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Review: Alpes Maritimes

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France

Les Alpes Maritimes - Route D2 Col de Vence - ' Historic - Scenic Drive'

  • By SilverTraveller wallers

    44 reviews

    Ribbon Ribbon

  • Apr 2013
  • Partner

99 people found this review helpful

Les Alpes Maritimes – Route D2 Col de Vence 'Historic-Scenic Drive' We flew by Easyjet from Bristol to Nice Cote d'Azur Airport on their first morning flight . Good weather with clear skies allowed us to enjoy panoramic views of the French Alps to the east whilst we flew down the Rhone Valley towards Marseilles , from where we then flew along one of if not the most famous coastlines in the world. Following glorious littoral of the French Riviera and Cote d'Azur. Famous beach resorts from Cassis to Nice included, Bandol, Toulon, Hyeres, Lavandou, Cavalaire, Pamplona Plage, St. Tropez, St. Maxine, Agay, Saint Raphael, Le Trayas, Theoule, Cannes, Juan-les-Pins and the fabulous Hotel du Cap/Eden Roc hotel of all hotels on Cap d' Antibes. Antibes yacht harbour with the largest tonnage of Super Yachts in the world moored stern first against the quay at Port Vauban, across the Baie des Anges to land on the vast reclaimed land spit that supports Nice Cote d'Azur Airport. To best enjoy this spectacular fly past along this 'Billionaires' stamping ground' insure that you select seats on the left hand aspect of the aircraft you are aboard when flying down to NIce. As the views from an aircraft along this coast are such as you will never see anywhere else on the planet.



We quickly picked up our pre-booked VW Polo TDI, followed the signs to Antibes along the coast road built above the beach between Cagnes sur-Mer and Antibes. Passing the Fort Carree at Antibes, we drove around the yacht harbour, through an ancient archway into Antibes and up along the remarkable fortified sea walls of Antibes bilt by Vauban on the orders of Louis XIV at a time Antibes was the last port in France before entering the domain of the powerful Dukedom of Savoy.



Following the cliff road out of Antibes to Plage de la Garoupe along the Boulevarde de Bacon we turned inland across Cap d'Antibes over which we had flown earlier that morning. Passing the awesome Hotel du Cap black and gilded entrance gates, we drove down to towards Juan-les-Pins passing the famous white painted, Art Deco Villa Aujourd'hui at Port d' Olivettes, designed by Barry Diercks for Jack Warner of Warner Bros in Hollywood during the 1930's. Driving on past innumerable luxury villas and habitations, we pass the Port Gallice Marina at Juan-les Pins and parked in the street outside the Hotel Belle Rives opposite the once palatial Hotel Provencal, now in a state of partial ruin, as a result of what appears to be scandalous business practice by those who have allowed this erstwhile pleasure palace built by Frank Jay Gould, the billionaire Virginian power magnate during the 1920's.



We walked across the landscaped public gardens created by F.J.Gould under resin scented Monterey Palm Trees and down the steps leading to Restaurant La Pinede where we chose a table for what is always a wonderful lunch whilst looking under a vast array of yellow parasols over the sand to the Bay of Golfe-Juan towards Cannes and L' Esterel Massif mountains forming a magnificent backdrop to this wolrd class panorama. see Google Map to follow this route around Cap d' Antibes.



Having enjoyed a superb Steak Tartare with a green salad along with a plate of Frites Francais accompanied by a good bottle of Pradel Rose, we walked into Juan-les-Pins to do some clothes shopping.



Returning to our hired VW Polo, we took the short cut out of Juan-les-Pins over Cap d'Antibes bac to Antibes and retraced our route to Cagnes-sur-Mer where we turned inland past the fairey tale like fortress hill village of Haute de Cagnes and up the D2 Route to St,. Paul de Vence where we had reserved our usual suite at Hotel Les Vergers de St. Paul, just below the world famous medieval French fortified hill town which has never fallen to any assailants since these great walls were built by Franciose Ist of France between 1537 47. The walls are magnificently floodlit at night all the year round and in the summer they hold a firework throughout these great bastions which has to seen to appreciate the scale of these pyrotechnics. Hotel Vergers de St. Paul .From UK Tel. + (33) 4 93 32 94 24 Rooms of preference on terrace surrounding a lovely swimming pool. Expect to pay between 180 – 250 Euros for a room for 2 persons.



A ten minute walk up the D2 Route brings you to St.Paul de Vence itself. However, en route the first turning on the left lead up to the world renowned Maeght Cllection of Modern Art & Sculpture which is not to be missed even if you are not an afficionado of Modern Art, as this is such a spectacle. At St. Paul de Vence having made your way to Place Generale de Gaulle, the place to relax with freshly pressed 'Orange ou Citron presse' whllst watching the stars of the media coming and going at the enchanting La Colombe d' Or hostellerie owned by the Famille Roux, where the menu has remained unchanged for over half a century with regards to both the graphics and the dishes portrayed. It is sufficient to say that everything on the menu is excellent and can always be relied upon to be outstanding. However this is not a venue for the feint hearted or shallow of pocket, expect lunch to cost around 160 Euros for two persons with a bottle of most palatable house wine. Eating here is an experience never to be forgotten either on the lovely pollarded lain tree terrace or in the 17th century interior restaurant adorned with some of the finest original examples of modern art in the world. Painted by Picasso and Matisse a amongst many other artists. If you feel inclined to join the 'World of Hollywood' literally speaking, then you must reserve table some days in advance to be certain not to be disappointed Tel: From UK Tel + ( 33) 4 93 32 80 02



However there are a number of excellent less expensive bistros within the walls of St. Paul de Vence to choose from. As you will enjoy walking the ancient cobbled and paved streets together with the walk around the battlements, it is fun to examine the various menus on offer put up outside restaurants .



Route D2 Col de Vence 'Historic-Scenic Drive' Allow a Full Day First of all it is most fun to drive up to the ancient Roman centre of regional government, the ancient walled hill town of Vence. Park in the underground car park under the Grand Place. From here it is an easy walk to the VIeux Marche within the most ancient part of Vence.Here there are a wondeful range of shops and market stalls. Where you will find every imaginable delight by way of provisions for a picnic of a lifetime. Wonderful local produce of every kind, along with olives, fruits and of course delicious pates, terrines, reillets, French regional cheeses, regional wines and of course freshly baked French bread.



Important: To best enjoy for practical reasons buy a detailed map Purchase a Green Carte Routiere et Touristique 1/100 000 – Icm = Ikm Entitled: ' Cote d'Azur Massif de L' Esterel' Price 5.3 Euros Now for one of the most unforgettable mountain drives, you are ever likely to undertake. The best way to appreciate this is to drive up the Col de Vence from Vence on the Route D2 and along the mountain plateau land past the medieaval mountain village of Coursegoules on the D2. Following this wonderful road down through the ancient oak forests into the Valley of the River Loup below the remarkable perched hamlet of St.Pons and the medieval villages of Greollieres and the 10th century ruined fortress at Haute Greollieres, a spot in a million for a picnic with stupendous views of the vast rift valley far below



After St. Pons you will come to a major junction where you need to turn right up the hill continuing on the Route to Greollieres. Drive on past Greollieres up through the village houses until you come to a sharp let hand bend from which you have a wonderful view of the ruined fortress of Haute Greollieres. Drive until the road opens up into a straight. Turn at the first opportunity on this road and retrace your route until you see a small insignificant unmarked/unsigned rough single track leading up steeply from the D2. Drive slowly so as not to miss this turning. Once on this track it will lead you up to the ruined fortress of Haute Greollieres. As you carefully and slowly progress this track, you will come to an ancient chapel on your right. Park your car here and enjoy the amazing views across the valley far below. Hide any valuables in the boot and carry your picnic supplies through the meadow until at the end of the second meadow you will see a grass covered track with limestone outcrop, that leads up steeply to the right. Follow this track up to the 10th century beautifully restored chapel on the brow of the hill. Where you will wish to enjoy your picnic sitting on the rough hewn limestone steps that lead up to the locked door of this chapel. The views from this location are simply spellbinding. You can explore the fortress ruins from this location and view the ruined village of Haute Greollieres amongst the rock formations below. Word of warning, walk carefully amongst the ruins.



Descending from Haute Greollieres down the D2 continue on down into the River Loup Valley on the D3 and into the awesome Gorges du Loup far below the ancient Chateau de Cipieres of the hamlet of that name. The gorge is effectively a vast limestone canyon cut through Les Alpes Maritimes over the millenia by the River Loup that makes it way through this spectacular gorge through a series of great waterfalls, rock basins and fast rapids .A major location for Canyoning by those dressed on specially designed neoprene suits, footwear , helmets and protective gloves. There are advertised Canyoning and Quad Bike companies with highly qualified local guides and instructors throughout the region. See local tourist offices in St. Paul de Vence or Vence for details.



The Saracen fortified hill Village Perche , Gourdon Once in the Gorges du Loup, you will come to a turning to the right signed D3 Gourdon take this road and climb up the canyon side to the remarkable fortified village of Gourdon, Park in the car park and walk up to the village and follow the signs to the Chateau du Gourdon which is open to the public for an entry fee of a few Euros but well worth it. The chateau has been beautifully restored at vast expense and contains wonderful armour and 17th/18th century Provencal walnut furniture and furnishings. Definitely worth a visit.



After exploring Gourdon from which there are some of the finest views of the Cote d' Azur coast, L' Esterel Massif mountains and the two islands of sssssssst. Marguerite and St. Honore off Cannes which can be reached from the Vieux Port at Cannes by ferryboat all year round. Retrace your route along the D3 and turn right onto the D6 to continue down the Gorge du Loup passing the Saut du Loup rock basin, Cascade demoiselles and Cascade de Courmes, as the road descends through a series of amazing and spectacular rock tunnels until you exit the canyon at Pont sur Loup. Here there is a wonderful sweet factory where you will ant to buy everything you see!



Return to Vence along the D2210 and then down the D2 back to Les Vergers de St. Paul at St. Paul de Vence.. Freshen up for a delicious dinner at a bistro of your choice in St. Paul de Vence having first planned your next drive up the Route D2 to explore one of the multitude of options that the roads of this famous historic route. Good idea is to mark uo the mao you are using with a yellow marker pen.



For anyone who enjoys unspoilt mountain drives, then this region is simply unsurpassed by way of natural beauty within a safe driving experience that is comfortably within the scope of most competent drivers. Fly down to Nice and enjoy what could be the drive of your life.

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Other Members' Thoughts - 2 Comment(s)

  • Kenbob
    about 7 years ago
    Enjoy reading your review. Fascinating place.
  • John-Hayden-Halsey
    about 7 years ago
    Exciting, illuminating, entertaining and detailed portrayal of exploring the back country 'Arrieres Pays' of this unspoilt, spellbindingly beautiful comparatively remote, yet easily accessible generally unvisited region of Les Alpes Maritimes in Provence, just a few miles inland from the Cote d' Azur in the mountains above Vence. Those of us that are able to enjoy driving this route, should clearly make a point of doing so, soonest!