Thorenc To Hike

It has been said that the most stunning views of the region above Grasse in souteastern France is from the top of Pic de l'Aiglo. With a statement like that, we had to check it out.
And so we began our hike from the village of Thorenc with high spirits.

Tucked at the bottom of the mountain range that runs straight like a rock wall, Thorenc sits quietly with its mairie, its office du tourisme, its friendly country store and its auberge des merisiers (closed when we visited)  lined up on main street. In the late 19C and early 20C, the village drew many well-to-do families from Nice looking to escape the heat of summer on the French Riviera and to invigorate lungs and spirits in the lush mountainous sites around Thorenc.

Russians loved the region during that time, and a old wooden Orthodox church still bears witness to their presence. Today, the village appears peaceful and awaiting summer when more visitors enjoy it. We were surprised by the number of "For Sale" signs on the beautiful large homes that surround the village.

Onwards with our hike by the Maison Forestière de Bleyne, then up through lush green hills...
We follow the sign (post 105) toward the Pic d'Aiglo...
and are soon rewarded with a gorgeous viewpoint:

We continue up, following the sign for "Gréolières"...
Thorenc Pine Trees

and enjoy the coolness that the surrounding pine trees provide. Another short leg up to reach the crestline...

Thorenc Heading to Pic de l'Aiglo 
At the top, beyond the underground green water cistern, sheers drop straight down to open up all-around views. Be very careful here, especially if you visit over snow. You see the plains of Thorenc and the Loup Valley, the Audibergue mountain and the snow-capped mountains of the Mercantour. Straight ahead, you spot the site of Casteleras topped with ruins of its ancient oppidum.
Thorenc at Pic de l'Aiglo 
At 1644 meters, Pic de l'Aiglo is one of the high points on the Estéron mountain east of St Auban.

We took the 15 km (round-trip) hike, but you could take a shortcut. Begin at the Col de Bleine (1439 m) and follow the yellow-marked trail and signs to Col de l'Aiglo.

This hike is fine in the late spring, most of summer (not on hot days) and gorgeous in the fall when leaves turn fiery red. Snow won't slow down the pros - they'll just wear snow shoes and plan their day to ensure a safe return ahead of sunset.

How long is the hike? From the Col de Bleine to the Pic de l'Aiglo and back, it's 5 km for a 2-hour hike.

Yes, it's a gentle slope up and a short hike. But as with any hike, you are responsible for your safety: always leave prepared. You're in mountain territory here. Check on weather - it's always cooler around Thorenc than on the French Riviera and dark clouds do come & go suddenly in the mountains, dropping the temperature as they block the sun or on occasion dropping buckets of water! Take water, snacks, cell phone & additional clothing and give yourself plenty of extra time to return before nightfall.

Hiking by Thorenc 

Megalithic French Riviera


With the snazzy Cannes Film Festival currently thriving, it's hard to think of the French Riviera as old-fashioned. Yet if you venture out a bit inland, you'll find that's it's outright pre-historic.

Both the Alpes-Maritimes and the Var count a large number of menhirs, those large pre-historic stones plopped upright and sometimes carved with megalithic art forms.

If you've read our hiking guide to the western french riviera, you may have ventured around the Dolmen de Gaoutabry (hike #26 in the guidebook). That prehistoric burial site dates back some 4,500 years ago.

Closer to the resort town of Agay, not too far from the Cap Esterel vacation resort, you'll find the Ferrieres Menhir. You won't find much of a hoopla around it, not even a sign.

Yet the surrounding footpaths are wonderful, especially in the Spring when flowers are in bloom and the sun still soft. If you're staying at Cap Esterel, ask the center for directions to the footpaths (many of them!) that lead to the Ferrières menhir. Or drop us a line for details.


Road to Paradise Temporarily Closed

The Chemin du Paradis, this ancient mule track that links the sky-reaching village of Gourdon to the Vallée du Loup way down below, is temporarily closed.

Rocks stumbled down the pathway, making it unsafe. Not surprising when you consider that over its 3.2 km (2 miles), this section of the footpath makes a 500 meters drop/jump in elevation. Walking up and/or down the winding track was a challenge, but the views of the surrounding white and rusty limestone cliffs and the deep valley below made it worthwhile.

The path to heaven will reopen. To find out when, consult with the Bar-sur-Loup Tourism Board:


Cannes Film Festival 2010: A Regal in Razzmatazz


Today, May 12 marks the launch of the 63rd annual Cannes Film Festival.

To local residents, it's a mildly amusing parade of movie stars on the Croisette, rolling of red carpets on the Palais des Festivals and a swelling of the town as it turns into a luxurious beehive.

Yet to most, it remains the greatest film fest extravaganza.

This year promises to be eventful.

It has barely started and Italy's culture minister has already refused to attend after finding out that the film "Draquila" made it on the festival's list of films. Draquila portrays Italy's prime minister as he reacts to his country's serious earthquake in April 2009 that killed over 300. The film shows how many folks remain homeless a year after the quake, thereby criticizing Italy's prime minister.

The weather last week also sent Cannes topsy-turvy. Strong winds left the Croisette a little shattered.

But all is calm now, I just tested a couple of little food kiosques by the sea - they were in dire shape with waves rolling over them last week but you wouldn't know it now. They make great paninis and pan bagnats sandwiches!  And this afternoon, the sun is out with a vengeance.

Cannes Film Festival 2010 runs until May 23.


Let it Snow, Let it Blow, Let it Snow


Meteo France warned 13 départements to be vigilant for snow today. This included the entire French Riviera, with the départements of the Alpes-Maritimes (06) and the Var (83).

Well, we were very vigilant but it still snowed! There's about 1 cm of snow covering the roads, boardwalk, seaside. 

Here on the Cote d'Azur, we're not used to snow by the coastline. Everyone is driving at snail pace. Lots of people are calling in to work with "un problème de transport" that forces them (chucks) home.


Cannes: Palm Beach Bans Nudity

Keep yours on here  

If you're heading for the public beach of Palm Beach in Cannes on the French Riviera, keep your swimming suit on.

After some complaining by the upscale yacht club in front of Palm Beach, the city of Cannes has declared Palm Beach a non-naturist beach.

Until now, nakedness was tolerated at Palm Beach. When folks wearing nothing but their birthday suits began to stroll in front of the yacht club restaurant's seaside window, complaints poured in.

As for now, fine for first-time naked offenders is 11 euros. More serious naked exposure could cost up to 15K plus a fully-dressed prison sentence.


Cannes Film Festival Freebies

Cannes Film Festival 2009

Yes, you can have fun at the Cannes Film Festival without being a film industry pro, without having a coveted Cinéphile Badge (easy to get, but too late now for 2009) or without being plugged with as many "special connections" as the back of your television set.

One way? The Cinéma de la Plage. It's free. It's on the public beach of the Plage Macé. Sitting on a lounge chair, you enjoy a big screen projection of non-competing Official Selection films and audiovisual heritage films.

The ticket? You need an invitation as spots are limited. Get yours from the City of Cannes Tourist Office right under the Palais des Festivals or Cannes Cinéma’s Espace Cannes Cinéphiles. Yes, we're talking lines... try to get there early.

What's playing?

Concerts usually begin at 8PM each evening. For 2009, ten projections will be made at Plage Macé, from May 14 to May 23.

  • On Friday, May 15: Music by Norvegian group Det Ar Jag Som Art Doden followed by a big screen projection of the classic "Pink Floyd, The Wall" by Alan Parker.
  • On Saturday, May 16: John Erik Kaada with Norvegian film music and the big screen projection of "Soundtrack for a revolution"
  • On Sunday, May 17: The Norvegian band Transjoik does its electro trance thing and projection of the "Neil Young Trunk Show."
  • On Monday, May 18: Danish music group Blue Foundation interprets music from Twilight or Miami Vice followed by projection of David Bowie's mythical "Ziggy Stardust."
  • On Tuesday, May 19: Finnish composer Anssi Tikanmaki goes into Jazz for the music of Finnish film director Aki Kaurismaki
  • On Wednesday, May 20: Jean-Michel Bernard plays the piano followed by the projection of "Don Giovanni"
  • On Thursday, May 21: Islandic Bardi Johannsson followed by the projection of "Tengri, le bleu du ciel"
  • On Friday, May 22: Hauntingly beautiful folk pop music of the band Gravenhurst followed by the projection of "Les vacances de M. Hulot"
  • On Saturday, May 23: Australian group Belle Roscoe plays rock and folk songs followed by a projection of Wattstax, the documentary by Mel Stuart

Some of us had planned on attending tonight's performance. Unfortunately, it's raining cats and dogs today in Cannes or as they say here "il pleut des cordes." We'll get a rain check.

Mimosa Blooms on the French Riviera


It's February, and although this means winter here in France, the mimosa or acacia plant still thinks it's summer as it used it be in its ancestor's lands of the southern hemisphere. And so it blooms in full winter.

Walking along the Tanneron hills, the residential areas by St Raphael such as Boulouris, the Estérel Mountains and dotting gardens here and there, the mimosa splashes the scenery with fluorescent yellow puffs.


The hills of Tanneron behind Cannes are not only covered with mimosas, but harvested for its fragrant flowers for florists and for the perfume industry. You'll also find dashes of yellow paint the Esterel Mountains by Agay and St Raphael, by the St Tropez peninsula and decorating the flowery village of Bormes-les-Mimosas.


Varies by a week or two depending on French Riviera temperatures, but generally from early February to early March. 

How to visit?

The best way is to jump in on one of the festivities organized by the Tourism Offices around the Mimosa Festival. Each year in February, tourism offices and local towns team up to organize a Mimosa Trail. The trail runs from Grasse, Mandelieu, Tanneron, Pégomas, St Raphael, Ste Maxime, all the way to Bormes-les-Mimosas (130 kms). Over the course of a few days, the towns along the trail whip up guided walks, talks, tours and coach excursions around the mimosa tree. The guided walks with forestry officers (ONF) and the mimosa farm visits are interesting if you're comfortable enough in French. Otherwise, lots of yellow & fun with a Mimosa Corso flower parade to crown the event.

Mimosa corso's for 2009 include:

  • Pégomas corso on January 25
  • Ste Maxime & Tanneron corso on February 1
  • St Raphaël mimosa corso on 15th to wrap up a full week of mimosa activities.See the St Raphael Tourism Office Site here.
  • Mandelieu has a special mimosa festival from Feb 13 to 22th February with a corso flower floats on the 22nd. They host some of the more interesting visits to mimosa farms, to Grasse, to the Massif de Tanneron. See their tourism office info here.
  • Bormes les Mimosas: Carnival of Flowers with a corso Feb 23 and 24. See details on the Bormes web site.


Le Rouret: Hikes, Strolls and Discoveries


Azuralive: Roman Camp Site

There are times when I hike simply to breathe in gulps of fresh air, to stroll, to relax. 

Other times I trek to plunge into a new environment and discover new grounds.

In this south eastern corner of France along the French Côte d'Azur, miles of footpaths cross the country side. Some paths skirt the sea and lead us by ancient Roman vivariums, others have us cool off by riverbeds as we walk from one village to another (see hiking from Biot to Valbonne), others take us around islands or over volcanic rocks (see our hikes postings on the Esterel Mountains).

Some of the hikes start out as exploration and end up as simple strolls.Azuralive: Roman Camp Site

Recently, I trekked up by the little town of Le Rouret along the rolling hills behind Cannes and just ahead of the Gorges du Loup.

Le Rouret is a quiet village, even if the Pink Floyd keyboardist, Richard Wright, used to live there part of the year (Sep 15, 2008 addendum: we sadly learned today of the death of Richard Wright in London, of a yet-undisclosed form of cancer). Because it's close to the perfume town of Grasse, Le Rouret cultivates patches of flowers that blossom in season with jasmine, violet  and roses.

My idea was to hike from Le Rouret and reach the Roman Camp at the top of the forested hill behind the village.

Excavated by a team of archaeologists lead by Paul Goby, at the end of the 19C, the site revealed not just a roman camp site, but ceramic debris dating from the Iron Age.

So off we walked to discover Le Rouret and its Roman wonders.

The walk to the opidum site headed uphill, with a short steep section followed by a gentle climb. The dirt trail passed by a handful of villas, then headed for the woods. Anyone who thinks the French Riviera is nothing more than blocks of palaces by the sea needs to visit these cool wooded hills.

After about forty minutes of gentle uphill following the signs "Camp Romain", we reached the top of the hill...

No Roman ruins.

They were supposed to encircle the top of the hill.

Were it not for some rusty old sign that said "Défense de Fouiller", we would have missed the Roman camp site altogether.It's essentially a ruin covered by vigorous shrub.Azuralive: Roman Camp Site

We headed back down the other side of the hill. The dirt road was wide and winding across park-like settings.

Around a bend in the road, we stumbled upon a sign: "Champ d'Essai Truficole." We had hiked by a black truffle farm, one of the very few in the Alpes-Maritimes.Azuralive: Black truffle farm

In the early 1990's around 30,000 truffle-friendly trees (oaks mostly) were planted in the departement of the Alpes-Maritimes, between the coast and up to 1200 meters altitude. The idea was to cover 300 hectares (600 acres) of truffle farm of "truffières" in this departement by the year 2010 to expand the production of these precious mushrooms.

Today, the Alpes-Maritimes produces about 100 kg a year of cultivated black truffles and another 400 kg is picked up from wild truffle hunts.

This truffiere of Le Rouret is experimental and pretty secretive. Not a lot of information is published about it, possibly to keep intruders out given the price of black truffles.

And thus ended another Côte d'Azur hike filled with discoveries.

Click here for directions to Le Rouret, on the French Riviera.

Click here for more information on Le Rouret, on the French Riviera.

Cote d'Azur Flowers

Skirting the Mansions of Cap d'Antibes

Azuralive: cap d'Antibes

Cap d'Antibes may be the land of exclusive mansions, of marbled hotels with fluffy slippers and valet parking.
It may be Russian oil billionaire Roman Abramovich's much beloved relaxation spot.
And sure, it was the setting for F. Scott Fitzgerald's Tender Is the Night.

But you don't need a 100-feet yacht, a Ferrari or a Porsche to explore the Cap d'Antibes cape. All you need is a pair of sturdy legs fitted with good hiking shoes.Azuralive: cap d'Antibes


In two energetic hours, you can experience the richness of Cap d'Antibes on foot, along its coastal path that winds around the cape. The Sentier du Littoral coastal path is always well-maintained here and fitted with a few bridges and ramps where creeks plunge precipitously into the sea.

It skirts by private multi-million-Euro mansions. These mansions are guarded around the clock and so walled-in that you won't have much of a chance to admire their landscaping, much less the celebrities that drop by.

More interesting is the scenery by the water: white limestone creeks nibbled by salt and water, the deep blue all around, a few sails dotting the sea, flowers in bloom (in spring especially). You're the one with the best view in town as you walk along Sentier du Littoral. And the view is free!

Azuralive: cap d'Antibes, Cap Gros

The Sentier du Littoral or Coastal Path and takes you from the Plage de la Garoupe, around Cap Gros,
by the heavily-walled Chateau de la Croé and then back inland to the streets of the cape.

Getting there: You'll be away from the old town of Antibes. From Antibes, you can drive or take the bus. Park at Plage de la Garoupe or take the friendly Envi Bus (Ligne 2 from Antibes) to Garoupe. If taking the bus, make sure to wave the driver for pick-up: I've had the experience of a bus driving by while stood by the bus stop...

More info:

For EnviBus information, look here.
For the Antibes Tourism Office, look here.

Azuralive: cap d'Antibes

Click on the below button to read our latest hiking guide to the Western Côte d'Azur, from Hyères to the Maures Mountains to the Esterel Mountains by Cannes.
Available in all online bookshops and in all local English-language libraries, including in Heidi's Bookshop in Antibes: 24 rue Aubernon in Antibes (daily 10am–7pm), web site.

          What:      Cap d'Antibes Sentier du Littoral Hike

          Where:   Cap d'Antibes, begin at Plage de la Garoupe

          How Long:  The full hike is 5.3 km long and takes about 2 hours. The Sentier du Littoral is NOT a place for high heels or even flip-flops. Wear study walking shoes.
Bring plenty of water: no water fountains are available.