Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Walking holiday in the Mercantour with 700 years of history

The walking and adventure company based in the Mercantour, Spacebetween, often drive south from their base in Berthemont les Bains to the Cime de Roccassiera for a great day out walking, in the French Riviera Back Country. This is often a surprise element of their Mercantour Reflections week’s itinerary and, for Christmas 2011 – their winter walking and snow shoeing in the Mercantour, week – the dearth of snow was rather more than made up for the clear blue skies and sunny days however!

It is a pleasant and not too strenuous circular walk, with the reward of a view of the Med and on a good day, Corsica from the 1400m peak. For guests who are able to step out a bit is it also possible to do a short loop south to visit the ruined village of Rocca-Sparvièra (Hawk Rock) which has Coareze to the South.

It is hard too imagine that such a lonely place once house up to 350 inhabitants. Unfortunately it was damaged by a series of earthquakes in the 16th and 17th centuries, which changed the course of the water supply to the village, and created a mass exodus to other local places of shelter.

Now a ghost village of some splendour which rather more resembles a Tibetan monastery than a quaint village in the Alpes-Maritimes – whose keep and a variety of buildings are surprisingly well preserved.

However lovers of culture will also thrill to the knowledge that the infamous Queen Jeanne of Naples has made her mark here with a Christmas myth whose elaboration over the past 700 years scarcely makes it worth the recounting.

However it is pleasing to know that this Queen, who remains one of Provence’s most appreciated (despite the trail of blood she may have left behind her in her path to success), leaving with her husband King René, a legacy of fine buildings such as the castles in Pertuis and Salon, is etched into the history of this fascinating place.

It is scarcely visited now so it is very easy to forget your walking boots and fleeces for a second and immerse yourself into the political shenanigans of days gone by, and the adventures of the Royal court that was briefly based here.

The approach from the South and more images.

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