France Italy Via Aurelia Via della Costa

Day 1: Roquefort to Gattiers, La Manda

We were staying with our Swedish friends, Maggie and Göran, from our time in France – our first return to the Cote d’Azur since 2014. After a good breakfast, Maggie, Göran, Lene and I drove to the La Manda bridge in Gattiers, walking this stage in reverse.

It was a glorious day for walking. We hadn’t walked 2km as we started the 270m climb to Gattiers, a perched old-world village watching over the Var river, which was flowing rapidly after the torrential rain over the weekend (100mm plus). The views towards the snow capped Alpes were spectacular

Enjoying the view as I left the village (featured picture and the picture below) I wasn’t checking the route, but following the red and white path markers. We ended up following the GR51 and not the GR653A which we should have been following.

Before we realised we had gone too far to turn back, but choose instead to follow the quiet road to St. Jeannet, yet another village perched on a mountain side, and then take the path along the River Cagne, a 27km river that starts in the mountains and ends in the Mediterranean in Cagnes-Sur-Mer, the town we lived in France for 8 years.

It turned out not to be a great choice. Whilst there was a path along the river, it was not a path that many people walk along during a year. We had to make our way through trees and bushes growing across the path, climb up and down rock formations and jump across small rivers for ca. 4km (it felt much longer) before we passed through a couple of tunnels, which had once been part of an aqueduct transporting water to the coast, and were back on track. It was some adventure, which was annoying whilst doing it, but fun to look back on. Walking isn’t always plain sailing.

We walked into Vence, a well kept Roman town lying at 310m asl., and housing France’s smallest Cathedral. We stopped for a coffee, before I said goodbye to Lene, Maggie and Göran and continued towards Roquefort for the remaining 13km. I usually walk alone, perhaps walking a few kilometers with walkers I meet on the way, so it was nice to walk with friends.

On the way out of Vence I met a group of walkers “complaining” about the difficulty of the walk up to Vence, and soon experienced the same walk going down – it was very steep and hard on the knees.

From Vence it was up and down, passing through old terraced and abandoned orchards, a flock of grazing sheep and a difficult descent then climb crossing the Loup river.

28km and 987m total ascent, it was a hard first day. But as I was soon to find out, 1.000m was going to be the norm for many days on this trip.

At a point after Vence, I passed a kindergarten in the forest. There were a number of paintings and poems hanging on the fence. I took a picture of this one:

My translation of the poem on the sign:

you are the flower
born last night
outgoing beauty who
disappears at daybreak
without reason

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