtrack.

Meanwhile, the peach-colored animal was seen dashing down the path, limbs wavering, and squealing: "un sanglier! un sanglier!"

Am I likely to encounter one on my Côte d'Azur walks?

If you ask local hunters, the sangliers are everywhere. They cause beaucoup de damage to local farmers and residents. And they're vicious beasts that could well attack you to protect their babies.

The reality is far lamer. It's difficult to estimate the number of wild boars because, well, they're wild. But they do roam in high numbers in dense forests of the Estérel, Maures or Tanneron and in the Nice back-country in our neck of the woods in South Eastern France.

Boar V printYou can tell of  their visit from the double-digit hoof prints left in muddy paths. Another tell-tale sign is the messy rooting found on the side of footpaths they've foraged. Foraging does happen in people's back-yards where homes border wilder land.

However, when they haven't been taught that some humans give food and grow lovely bulbs, they're shy and nocturnal. Your chances are slim to come nose to snout against one. In my years of hiking the forests between Nice and St Tropez, I've seen a wild boar only twice.

You're far more likely to find one on a Provençal menu in the Fall when hunting season is on.

Where on the French Riviera can I find one on my plate?

Most restaurants who serve wild boar are real and rustic auberges where home cooking prevails.

The restaurant La Petite Fontaine, in Collobrières (in the Maures Mountains), makes one mean Civet de Sanglier and occasional Daube de Sanglier (slow cooked in red wine). They're at 1 place de la République, Collobrières, Phone:  04.94.48.00.12. Call them to check as the sangliers tend to go fast, on food plates as well as in the wild.


Callian: The Lucky Snout

Callian lucky snout The perched village of Callian in the French countryside by Fayence may seem like a snail: its streets wind slowly around its castle like a spiraling snail shell. But it's a pig that holds all the Callian luck. Touch its snout and good luck will follow, it is said.

"O toi qui viens de loin,
Si tu frottes mon groin (that's snout)
A coup sûr très grand bien
A jamais sera tien!
"

The snout awaits at the bottom of the Tour de l'Horloge, polished by 50 years of hopeful rubs.

Callian lucky snout


Estérel: Hiking the Cap-Roux

AzurAlive: To the St Pilon This week was the Semaine de la Randonnée Pedestre in the Var on the French Riviera. Towns and communes of the Var organized guided hikes for any and all.

The drizzly weather mid-week canceled some of the interesting hikes such as the climb up the Rocher de Roquebrune by Roquebrune-sur-Argens or the trek across the Mont Vinaigre in the Estérel.

But today, the sun allowed us to lace our hiking shoes. We hiked with organizer Stéphane at the Adrets-de-l'Esterel tourism board and Hélène to visit old Estérel friends: the Sainte-Baume, the Saint Pilon and the Cap Roux.

On a clear day, this is my favorite short walk (2 hrs) in the Estérel Mountains.

AzurAlive: St Pilon You begin with a climb up to the humbling sides of the sheered St Pilon rocks. There, a stage of red volcanic pitons rise over the sea like pipes on a pipe organ.

A few steps up to the Cap Roux lead you to an old viewing table gifted by the Touring Club de France. You peer over the Bay of La Napoule to the north-east, the islands of St Honorat and Ste Marguerite, Le Trayas, Agay, St Raphael further south, les Issambres and its finger of land pointing into the sea and the cape of St Tropez in the southern most distance. No views of Corsica today...

Cap Roux Map My usual trek back forms a loop around the Cap Roux, but the group decided to turn on our heels and enjoy the more bushy and more shaded trail on the northern side of the hill that lead us up here.No one complained. We were having a ball.

"This has got to be my favorite hiking loop in the Estérel; I've trekked it a dozen times over the years, and never tire of its over-arching views over sea and mountains," I told Hélène, our hiking lead.

"Tiens," said Helène "my favorite is the Ecureuil hike down belowin the gorge. Perhaps it's a thing with domination."

Never looked at it that way, I said as we laughed. Hiking never fails to bring a new point de vue.

We returned replenished to our starting point at the base of the Ste Baume mountain.

AzurAlive: Esterel Hikes For directions, click here.

For more hikes in the Estérel Mountains, take a look at our Esterel selection of articles on azuralive.com.

Questions? Drop us an email (see Contact info to the side) or leave a comment below.

And check out our guide below for some great hikes on the western French Riviera, with maps and photos.

Interested in more half-day hikes on the French Riviera? Check out our highly-acclaimed hiking guide below on Amazon.com (and Amazon.co.uk too!)



Tour de France 2009: Princely Start in Monaco

Tour de FranceDetails on the 96th edition of the Tour De France went public yesterday with
Christian Prudhomme and Prince Albert II of Monaco announcing the Tour de France 2009 map and innovations.

For 2009, the Tour de France starts from Monaco on Saturday, July 4th. It will run to Sunday July 26th 2009, and include 21 stages covering 3,500 kilometers in total.

Lance Armstrong: Photo byBeth Schneider What does Lance Armstrong think about the 2009 TdF?

"The route of the 2009 Tour de France strikes me as innovative and very interesting," Armstrong responded to AFP reporters yesterday. Will he be part of the great 2009 Astana team riders? Dunno yet.

Monaco Can I stay stay right in Monaco on July 4 and 5?

If you're reading this early enough, yes. Reserve far ahead of July. Monaco expects 100% occupancy the night of the Tour.

Can I enter the Principality of Monaco by car on July 4th and 5th?

Yes, they say. No, we say. If you must, try the southern area of the principality by Cap d'Ail and Fontvieille.  But I would bet on serious jam-packing so let your feet do the traveling in Monaco that day as much as possible.

Speeding Countryside: Photo by Zimbio Will the 2009 Tour de France cross through Provence and the French Riviera?

On July 4th, the cyclists start and stop in Monaco at the Port Hercule.

On July 5th, the cyclists will pedal across the French Riviera preferring the rolling hills to the seaside. They'll zoom from Monaco to Cagnes-sur-Mer to Grasse by Fayence to Draguignan then through the vineyard hills of Lorgues to end the day in Brignoles.

The Monaco-Brignoles leg will stretch for 182 km through an area that makes for a fine tour of the Riviera's backcountry. But at about 40 km/hour on average (2008 winner average = 40.50 km/hr), competitors won't see much other than blurred countryside. But spectators will be sure to enjoy lots of folks out in the streets and plenty of local cheer in restaurants and pubs.

When is the leg up killer mountain Mont Ventoux?

The tour heads up Mont Ventoux on Saturday, July 25th, the day before the grand finale arrival at the Champs-Élysées in Paris.

TdF: TGIF in Paris Where can I find out more about the 2009 Tour de France?

Details on http://www.letour.fr


Cheap Frills: La Braderie de St Tropez

Azuralive: st tropez Des Affaires de Qualité

Glitz and glamor are about go on sale in St Tropez at the annual Grande Braderie.

This is when St Tropez shops go wild and let go of their year's left-over wares at deep discounts (we've seen gorgeous linens at 80% off!) before they fill with next year's luxury. You'll find brand names but not only. Plenty of quality stuff for us ordinary mortals, and all for less. While some of the top designer clothing stores don't always discount the deepest, the deals are incredible especially on linens and table ware.

For 2008, the Grande Braderie runs from October 24th to 27th, from 9AM to 7PM.

With our belts even tighter this year, and the brasserie dates matching school holidays, expect crowds to storm in.

Tips?

  • Visit on the first day for best selection or last day for best deals.
  • Consider boating in from Cannes, St Raphael or Ste Maxime.
  • If you can pull it off, arrive by 9AM and leave just after lunch, for your sanity's sake

Need a few gentle hikes around the St Tropez peninsula after an day gorging on sales?

Check out our latest hiking guide to the French Riviera (also in Amazon.UK, DE, FR). Already on the French Riviera and in need of a copy? Drop us an email and we'll direct you to the closest shop that carries it.


The Maures Mountains: Singular and Plural

The Maures Mountains

The news came this morning: French photographer Jean-Marc Fichaux died in a moped accident Saturday, October 18, 2008.

Jean-Marc Fichaux lived in St Tropez, a city he cherished and often photographed from all sorts of revealing angles.

Together with Pierre Nembrini, Jean-Marc authored a grasping photography book about the Maures Mountains: "Les Massif des Maures, pluriel et singulier."

The Maures Mountains embrace the peninsula of St Tropez yet remain mysterious and mostly unknown. Their colors run deep with the browns of tormented chestnut tree and cork oak trunks, with the silvers of an impenetrable maquis brush and the shadows of crevasses that slice the mountains.

The Maures Mountains live in a world far from the buzz of the nearby St Trop bay. This artistic photo album manages to catch the wild spirit of the mountains. It also catches a ray of the artist's soul.


Fréjus: Festival International de l'Air 2008

Azuralive: International wind festival in Fréjus, France

If you're anywhere near Fréjus on the French Riviera in late October, rise to the occasion. Come to the International Wind Festival, held Oct 25-26 in Fréjus, France.

Think it's an event for over-grown kids who love to watch bright kites rise in the sky? Think again.

Participants are expert kite fliers who flock from France, Italy, Germany, the UK, Switzerland, Spain, the Netherlands, Portugal, Colombia. They fly their giant fish, their twirling mega socks, their high-tech mills; they battle red, yellow, blue, green flying objects in vicious highly tactical rokkaku kite fights; they send kites off to dance a waltz and to vibrate to new-age music; they entertain everyone.

Over 200 kites of all shapes will fill the skies above Fréjus Base Nature. We'll hear from "Fréjus Kite Surf" about the sport of kite-surfing; we'll get the scoop on gliding in the skies like eagles by the "Centre de Vol à Voile de Fayence"; we'll have a chance to sign-up for a Montgolfière hot air balloon ride above the stadium and overlooking bay and Maures Mountains; we'll even have a chance to embark from Port-Fréjus on a "pointu", a typical Mediterranean slender wooden fishing boat (note: all these activities require on-site sign-up).

When is all this windy fun? October 25 and October 26, 2008 from 10AM to 5PM at the Base Nature François Léotard in Fréjus. One tip: come early as parking fills early by the base.

Azuralive: International wind festival in Fréjus, France

Interested in half-day hikes close to Fréjus? Check out our highly-acclaimed hiking guide below on Amazon.com (and Amazon.co.uk too!)

 


Hiking the Estérel: Around the Cantonniers Forester's House

MF des Cantonniers, Estérel


Hike: Around the Pas d'Adam

Hiking Distance:  7.01 kilometers

Min Elevation: 240 m
Max Elevation: 422 m
Terrain: Nothing tricky but rocky; you'll need good hiking shoes.

Cantonniers_map

relief en 3x

Getting there (link to ViaMichelin directions)

The Estérel Mountains stretch for about 30 kilometers from St Raphael or Fréjus to Cannes, between the Mediterranean Sea and the Endre Valley.

While it seems small enough when seen from Google Earth, the Estérel counts enough large fire roads & smaller footpaths to keep our weekly hiking group busy for the year without tromping the same terrain twice.

If you're new to the region and without prior info or maps, you could get lost in the Estérel. Just remember the main reference points: the Mont Vinaigre with its watch tower is toward the north side of the Estérel; the Pic de l'Ours with its white and red striped antenna, faces east; St Raphael and its immense bay is to the south.

Cantonniers1

Hiking by the Cantonniers

We parked at the Cantonniers forester's road and headed up the H74 path called L'Aigre.

A few steps up and we reached and crossroad with an old worn-out post saying Pas d'Adam. We headed left here and up on the north-bound path.

At the Y intersection with the Belvedere de l'Aigre, we decided to continue straight/right. The weather wasn't clear enough just yet to enjoy the view from the top of the Aigre hill.

Esterel Aigre Path When we reached the Route d'Italie car road, we turned right and immediately reached the H64 Porfait fire path which we took. Nice regrowth of mimosa or acacia trees. These will be in full yellow bloom in Februrary.

On a roll from a downhill, we reached the "Place du Porfait." We checked out the old post from the Forester Administration (ONF) telling us we're 11 km from St Raphael and 24.8 from Le Trayas.

We took the right-most path from there and reached the Carrefour des Roches Noires, after heading around the mountain along its flank on a wide path. The carrefour or intersection is like a wild roundabout with a cork oak tree planted in the middle. The sign by it was too worn out to be readable.

Sumac in October, Estérel

We headed for a gentle uphill adventure onto the smallest uphill path on the right. It's a single lane track that skirts the side of the mountain. The sumacs were fiery red there on this autumn day.

At an intersection, we took the path straight ahead with a red and white cross (indicating this is no longer the main GR path).

It lead us back to the starting path which we took going left back to the Pas d'Adam. At the Pas d'Adam, we took the path to the right that heads down to the MF des cantonniers.



Treasured Chesnuts: La Fête de la Chataigne

La Chataigne, The Chestnut Sweet Autumn Sun

It isn't easy to tell it's Autumn here on the eastern edge of Provence. It's warm. The sun rises a bit groggy in the mornings, but it still shines at least part of the day.

The sure giveaway is the aroma of roasted chestnuts at the open marchés. And the opening days of the Fêtes de la Chataigne festivities all over the French Riviera.

Chauds! chauds! chauds!Sweet Chestnut Fun

Like every year, the slick maroon nuts pop out of their spiky covers like shiny balls of mahogany wood.To be honest, not many sweet chestnuts grow around the French Riviera. Many roll in from Italy. But many towns with even a few chestnut trees love to celebrate the nuts. After all, they were once an important food staple especially in regions where wheat and potatoes did not grow plentiful.

One region on the French Riviera, the Maures Mountains, still harvests the fruit-bearing sweet chestnut trees.

Roasting the chesnutsDuring the last 3 weekends of October, the towns of Collobrières, la Garde-Freinet, les Mayons, Pignans and Gonfaron in the Maures Mountains organize a "Fête de la Chataigne" or Chestnut Festival. They're fun and a great chance to taste the chestnut in many of its creative preparations. Try the daube de sanglier à la chataigne dish of wild boar followed by a chestnut ice cream.

Where?

Collobrières: October 12, 19 and 26.
La Garde-Freinet: October 19 and 26.

For more information on what to expect during these feasts & where to buy the best marrons glacés, see here.


Moonbeam Dreams

Moonbeam ivSailing Elegance in Cavalaire-sur-Mer

If you're anywhere near the French Riviera town of Cavalaire-sur-Mer this winter, you might spot an elegant old-world wooden yacht skimming the Mediterranean Sea dressed with a four-cornered gaff mainsail that bears the number 8.

It's Moonbeam IV. She will moor at the port of Cavalaire-sur-Mer this winter. Undoubtedly, she will sail the neighborhood around the islands of Hyères, by St Tropez and beyond.

The Life of a Moonbeam

Designed by legendary William Fife III and last in the Fife line, Moonbeam IV has lead an exciting life since its birth in 1914.

As with all of the Fife-designed yachts, Moonbeam IV first belonged to London barrister Charles Plumtree Johnson. As soon as she was allowed to sail following WW I, she proved a thoroughbred racer, winning the King's Cup in 1920 and 1923.

In 1950 Prince Rainier of Monaco bought her for family use. He renamed her 'Deo Juvante' ("with the help of God") after the Grimaldi family motto. With-The-Help-Of-God whisked newly wed Prince and Grace Kelly off on the Med for their honeymoon.

In 1960, Italian Count Hannibal Scotti adopted Moonbeam IV, restored her original name and fitted her with new engines.

In 1995, it's John and Françoise Murray who found her sailing in the Aegean Sea. They acquired her and began the slow process of restoring Moonbeam 4 to her neat original teak glory keeping to the original materials, even restoring the original style of rig.

On Winning the Lottery

Ever since, she's been sailing around Antibes, Cannes, Corsica, St Tropez, Malta. When she isn't racing, she is chartered around the Mediterranean.

Curious about chartering? It costs €12,000 for a skippered weekend aboard Moonbeam IV. Contact skipper Mikael Créac'h for details.

OK, so we're allowed to dream a little...

Moonbeam 4