French Riviera Travel | Finding Nature, in the midst of Cannes’ Glamour

Adventure Travel, Dispatches from the Road, Featured, Fitness & Workouts, France, Studying Abroad — By on October 14, 2010 at 6:00 am

The French Riviera is known for many things – celebrities, designer stores, and great weather– but nature is not really one of them. The ritzy lifestyle of Cannes is a bit out of my element – I had never seen so many things like fashionably dressed people or expensive cars. After a few weeks in Cannes, the Minnesotan in me was craving for a return to nature with some fresh air and open spaces. It was time for a little break from the glamour of Cannes, so I:

Hiked in Cannes. I didn’t think there was any place in Cannes that wasn’t tourist laden or glitzed up, so I was pleasantly surprised when my professor suggested a short randonnée à pied in a nearby park. I accepted immediately and threw on some workout clothes, since the park is about a 15-minute walk from the Collège straight up a giant hill. The park is a maze of linked trails and we wandered around for about an hour and a half trying to find the point de vue, the scenic overlook. I didn’t mind that we were lost – I was savoring the natural greenery and the quiet. Even though you can sometimes see the city through the trees, I was so happy to find a small pocket of nature in this ritzy area.

Kayaked in the Gorges du Verdon. A friend and I had heard about a Collège-organized excursion to the Gorges du Verdon, and after looking up pictures online we signed up right away. We hopped on a 25-person bus for a 3-hour ride through the tiny winding roads. This was a recipe for motion-induced nausea for me, but the stomach-churning ride was worth it for the amazing views of the Gorges. When we first arrived, we settled in for a little picnic near the lake, Lac-Sainte-Croix, with the mountains as a picturesque backdrop.

You can only really experience the Gorges by boat, so my friend and I headed down to the lake to rent a canoe. The vendor didn’t believe that I have experience with canoeing and pushed for us to take a kayak, so after a few minutes of arguing we just accepted the kayak so we could start exploring. Though I kayak quite poorly, we managed to direct ourselves down the lake and into the Gorges. We were overwhelmed by their massive size – hundreds of feet tall, covered in trees, all plunging down to the ultra blue water of the Verdon river. We floated along lazily and saw a waterfall, ducks, and the gaping entrances to caves. It was so peaceful…no sound except for the paddling of fellow tourists. I closed my eyes and tried to hold onto the moment. This was the return to nature I was looking for.

Went horseback riding in the Camargue.
On a recent trip to Provence, we headed into the conservation area of La Camargue on horseback. This was probably the most untouched area of France I have seen so far and it is home to pink flamingos, wild bulls, and the famous white Camargue horses. The best way to see this area is on foot or by horse and we opted for the horses, a promenade à cheval. As we waited for the horses, I got more and more excited as I thought back to the days when I took horsebackriding lessons. I swung into the saddle with ease, and sighed contentedly; it was so great to be on a horse again. We set off in a single-file line as our guide lead us through the untamed habitat of tall grass and marshy wetlands. I snapped a few photos of pink flamingos and grazing wild horses while trying to keep my own horse from sneaking a snack along the way. I could have rode on for another hour or more since I was enjoying the scenery and the ride, and the end of the tour came too soon for me. Even though we didn’t have much time, I was happy to have seen a truly wild area of France and have a welcome respite from the glitz of Cannes.

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    3 Comments

  • Andy says:

    It’s true that many people only see Cannes as the glitz and glamour capital that it’s portrayed to be. As you found out, if you take the time to look in the surrounding area then you can find some truely stunning landscapes and places to visit. My favourite is the Gorges du Verdon.