It has to be the Cote d’Azur, for my activity break of choice – idealy centred on Nice. And with budget flights accessible from most UK centres, it could hardly be simpler. Once you’ve settled into your accommodation and unpacked all your gear, you’re set – and winter is definitely the best time to go! After an early breakfast, drive north to Valberg, Isola or Auron for a morning on the ski slopes, followed by a lunch, before returning to the shores of the Mediterranean. Then you have the choice of cycle routes – leisurely along the corniche, or challenging and into the Alpes Maritime (Gourdon or Sospel, perhaps). And in the evening, what could be better than SCUBA diving with your buddies at Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat.
This is a guided bike tour for discovering Nice.
The tour passed all Nice's main attractions. The guide explained Nice's history during the tour, and answered all questiones sufficiently which were put to him during the tour. The tour is three hours long and included a free coffee (or beer).
The guide also pointed out all the best bars and restaurants for different tastes on the tour - from cheap n cheerful to regional cuisine and top-end romantic.
A great way to orientate yourself in Nice and see it from some fantastic angles.
A laid back, small town in the Roya valley hard up against the border with Italy.
Easily accessible by train from Nice and surrounded by beautiful hills perfect for exploring by foot or cycle.
Great entry point to the Mercantour National Park.
The town has its share of interesting buildings including an ancient bridge and the baroque Saint Michel cathedral set in an impressive town square.
With plenty of places to eat well Sospel is a peaceful haven away from the hectic coastal area.
The department of the Alpes Maritimes is in the south east corner of France and boasts such famous names as Nice, Antibes and Cannes. These names conjure up images of glitz, beaches and everything synonymous with the Riviera jet set, bikinis and painted toe nails. However did you know that just an hour and a half inland, life is very different, a landscape of quiet forests and deep gorges? So near but yet so far from the busy coastal strip, the rural way of life still prevails, eggs and goats’ cheese are sold direct from the farm, roads are single track and you are very likely to meet a flock of transhumance sheep coming the other way.
There is an impressive network of paths for walking (including the GR4 and GR510), whose gentle gradients date back to the time when all forms of commerce passed along these remote paths on the back of a donkey. The paths are well sign posted, free of litter, well maintained, they take you through abandoned olive groves, across Napoleonic bridges, to hamlets that roads have yet to reach, lavender and thyme grow wild everywhere and it is rare to meet another soul. The area is made up of many folded ridges giving wonderful ridge walks too with views south to the Mediterranean or north to the jagged peaks of the Mercantour National park.
The area is heavily wooded so there are lots of forestry tracks to explore by foot, by mountain bike or on horseback. Roads such as the one linking St Auban and Aiglun are narrow and wind through stunningly precipitous scenery, ideal for cyclists, with excellent surfaces, very little traffic and a good sprinkling of cols. The roads circumnavigate the abundant gorges which have made the area a base for canyoning and rock climbing. You can don a wetsuit and helmet and follow your guide down one of the numerous canyons, abseiling and crossing wire bridges, jumping into pools several metres below you.
The Alpes Maritimes boasts 300 sunny days per year but if you do fancy a day indoors why not go round one of the many show caves that this limestone area has to offer, or if you want more of an adrenaline rush there is the world's first ever under ground via ferrata and a forest of adventure where you can literally go on a tree top walk and slide down a 470m zip wire.
If you are not scared of heights, there is plenty of opportunity to try paragliding at one of the many flying schools or take a tandem ride to get the best view of the area. This rural corner of the Alpes Maritimes is littered with time forgotten villages, where narrow streets disappear off between closely huddled old stone houses, wandering around these quiet little streets it is so difficult to believe that the busy Mediterranean coast is only just down the road. The area has many wonderful little restaurants and auberges, serving real French food to a clientele that is by and large local.
If you would like to know more about the Alpes Maritimes inland from the busy Cote d’Azur have a look at the website www.pottyplace.com. The site has been written by a Scottish couple who live in the Alpes Maritimes.
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