hiking in the south of france

ok, i feel better today. back to normal, back on track ;-) happy self!! thank you to everyone wishing me well after being so sick!!

so david and i are on a new kick. every sunday, for the past couple of weeks, we have taken a walk or hike in a nearby city or village.

i wrote about Pégomas already, and this past weekend we went to visit Vallauris (pronounced val-lure-eese)

we aren’t just randomly taking walks or hikes, that would not be advisable, we would most definitely get lost, knowing us…..we would have to leave breadcrumb trails in order to find our way back…..

we are actually pretty organized with our hikes, and it’s so much fun – – i’ll tell you how we do it…

in france, there are a myriad of organized, documented and marked hiking trails and excursions all overseen by the Fédération Française de la Randonnée Pédestre (FFRP) – which is a recognized public body (utilité publique). basically everything in france has a governing body, that creates rules, guidelines and is the central govern for that association or federation.

there are more than 160 different trails, hikes and marked tours on their website. you can buy maps, join clubs, get gear – – apparently it’s a huge thing here for the outdoor’sy types, and we are just discovering it for ourselves (are we becoming outdoor’sy types?!?)

we didn’t quite know all of that information last weekend when we went out, but we were able to find a great website. for our region specifically, Des Alpes-Maritimes, there is a fantastic website with specific information for our area, RandOxegéne, maps and all. perfect directions and great routes.

we are total amateurs though. it’s sort of funny. really.

last week we decided to go on this hike —> Circuit de Cordula. since it’s in french, let me summarize:

this is what the ‘key’ said about the hike (translations are in brackets)

Caractéristiques (characteristics of the hike)
Vallauris (this was the city it was in)
Longueur 3.5 km (Length, 2.18 miles)
Montée +150 m (Climb up, 492 feet)
Descente -150 m (Climb down, 492 feet)
Durée 01h30 (Length of hike, 1 1/2 hours)
Difficultée Facile (Level of Difficulty, Easy)
Période conseilléeJanvier à Décembre (Best time to go, January through December)

sounds pretty easy, right?

haa haa. joke’s on us. what amateurs. perhaps we should try to find out if they have a ‘very easy’ category next time! ha!

it was so hard – – the climb to ‘the top’ was seriously taxing. i had to stop and literally sit on a rock fence to stop and breathe a little. plus, we were up so high in the mountains – – i think it’s harder to breathe up there (or maybe i was just being a big wimp?!?)

david was giggling at me the whole way, but he was carrying the bag so i was okay with that…..perhaps i had one too many glasses of rosé at our valentine’s dinner the previous night? hmmmm. could be…..

anyway, i should probably start back at the beginning of our hike, i’m missing important parts of the story here.

so the first part of the hike says this:
Du centre de Vallauris (parking de la mairie), prendre vers le Nord l’avenue de Grasse pour remonter bientôt à droite l’ancien chemin de Biot (petite route) qui longe le cimetière; on remarquera au passage la monumentale tombe de l’acteur Jean Marais décorée de grandes sculptures”

which means (hopefully my translation is suffice):
“From the parking lot at the town hall in Vallauris, take the street Avenue de Grasse going northbound. You will see on your right, chemin de Biot – a small street by the cemetery. As you pass, you’ll see the marked tomb of the actor Jean Marais decorated in large sculptures.”

ok, great. we made it to the cemetery. didn’t see the grave of the actor, no bother, carrying on.

next step:
“Déboucher plus haut par un escalier sur la RD 435 qu’on traverse avec prudence face à la chapelle St-Bernard; continuer en face par une petite route calme qui s’élève en direction de la Chèvre d’Or (aven naturel), puis contourner toute la colline des Encourdoules par la gauche (Ouest) tantôt sur sentier, tantôt sur route, jusqu’à un bassin d’eau”

which means:
“Across from the St. Bernard Chapel, by a staircase, you’ll run into the RD 435 by; cross the road with care. Continue in straight ahead of you to a small calm road that goes up towards the Chevere d’Or. Then go around the hill of the Encourdoules on the left, stay on the route until you see a basin of water.”

ok, this is where we first messed up. if you could have seen the choice we had you would understand. a staircase? i mean, literally? oh wait – – we actually see a sort of staircase, that must be it!

so we look up this staircase, which is more of a tiny path almost like an alley, it doesn’t quite look right. oh well, we figured we would try it out. all of a sudden “BARK> BARK> BARK>” ooooweee. we bolted right out of there.
must not be right – – a crazy semi-rabid dog? i don’t think that was on the map…..!

so we kept walking down the street we were on and found another way up to the RD 435 road. and surprisingly found the next step of the hike – the calm road towards the chevere d’or.

nice……we were having fun.

so we climbed up the road – – it was literally wide enough for one car, and at an angle upwards that was seemingly difficult!

so we passed some beautiful multi-million dollar homes secluded and nestled into the side of the hills, with breathtaking sea views, infinity edged pools, verandas, vines and bmw’s. (cue corey into a dream-state…..sigh) oh, not to forget me snapping photos……

hang on a minute, is that the low battery signal flashing?!?! oh crap, i forgot to charge my batteries……..

on to the next part of the hike:
“Un chemin commode sous les yeuses conduit au sommet de l’oppidum de Cordula (248 m), plateau arboré où se déroulent des fouilles archéologiques”

which means:
“An apparent path underneath the oak trees will take you to the top of the l’oppidum de Cordula (the archeological site of an ancient city). Mostly flat and filled with trees where you can see the archeological site.”

so after passing some more crazy guard dogs who barked ferociously, at the millionaire’s houses, we were beginning to wonder if we were on the right path. seemed sort of strange and we really didn’t know where we were going. nonetheless, we kept walking upwards.

the whole way, i was getting more and more tired and this is where i had to stop….take a break, sit on a rock fence and have some water. we were up so high in the hills, it was beautiful!

all of a sudden we see other hikers! oh, we must be on the right path then, huh? but how pathetic must we have looked….me semi-hunched over, sitting on someone’s rock fence, guzzling water? i suddenly became embarrassed, such amateurs, this is a facile (easy) route!

to our surprise, the lovely couple stopped and asked us “vous êtes venu faire le tour?”, “you’re taking the walk?” we explained to them that we weren’t sure if we were going the correct way, they assured us that the rest of the loop is just up to the right – – where we’ll see the archeological site. they also warned us that the path isn’t always apparent once you are in the forest. they wished us luck and off they went. and up the hill we went.

at first, the path was well laid out, marked and easy to follow. well, we knew it was a loop – our small map on our printout said that, so we just have to keep turning right until we end up back here again, right?

not quite. we kept coming to forks in the path – – and normally one way will always look less travelled so to speak, and you can sort of use instinct to follow through. i have a pretty good sense of direction, am pretty good with maps, reading directions…..but, in a forest, tall trees surrounding you, no frame of reference (oddly enough, we did have a constantly barking dog for direction)…….

so at one point, i turned around. have you ever had that feeling of ‘oh shit’ which way did we come from? well, i did. i don’t normally get the feeling of being lost. i normally have a map or just plainly remember where i am going or came from. but this time, the forest started making me slightly claustrophobic, high up there in the mountains, no frame of reference to see………..am i starting to sweat?!?!

this one of the last photos i could take before my battery crashed, it was the only one i have of the forest…

david grabbed my hand, and we barreled forward towards what we thought was the right way. he assured me he knew where he was (i don’t really think he knew at all). then all of a sudden, david was like – – oh look, do you see that yellow mark on that tree? i think that looks like the right way!

again, total amateurs. how could we have not known that since this is an official hiking route that it would be marked using the official hiking route markers used in france.

all this time, there have been balises (route waymarkers) posted on trees, fences, etc. and we missed them all. could have saved us a horrific run-in with a semi-rabid dog, almost getting severely lost in the countryside and for me a moment of complete claustrophobia.

once we realized that we could follow the yellow markers we were home free. we found our way back easily and had a wonderful time on our hike. although the archeological site wasn’t actually anything more than a forest with a few piles of rocks here and there. it wasn’t exactly like any ancient ruins i have ever seen elsewhere in europe…..

it was fun and we are excited to learn more about the many, many different types of routes there are, waymarkers you will see to help guide you and terrains we can discover.

this photo give you an idea of our view on the opposite side of the ocean, facing inland, gorgeous….


2 thoughts on “hiking in the south of france

  1. audra

    Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
    And sorry I could not travel both
    And be one traveler, long I stood
    And looked down one as far as I could
    To where it bent in the undergrowth

    Then took the other as just as fair
    And having perhaps the better claim
    Because it was grassy and wanted wear
    Though as for that, the passing there
    Had worn them really about the same

    And both that morning equally lay
    In leaves no step had trodden black
    Oh, I kept the first for another day!
    Yet, knowing how way leads onto way
    I doubted if I should ever come back

    I shall be telling this with a sigh
    Somewhere ages and ages hence
    Two roads diverged in a wood
    And I took the one less traveled by
    And that has made all the difference

    -Robert Frost

  2. corey d

    thanks audge, perfect ;-) what a beautiful poem. and thanks to mr frost for inspiring adventure (and reassurance for tough decisions)…..


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