An amazing day in the mountains at Entrevaux

(written by Nancy)

Today we went on a bit of an expedition up into the mountains northwest of Nice to the small village of Entrevaux.  What a spectacular place it turned out to be!  We took a small local train (the Chermins de Fer de Provence) from Nice that goes up into the mountains, stopping at various small villages along the way.  The train is a narrow gauge railway, the only one of 4 that existed in Southern France that is still running – it is referred to as the “train des pignes” because of the gauge on which it runs.

The train goes all of the way to a village called Digne les-Baines, a journey of over three hours.  It is billed as a tourist train, as it makes an interesting journey up through the mountains.  It appears that many train buffs take the train – we had a few on our train this morning.  The village of Entrevaux is about half way – we left Nice about 8:50 and got into Entrevaux about 10:25.

Entrevaux is a medieval village originally built to protect a narrow pass.  The old city sits on one side of the Var river and was first established in the 11th century.  It changed hands a few times, once as a result of the treachery of its resident lord who was subsequently murdered by the residents that survived the attack by the Roman troops.  The town was declared a royal town of France after the surviving residents offered it to the heir apparent of France, King François I.

The old walled city is very impressive – it comes complete with a draw bridge across the Var river originally built in the 1600s with towers on either end.  But even more impressive is the citadel that sits high up on the rocky mountain above the town, with a walled walkway that zigzags up the mountainside.  It’s a pretty amazing sight from the roadway and it is quite a walk up to the citadel itself –I think we will both have some sore calves in the morning!  We had a beautiful day with sun and blue sky so the views were great from up at the citadel and there were very few other tourists wandering around.

We spent almost two hours walking up to the citadel and wandering about and came back down intending to take the 1:00 train back into Nice.  But it was too nice of a day and we hadn’t spent too much time looking around the old city so we spontaneously changed our plans and headed to a great little restaurant just on the outside of the old city to have lunch.  We had a great table out in the sun with a great view of the citadel and the city.  Dave tried the local specialty, secca de boef, which is essentially very thin pieces of dried salted beef, usually served with olive oil.  Dave’s came with a big scoop of lentils on top, with some sliced bread as well, of course.  I think he liked it – he didn’t say much during lunch, just smacked his lips a lot and drank most of the half bottle of wine he ordered.  My lunch of warm goat’s cheese salad (salad chevre chaud) was very good as well.  You couldn’t really beat the setting – pretty nice.

After we dragged ourselves away from lunch we headed back into the old town to wander the streets.  I think it had everything you expect from a French village – winding little lanes, old building with windows framed by wooden shutters and covered by lacy curtains, great doors of all shapes and sizes and a lovely cathedral with a bell that chimed on the hour so we could keep track of time to make sure we made the next train back.  There are no cars allowed in the old city – most of the laneways are only wide enough to allow for two or three people passing each other so at least we didn’t have to worry about getting hit by a car while we wandered about.

At the same time the drawbridge over the Var river was built in the 1600’s two small forts were also built on either end to protect the town – the gates to access the forts are now called the Porte d’Italie and the Porte de France.  The gates each have the kind of classic gate that can be pulled down with chains to beef up security as necessary.  You could almost picture the warning bells ringing and the soldiers running to pull the gates shut and pull down the reinforcing bars.

All in all a great day – it was well worth the trip and we were both very glad that we took the extra time to wander through the old city as there was so much to see.  We would recommend it to anyone who visits Nice – it is an easy trip up there on public transport and the train stations is only about 400 meters from the entrance to the old city.

Dave took about a million pictures and after arduous work has culled them down to a manageable amount to post with the blog.  Hope you enjoy them!

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6 thoughts on “An amazing day in the mountains at Entrevaux

    • The women of Cambodia (who seemed to wear PJs outside every day) would be overjoyed with your find. I’m not sure how we get the word to them however…


  1. Where can I get some shirts and shorts made up with some of those cycle design fabrics?

    Dave and Nancy have you considering hiring a private driver driven van or moving company for your land moves for your bikes (maybe yourselves and things)?

    Some other info for your cycling adventures >

    You may want to consider using some of these cycling apps for your iPhone or Android smartphones

    Also > see these articles on bike friendly cities USA and Asia

    And cycling Yangshuo’s edible landscapes

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