Guest Post: Walking in the Mediterranean
A Self-Guided Walking Holiday
Written by Catherine Davis
As a lover of walking holidays I couldn’t wait to see what my first Inntravel self-guided walking holiday would be like. Inntravel specialise in walking and cycling holidays and after much deliberation my partner and I decided on a self-guided walking holiday in Provence. Inntravel provided detailed route notes for our trip in a range of difficulties so we could choose which walks we wanted to do depending how we felt each day. Another bonus is that they transport all of your luggage from hotel to hotel.
Our Inntravel holiday began in the enchanting medieval village of La Brigue. We stayed at the Hotel Mirval run by the fabulous Dellepiane family, one of the friendliest hoteliers I have ever met. This beautifully restored old building was set against a backdrop of rugged mountains and beside a river – we couldn’t have asked for a more picture perfect hotel to begin our trip.
For the first day, we chose a gentle walk to the historic Notre Dame des Fontaines which took us along a rolling tranquil path and gave us our first proper glimpse of the natural beauty and breath-taking views we were surrounded by.
We added a trip to the Vallee des Merveilles, which is part of the Mercantour National Park. With dramatic rock formations and Bronze Age rock carvings it is definitely worth a visit. Monsieur Dellapiane escorted us on a 5 hour guided tour around the park before driving us back to the hotel for a well-deserved delicious home-cooked meal.
After a tasty breakfast at the hotel, we were ready for another day exploring. We set off towards the ancient hill-top village of Saorge. The walk took us through gorgeous woodland and valleys, the scent of wild herbs followed as we wound our way along the paths. Sage, thyme, rosemary, and lavender accompanied us and added another dimension to the walk.
We stopped in one of the imposing valleys to unpack our hearty picnic prepared by Monsieur Dellapiane – fresh bread a selection of local cheeses, olives and mouth-watering cured meats washed down with some full-bodied red wine. Perfect.
I will never forget when Saorge came into view for the first time, perched high up on the mountainside this idyllic village is considered to be one of the most beautiful in France. Saorge is truly enthralling; we wandered through the streets soaking up the atmosphere and the beauty. After tearing ourselves away we caught the train later that afternoon to Sospel our destination for the next two nights.
In the morning we took the suggested circular walk to the Italian border, the winding path took us through silver olive groves to Piene Haute a sleepy picturesque hamlet high up on the cliff-top. The route then took us over the panoramic Paula Pass into the Bassera Valley and back to Sospel.
Day four started just under Mont Razet where we made the short climb up to the ridge to admire the spectacular scenery – to the south lies cosmopolitan Monaco and the gorges towards La Brigue where we began our trip.
Next we started our descent to the Razet Pass down a winding mule track through an enchanting deserted valley to the panoramic chapel of St Bernard a fabulous picnic spot. As we continued the descent (which was steep in parts) we passed the unique hanging village of Castellar. Seeing the Mediterranean glistening below was certainly an incentive to carry on down to the Riviera town of Menton.
We arrived tired but happy after an exceptional days walking. We stayed at the Hotel Paris-Rome for our final two nights and we certainly weren’t disappointed!
Overlooking the sea, this Rivera townhouse was perfectly located on the seafront with a selection of restaurants a short 15 minute walk away. Menton is an intriguing mix of French and Italian influences – this combination is apparent in the local cuisine which is an enticing mix of Provencal and Italian flavours. We loved exploring this beautiful Riviera town and the next day decided to take a trip to the nearby botanical gardens at Mortola. An evening stroll along the seafront followed by another delicious meal made the perfect end to an unbelievable trip.
The variety of scenery we saw on this trip made it a truly once in a lifetime trip and something neither of us will ever forget. The contrast between the dramatic mountains and gorges at the beginning and cliff side villages and the crystal clear waters of the Mediterranean sea and stunning beaches. It really did have everything.