Sunday, 15 April 2012

France: Théoule-sur-Mer - Cannes

I step off the train at Théoule-sur-Mer with a light backpack just like some other walkers, also equipped with maps. The red and white trail mark that stands for GR 51 (GR = Grande Randonnée, a long distance path) is right in front of the pale pink station, on the other side of the road. Behind the fence something is glittering in the sun: the Mediterranian.
Unfortunately the route doesn't lead you straight to beach which remains down below. I head west along the pavement for a while until the route mark tries to invite me to make a detour uphill. No thanks, I'll keep on this road and take a shortcut... The GR path will anyway wind back down in a moment, via a tunnel under the road. In a few minutes I arrive at Théoule-sur-Mer center and turn right, off the seashore.
A sign tells me that I've just entered Estérel Nature Park, and another that the estimated walking time up to Col du Trayas (245 m) will be about 1h 10 minutes. The gravel path is wide to begin with, following a railroad track and a brook, but very soon I feel almost like in the middle of nowhere. The path starts to ascend slowly, and I'm happy to walk also in the shade of the trees at times, not just in direct sunlight.
I take a sip of water and gaze at the scenery. High above me there are red rocks, as compared to the whitish rocks that you see for example above Eze or Menton. The ground is dry but green enough; there are only few flowers about though. After a moment a couple passes me at brisk space but I prefer to take it slowly, going uphill. Very soon I see also other people enjoying a day out, but most of them are riding a mountain bike; this seems to be a popular route for cyclists.
Although the day is not hot, it is warm enough with the sun shining from a clear blue sky. The rugged path must have had its share of water splashing through it like in a tunnel... It is alright to walk it in a pair of trainers but it is no surprise that quite a few walkers seem to have trekking poles with them. They help especially when walking downhill.
When I've reached my destination, Col du Trayas, I feel tempted about walking further but unfortunately my map doesn't extend far enough west to make a more challenging trip today. I find a spot beneath the pine trees and sit down for a snack - some bread, ham and cheese. An older couple has chosen the same venue for their lunch. The scenery isn't too bad, after all.
I turn to walk back down from Col du Trayas when I notice another trail mark above the red and white GR trail mark. The blue and yellow scallop shell indicates that by following this GR 51 it is possible to reach the popular pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela (GR 51 ends in Marseille, where La Voie Phocéenne connects it to Arles, one of the starting points of Camino).
A family of four climbs on the top of a red rock and sits down for their lunch; there are two long baguettes sticking out of the father's backpack. I continue my journey downhill and stop to select the next path. Which way to go?
I choose to return to Théoule-sur-Mer round the hill that overlooks Miramar, the neighbouring town. The path offers a lovely view to the sea practically for the whole way. On the next hill on my right the area seems to be full of houses but luckily there is still a lot of unbuilt area around here, thanks to the Nature Park.
Finally the path winds close to some buildings. The first house that I meet has a curved, turquoise swimming pool with lounge chairs in the middle. The residents of Avenue Henri Matisse want to take it easy, and they don't want to see dog poo on their street.
After a bit of asphalt, I again reach a narrow track that soon climbs up. I also set my foot on concrete steps, walk past red rocks, under tall eucalyptus trees, and get piqued by a juniper with long, angry spikes.
The Mediterranian continues to sparkle in the sun. However, once I've walked round the cape, I'm also rewarded with a view as far as the Maritime Alps with their snow peaks, right behind the hills that surround the French Riviera coast.
The sign on my left tells there's an apricot farm but I have to turn right and take the narrow footpath down to Théoule-sur-Mer. I reach the railway station and decide to walk a bit further, at least to the next station - Mandelieu-La Napoule. The weather is great and it will be an easy walk by the road and close to the sea.
Théoule-sur-Mer offers also a bit of art for the passers-by. Among others, you can meet for example Serge Sallan's Femme sortant de l'eau (A woman rising from the water), and Paradise temple (Temple du paradis) as well as a statue of a princess Diana who used to live in the hills of Estérel.

The road turns and there is a turquoise welcome sign with a French flag ahead. Mandelieu-La Napoule is a town of mimosas but they are not in bloom right now... Mimosa flowers can be seen on the hills in the winter time.
At La Napoule the path leads me through a beach and to the rocks right on the water, at last. At the next beach there is a sturdy palm tree and when you go round the corner, you can see an old castle that is a museum nowadays.
So glad the wind is not hard today, otherwise the waves would easily hit the path both before the castle and while walking under the arches of the castle! After this, the route gets to more level ground.
I cross two rivers, Argentière and Siagne, and face a long stretch of pavement by the side of the road. The cars and motorcycles whiz past me, but I don't mind; it is easy to focus on listening to the waves splash to the shore on my right. Then I hear distant drumming, and think it must come from a car radio, but no: the happy drummers are real!
La Bocca. A young couple walks towards me on the sandy beach, and leaves their footprints on the sand. It only takes a moment for the waves to wipe the footprints away. Perhaps I should board the train in Cannes, not here... I continue my walk just a bit futher, along the seashore. Cannes is crowds of tourists, ice cream eaters, fancy boats, the festival palace with the famous red carpet of the Film Festival, now cordoned off. The end of my walk today. Instead of footprints, there are the famous hand prints on the boardwalk - which one to choose? I can picture different kinds of walks in the films of my favourite Japanese film director, Akira Kurosawa, so he is my pick for today.


  1. This looks like a wonderful walk. Thanks for including the pictures, I really enjoy see places that others walk!

  2. Thanks Scott, the French Riviera is so much more than beaches!