Spring is coming, a perfect time to discover Saint-Martin-Vésubie, at only one hour drive from Nice, for one day or a week end : relax and breath some fresh air from the mountains in the Vésubie valley. You are sure to find a very different environment from the seaside, and to discover the pleasure to be surrounded by nature. Admire the fantastic landscape and get in touch with the wide variety of animals and plants of this protected area.
- Saint-Martin-Vésubie :
This authentic village is located 65 km from Nice and 975 metres above the level of the sea. Saint-Martin developed a quite important touristic activity and gained the reputation of being the local little Switzerland… Saint-Martin-Vésubie is situated on a plateau where two torrents meet, creating the Vésubie Valley. To visit this charming village, I recommend to follow the path of its ancient canal, the Béal, in the middle of narrow cobblestone streets. And to admire the best view on st Martin-Vésubie, you should drive to the overlooking next village, Venanson, built on a rocky peak at 1150m altitude.
- Hiking to the 5 lakes (Baisse des 5 lacs)
Many walking and hiking possibilities await for you if you stay at Saint-Martin, as the Vésubie valley offers 400 km of marked trails. I suggest you to get informed at the tourist office on arrival, and to get some advice according to your level and the weather forecast.
And don’t forget a good equipment… in order to prepare your walk, I recommend to read the randoxygène guide, published by the Department of Alpes Maritimes, in French, but very helpful with the maps: https://randoxygene.departement06.fr/
For my hiking of 4h walk, medium level, to the “baisse des 5 lacs”, also called the lakes of Prals, I started at marker n° 361 , just beneath the Madone de Fenestre tiny village. The path forms a loop, allowing you to see different landscapes : larch and spruce forest, torrents, the Prals dell, and finally the Prals lakes at 2 300 metres altitude.
In the small valley, I had the chance to see very closely some chamois and a family of marmots. Just on time to illustrate my blog! At the top, I discovered the lakes, still partially under the snow, and this was a wonderful landscape to celebrate spring with a nice picnic.
- Alpha, the Mercantour wolves
In case of bad weather or for family activities, I recommend you to visit this park in order to learn more about this legendary animal, whose freedom is nowadays a subject for debate. In France there are now 300 free wolves , and the atmosphere between farmers and ecologists is quite tense…. At the crossroads between tales from our childhood, myths and legends and the political debate, the park Alpha answers to one simple question: “Wolf, who are you?”.
The park is situated just where the wolves reappeared in France in 1992. You can observe 3 packs in captivity in quite a large space. As the visit path is more than one km long.
Some higher wooden carriages allows you to observe the pack’s behavior according to hierarchy, in a natural environment . The professionals from the park will help you to translate:
-licking the muzzle as a submission sign, the leader (alpha) leaving a piece of meat in the middle of the pack as he knows no other wolf will touch it….
You can also see the feeding of the animals, you will be informed of the schedule when you enter, after the bridge.
The park also propose 3 videos but I couldn’t see any as the park closes at 17h and videos are turned off at 4.30 pm which is not indicated when you buy a 12€ ticket. No need crying wolf!
I visited a similar park in France a long time ago in the Gévaudan, the animals seems happier at Apha, in their natural environment , despite of their captivity.
- Accomodation :
For this countryside week end I chose the cheaper option in little Switzerland! The Champuns camping has some rental studios and apartments, I went for the Squirrel studio for 2 people at 55∈ per night. This includes your private bathroom and kitchen. This is a small space , and with a low ceiling and not very modern but everything you need is there. In the summer, you will ,enjoy the deck-chair on the terrace with the view on the village. The owner is very nice, and her llamas too.
- Other activities :
If you are really kin on sports, you won’t be disappointed by the range of activities trail-running itineraries, canyoning, via ferrata… in a next episode!
From the railway station in Nice, you can take bus N ° 730 at 9h25 every day, and at 17h10 exept on Sundays and bank holidays. Way back from Saint-Martin-Vésubie at 7am, 1pm from Monday to Saturday or at 18h25 on Sunday and bank holidays. 1hour 30 min ride. However, please note that to go to this camping and visit the alpha park or do my hiking path, you need a car.