Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Cap d'Antibes: A Favorite Hike and Location

Our next daytrip from Mougins was to Antibes. We drove down to the harbor and liked what we were seeing of the old town. However, we'd heard about the sentier littoral around the Cap d'Antibes (cape) and wanted to see the trails before seeing the old town.

Until we planned this trip to France, I had no idea of the well-documented and well-maintained trails (sentier littoral) available for hiking/walking. Through the Slow Travel Forum, we had gotten some information from AzurAlive, including the book on hiking the western Cote d'Azur.

Before heading out to Antibes, I asked our concierge for a map. When I told him we wanted to hike the Cap d'Antibes sentier littoral, he looked a bit appalled. I guess he doesn't get many requests for hiking?

At first, we made a wrong turn into a harbor parking lot. This was interesting because we saw the actor, Jude Law, driving a Porsche into the lot when we turned around. We easily found our way out to La Garoupe Plage (the Garoupe beach) to the beginning of the sentier littoral. There is free parking in a lot there along the beach and a few restaurants (some associated with hotels). Arriving early in the day for both the parking and the hiking is advisable. We had coffee at one of the snack bars, then headed out to the trail.

I must tell you that we were awestruck by the beauty of the cape! That's probably an understatement. We fell in love with the landscape and the views.

This was more of a hike than a walk. I recommend sturdy walking shoes. We were both in hiking shoes. We had a backpack with water and snacks. The sun was very bright, but the temperatures were warm enough for short sleeves, yet cool enough for comfortable hiking with the lack of humdity. It was very windy, too. Be prepared!

There are places on the trail where you must be sure footed. There are warning signs (peril of death) about the surf washing you away into the sea. There are places on the trail where a person with balance problems or a fear of height may be challenged. In fact, it would be extremely dangerous had the French not gone to the trouble of installing railing along the trails! That said...it was fabulous and we'd hike it again and again!

At first, the hike starts out very easy:

And fragrant with the blooms of pittosporum and other flowers:

You walk past fabulous gardens and villas along the way. There are cameras, guard dogs and other deterrents along these properties of the rich and famous.

Then, the trail gets really interesting as you look down the cliffs into the sea:

Fortunately, there are some climbs that have been made safer by the installation of stone steps and railings:

The terrain is both breathtaking and intimidating ...all the way around the coast:

Once you finish the sentier littoral, you'll come out to a paved road that leads back to La Garoupe. Walking through the little roads, you're surrounded by villa walls. Once in awhile, you can catch a glimpse of the beautiful homes and gardens. It is quiet. It is shady. It is peaceful. It is very easy to see the appeal. As we were walking through town, my husband went into a few small hotels to chat with them about their rooms/rates (for future plans). He also picked up some real estate brochures (just for fun).

The beach at La Garoupe is sandy and nice. We had a fantastic lunch at La Rocher, a little "snack restaurant" beside the beach. We had delicious salads with beef strips and veggies with a side of pommes frites (French fries). A good portion of wine and water, topped off by a shared ice cream sundae concoction. The food was more like a gourmet restaurant than a snack place. Yet, the prices were very reasonable with huge portions of fresh food.

At the end of our meal, we sat by the beach for a very long time. We felt like we'd found the perfect paradise...great trails, great food, beautiful views...ah!

NEXT: Gourdon, Tourettes-sur-Loop, Haute de Cagnes