Saorge, Breil, Ventimiglia and Menton = parfait!!!

Trip Start Oct 18, 2006
Trip End Oct 19, 2007

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Friday, April 6, 2007

Janette left for Paris and Kat and l were left to explore spectacular Cote dur Azur further. The great thing about researching a trip is that you can come across (if you look hard enough) some fantastic tips from other travelers blogs or forums. I had come across the email of a guy who sent me his entire Cote de Azur 15 day itinerary....he was well knowledged in the area as he travelers there every year with his wife. Within his itinerary...that was so comprehensive that it took me at least an hour to read, it suggested that you catch a train into the hinterland behind Nice (if you didn't have a car to explore this area). His description of hidden perched villages far away from the tourist circuit sold me, so we took this strangers advice and bought our 16 Euro train tickets to Tende via Fonton Saorge and paid for a return ticked via Ventimiglia in Italy which would take us home via Menton and the coastal train. And boy were we happy we did this trip!!!!

Catching the train from Nice at 9:00am we decided not to stop off at the perched village of Peillon which looks spectacular and come highly recommended but is an hour up hill walk to reach it and we simply didn't have the time....or mind you the energy! Instead we decided to visit the village of Saorge (Fonton Saorge station- garde in French) which was only a fifteen minute walk uphill from the station (go under the tunnel coming out of station on right and continue uphill). This amazing perched village rated as one of Frances top 20 most beautiful villages, was quite simply stunning!!! And we had no worries of other tourists racing us to the top of the hill, only Kat , I and two other woman got off the train. The kind strangers itinerary had lead us to a beautiful gem far away from the maddening crowd of the Cote de Azur (unlike popular perched villages like Eze and St Paul Vence which are teeming with tourists like us). We were therefore really the only tourists in this village (we never saw the other two woman again), which made us feel like we had been transported back into another time. I have never been to such a beautiful village in my life!

The setting was extraordinary and breathtaking with its placement high up on a cliff overlooking the gorge filled with aqua blue glacier water rushing below us and Alps speckled with snow in the background! We were awe struck and immediately loved it and feel in love with Saorge. We spent two hours walking through its cobbled stoned streets, admiring the village life as we watched the villagers attend their gardens, hang out their washing, chop wood and gather on small bridge in the middle of the village and great each other with kisses before beginning their afternoon gossip session. We past the beautiful Belleview restaurant (the only restaurant in the village) and only one small clothes shop which made us realize we were really in a authentic and non-tourists village in France. We sat and ate our salad lunch which we had brought in Nice listening the water rush by in the gorge far below us as we marvelled at the sight of this beautiful village.

Words will not do this place justice, you need to walk through its tiny alleyways and up its steep stoned steps, past tiny doors and bridges and peoples houses filled with potplants, window boxes and washing to experience it yourself. (Although Kat didn't want me to write about any of that nobody would find out about this amazing hopefully l don't spoil the secret it holds to much!) I will never forget feeling the peace and quite and the need to whisper here and suddenly angry French rap music started blaring through the quite village! We decided it must have been coming from the town rebels house, it so didn't suit the atmosphere, and quickly transported us back to the 21st century. Regrettably we made our way back down the hill to the train station to catch our train to Tende only to find that our trains doors were all locked and they wouldn't let us on our train!!

Very aware that the next train to Tende was in another four hours we decided to catch the train back to Breil and go from Breil to Ventimiglia instead. So we never made it to Tende, so l cant tell you what that train journey is like but l have heard its full of breathtaking gorge scenery. We had to wait at Breil for our connecting train for an hour so thanks to Kats enthusiasm we decided to walk around trying to find some shade out of the sun. Walking down the hill was came upon the most beautiful river l have ever seen! We sat beside it and wrote in our journals and ate a snack. The water was the most amazing shades of aqua blue and green and the ducks seemed to be enjoying it as much as us. Sitting beneath the gorge l felt tiny and insignificant and like none of the glitz and glamors we had been witnessing the last couple of days was of any significance compared to the natural beauty and grandness that this earth of ours contains. We were so glad that we missed our train to Tende!

Leaving our beautiful gorge and river behind we made our way into Italy (which we had been bordering all day) to the coastal town of Ventimiglia. We then changed trains back into France to Menton- which is a confection of elegant historic buildings in sugared-almond pastels only a few kilometers from the Italian border and reputed to be the warmest spot on the Cote d'Azur. With this in mind we walked straight to its soft pebbly beach where we ate gelati and sunbaked in the afternoon sun with smiles on our faces as we looked over the aqau blue water and yachts bobbing up and down in the water. It was hard to get up off those pebbles (for numerous reasons!) and back onto the train, but the train trip was absolutely stunning taking right along the coast spectacularly reminding us of all the beautiful places we had visited in the past couple of days as it speed past Monte Carlo, Monaco, Ville Franche, Eze and Cap D'ail! But l would have to so that today topped it all!
(WARNING...if you plan to do this whole day trip research the train schedules VERY carefully if you speak French and if you don't get someone at the Nice train station to help you as it is rather confusing and alot of trains don't run everyday).
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