Alps to the Mediterranean
While the contrast – from a sleepy mountain hamlet on Day 1 to the style and panache of charming, Italianate Menton almost a week later – is a remarkable one, it feels entirely natural. Travelling by foot, one landscape seems to merge gently into the next, so that the changes – while certainly noticeable – never seem to jar, leaving you with an immensely satisfying feeling at journey’s end.
This is a holiday of three thirds. First comes the simple yet pitch-perfect hospitality offered by the Dellepiane family at their charming auberge – Le Mirval – in the hamlet of La Brigue, and the excellent walking and touring options in the surrounding mountains, close to the Italian border. Then, following a choice of routes via the gravity-defying village of Saorge, on which scents of wild herbs fill the air, you come to Sospel. This ‘middle’ section of the holiday is where you get to enjoy the beguiling foothills; and the Auberge Provençale, occupying an elevated position overlooking this medieval trading town and the hills beyond, is the perfect place from which to do it.
Finally, of course, comes that journey to the sea. This is, by its very nature, ‘more down than up’, and there are more vistas of hills, gorges and woodland to be admired until – as if by magic – the glittering sea opens up below, and the charms of Menton get closer with every step. Once there, all there is left to do is wander the atmospheric streets of the ‘Old Town’, admire the sumptuous art, architecture and gardens; soak up that legendary Provençal sunlight; and find a tasty morsel or two to eat along the seafront promenade. Oh, and gaze back up towards those mountains, thinking: “I did that!”