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December 2008

A little Hike in the Petites Maures Mountains

Angry Col du Bougnon The weather started on the damp side for this week's group hike on the French Riviera. We had a serious rainfall Monday morning around 3AM, a tropical shower with buckets falling all at once, the kind that pounds rooftops and pavements and wakes up a sound sleeper. By 5AM, all was quiet.

So we hesitated to head out to the Maures Mountains for a trek, but the pull of the wild won out...

From Sainte-Maxime, we headed up the N98 coastal road to the D8 street by San Peire that makes it way by the Hameau des Issambres to the Col du Bougnon. Parking is plentiful at the Col du Bougnon, right by the archery range.

Note: In our hiking guidebook to the French Riviera, we describe hike #15 on page 88 as "Col du Bougnon." Due to the intense rainfall of early November, we don't currently recommend this hike as the F35 footpaths up and down Cabasse have been eroded and deeply furrowed. Try this hike instead.

Col du Bougnon Hike Map, Maures MountainsWe followed the F232 footpath alongside the flanks of the hills, leaving the F35 footpath on our left. The footpath makes it easy to walk: it's wide, sandy and makes it way over gently rolling hills. In about 20 minutes, we reached a major intersection of the F232 path with the F120, with a water cistern marked RAG9 at the hilltop.

Rather than take the F232 and then the F35 to Cabasse currently deeply ravined, we continued straight on the F120 footpath, the larger path that heads North-West. After another 20-30 minutes of country walk in the Maures, we spotted the green water cistern marked RAG8 on the left at the top of a hill and in the bushes.

Col du Bougnon Hike, Maures Mountains

Note: If you're just looking for a 6km hike (about 1hour 45 minutes), turn back here.

We continued all the way down to the next major intersection and turned on our happy heels to head back before nightfall. Night time comes a little quicker in the hills in Winter. We wanted to be back by 5PM.

The city scape to the east is not Roquebrune-sur-Argens, but Puget-sur-Argens with its industrial base. And out to sea, we spotted the Dramont semaphore. T'was another inspiring walk in the Maures Mountains of southern France.

Looking for more on-foot adventures in France? Take a look at this latest English-language hiking guidebook to the western French Riviera.

Col du Bougnon Hike, Maures Mountains


Google Map to situate the hike's starting point:


Estérel: Hiking around a Wolf

Ascension forever

This time last year on the French Riviera, we had cold wet weather. This week feels like a summer, with plenty of sun, only a lazier sun that goes down sooner and leaves the air fresh and crisp enough for a light jacket.

Perfect time to lace the hiking boots and head to the Estérel Mountains, these rugged rebellious-looking pitons and peaks behind the coast of Cannes.

We decided to hike around the wolf, the mountain of la Louve.

The nice thing about the rocky peak of La Louve is that you can get to it quickly from Fréjus or from Saint-Raphäel. Great when you're around Fréjus this time of year, when the afternoons are short.

You reach the entrance to this side of the Estérel by the Valescure neighborhood. Take the Oratoire de Guérin into the Estérel fire road, and you're basically on the GR49 hiking path. You can park further up at the roundabout with the half dozen cork oaks.

Agrandir le plan

The Estérel paths around la Louve aren't well-marked and, unless you have a hiking guide, I recommend you get a regional IGN map (TOP 25) before heading out on anything more than a short stroll. Or, just head straight, don't venture off-path too far and return the same way you came.

Need more brief on-foot adventures? Try the latest English-language regional hiking guide to the western French Riviera.

Esterel Hikes


French Riviera Holiday Shopping

Between budget squeezes, financial collapses and electoral hopes, it's easy to forget holidays approach thunder fast.

Southern France has plenty for giving. Take a look at some unique gift ideas to bring back from the Côte d'Azur.

1. Glass Art in Biot

The village of Biot, located north-east of Cannes, is France's capital of glass. You can shop at galleries but also watch glass artisans as they blow and shape melting glass into glass sculptures. Some well-known names: Novaro, Saba, and Pierini. Most of Biot's galleries will pack and ship their wares internationally.

See La Verrerie de Biot, 5 Chemin Combes, Biot, ☎ 33 04 93 65 03 00,,

2. Perfume from Grasse

The town of Grasse on the Riviera is the perfume-making capital of France. Try one or all of the three factories open to tourists — Molinard, Galimard, and Fragonard set in a former 18C tannery.

Don't miss the newly renovated Musée International de la Parfumerie devoted to the history of perfume and its evolution through the centuries.

3. Wines from Lorgues

The French Riviera back country brims with fine Provence wines, from the Bellet variety close to Nice to the Côte de Provence wines from the Collines du Haut Pays region or from the Coteau Varois along the coast.

For an expansive selection of wines (over 600) for learning, tasting and purchasing, visit the Maison des Vins in Les Arcs. Maison des Vins des Cotes de Provence, RN 7, 83460 Les Arcs sur Argens, ☎ (0)4 94 99 50 20

4. Marrons Glaçés from Collobrières

Candied chestnuts are incontournables in France for the holidays. I admit, I'm addicted. On the French Riviera, one confiserie is especially well-known for these sugar glazed delights:

La Confiserie Azuréenne in Collobrières in the Maures Mountains behind St Tropez.They'll pack and ship.

5. Lingerie from St Tropez

Lingerie is big on the French Riviera. Actually, it's tiny but hugely popular. So it's no surprise that St Tropez offers a number of fine lingerie shops, as does most self-respecting French town.  What may surprise you is that you can buy top-of-the-line lingerie and swimwear at reasonable prices (swimwear sales usually
takes place at the end of June). Maybe for Valentine's.

Eres is a darling of fashion lingerie and swimwear aficionados and has a boutique in St Tropez at: 2 rue Gambetta, ☎ 04 94 97 27 97. Also in Paris, New York, Palm Beach and a handful of other locations.


Nice-Cannes Marathon 2008

The Nice-Cannes Marathon (42.195 km) begins Sunday, November 9, 2008 at 8:45AM from the Promenade des Anglais in Nice to the Croisette in Cannes. Sunshine is planned all along the coastal run. Some 10,000 runners signed up, from newbie to world-class. Should be a blast, just don't drive anywhere near the race that day!

Voiles d'Automne de St Tropez 2008

Snowcapssttropez The Voiles d'Automne in St Tropez will sail under sunny November skies this year.

St Tropez' last sailing regatta for 2008 begins in earnest tomorrow (Nov 8) and only clement skies, sunshine, a decent breeze and zero road congestion on the menu.

Around 60+ mono-hull habitable sailboats are expected for the Voiles d'Automne 2008. They'll compete around the Bay of St Tropez during this sporty two-day regatta.

No, the Voiles d'Automne isn't the gorgeous and famous Voiles de St Tropez where classic wooden yachts as well as modern high-tech sailing machines race around the St Tropez waters (see our previous articles under "St Tropez Peninsula" for insights into those regattas). Nevertheless, the event makes for a good reason to set your virtual sails to St Tropez for a sunny escape.

The Voiles d'Automne de St Tropez (November 8 - 9) is organized yearly by the Société Nautique de St Tropez.
For information about previous years' Voiles d'Automnes, see our earlier articles.