In September I travelled to the south of France for some sun, sea, relaxation and to celebrate Steve’s mums 50th birthday with family and friends. I enjoy laying in the sun as much as anybody but I also like to explore, so a few months before, whilst looking for things to do in the area, I stumbled across as website about the Park du Mercantour and fell in love.
I didn’t realise until then that near where we would be staying, not far from Nice, there would be mountains, forests and lakes just waiting to be explored. It was a very exciting discovery and I found myself really looking forward to visiting the national park during the trip. Ideally I wanted to climb a mountain, find a lake and see some amazing views. At this point, Steve and I hadn’t been on our Wales trip so climbing a french mountain seemed really daunting to me as a newbie hiking fan, but after the trip I became more determined to visit the park and do just that.
I still felt a little anxious about it and tried to research as much as possible about recommended routes and thought about purchasing a map. A couple of days before the hike I was concerned about weather and generally feeling worried about driving on the mountain roads in the Capri and the weather being poor with thunderstorms being forecast. But I really didn’t want to go back to England without going to the park, especially because I was too anxious.
I barely slept at all the night before but woke up in the morning feeling determined. We packed up the car early and drove to the park – the mountain roads were at times a little windy and tight, but the weather was good and the views were enough to take my mind off of things. As soon as we arrived, I felt myself relax. We picked up a route card from the visitors office in a nearby village, which despite being in french was fairly easy to understand. We found the start point and after stopping to admire the forest pigs wandering around we began walking. The route we had decided on would take us to and around the Lac de Trecoplas (2170m) in the valley Boréon.
The walk was stunningly beautiful and well signposted, we didn’t really need the route card at all. I would have felt better if we had a map – just because I like to be over prepared for everything, but it wasn’t needed on the day. The fact we didn’t really need to try hard to navigate made the hike more enjoyable, as we could concentrate on the views as we walked along.
It was hot but much of the hike was thankfully shaded by trees. We meandered through the forest and slowly climbed up through the trees, crossing bridges over fast flowing water and stopping every now and again to look back into the valley below. It was breathtakingly beautiful.
We were not alone in the forest. Herds of cows were grazing by the river lazily in the sunshine. We heard them before we saw them, the bells around their necks rang in sweet discord of each other, clanging softly at first until we came closer and the sound became stronger and louder, adding to the magic of the mountains.
Eventually we reached the lake, nestled between two peaks, where other hikers were lounging on the grass and taking in the views. We joined them and ate some madelines and pain au chocolat to refuel before we began the journey back down. Despite following the same path back through the trees that we had already walked along, the journey back felt new. We had entirely new views in front of us and were joined by other hikers including some children on the path. My favourite was a very old lone man who had stopped for a breather, we acknowledged him in french as we walked by and I smiled at the thought of hoping to be just as adventurous as him if I ever reach his age, one day.
The journey back always feels much faster and it didn’t feel that long until we were back in the car park and driving back through the valley, the heat of the sun beaming down on our tired legs in the car. I wanted to sleep but the views were too good to miss. As soon as we made it back onto the main highway, I snoozed happily before the sound of gravel woke me and we were back at the villa.