Monte Stello in Corsica

Monte Stello (1307 m) above Erbalunga is a popular summit in Cap Corse. The ascent is not technically
The hamlet of Pozzo
demanding, but it is very long. The total ascent from the hamlet of Pozzo (277 m) is not negligible at just over 1000 m.

The trail is well marked with orange and also red signs after the Bocca di Santa Maria pass (1097 m). Even on good paths in Corsica it is advisable to wear long trousers because you are in the maquis.

The path from Pozzo ascends in maquis

After passing the last houses of Pozzo, follow a small unpaved road for a few hundred meters. The signpost shows the start of the trail that ascends first steeply sometimes in dense vegetation. You eventually reach the Bocca di Santa Maria pass from where you already have a superb view to the Bay of St Florent in the west, and a small village of Olmeto. From the pass the trail initially descends a little
Is this a wild orchid?
before turning north ascending towards Monte Stello. The summit offers a great panorama over Northern Corsica and even the Island of Elba was visible above the haze.

We descended along the same trail. There is an alternative slightly longer descent via the village of Silgaggia. In that case you have to walk along the road the last 2.4 km to your starting point in Pozzo. This optional route in particular is recommended only in good visibility.

At Bocca di Santa Maria pass with Bay of St Florent in background

Monte Stello in sight

Total hiking time 6.5 h
Corsica's highest snow-capped mountains seen from Monte Stello

Total ascent: 1040 m

Map: IGN Cap Corse 4347 OT


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Le Grand Mont -the highest coastal mountain on the Riviera

Ascending on the western side of le Grand Mont

Le Grand Mont (1379 m) or Grammondo as the Italians call it is about 6km from the Mediterranean Sea.
The Chapel of St Bernard
It is situated right at the Franco-Italian border and is considered the highest coastal peak on the Riviera. The descending trail is for the most part on the Italian side. The ascent to this dominating mountain is long but does not require any technical skills.

We have previously began the ascent from the narrow road (310 m) leading to Castellar, but this
time we decided to drive as far as to Castellar (340 m) and start from there. Either way, the first part of the ascent is quite long and strenuous.
Ruins of Morga

From the parking at the entrance of the village, ascend along a steep mostly paved road to Col St-Bernhard. This part of the trail is in fact the same when hiking to Roc d’Ormea.
Mercantour summits seen from Colla Bassa

The chapel of Col St-Bernhard has got a new roof recently, but otherwise the restoration is still continuing. Just before the chapel turn right and ascend to the nearby ruins of Morga. From this point, continue ascending along the GR52 trail which later joins a forest track north to Colla Bassa at 1110 m.
Easy scramble to Le Grand Mont

At Colla Bassa turn right and start ascending to Le Grand Mont. Follow closely the yellow signs from this point. Just before the summit, the trail gets steeper and requires some easy scrambling. Some patches of snow were still present in late March.

You suddenly meet the summit on the Franco-Italian
The very last push to the summit of Le Grand Mont
border. There’s an iron cross. On a clear day, you have a great panorama, but on our day there was so much haze that you could barely see the coast. It has to be noted that one should not do this hike in poor visibility.

Continue to the summit on the Italian side, also marked with a cross. From there, descend along a crest to a third cross. The clearly visible trail
The summit of Le Grand Mont on the Italian border
eventually turns west then south descending gently on the Italian side under the mountain ridge and the border.

You will soon come to Pas de la Corne where you’ll cross the border back to France. The trail from here is clear and well marked passing the ruins of Vieux Castellar. Soon after the ruins you reach the same road used on the way up.
Descending on the Italian side of Le Grand Mont

Total ascent from Castellar: 1040 m

Duration: 6 h

Map: IGN 3742OT Nice-Menton Côte d'Azur


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Spicy trout with parsnip pure

Spicy trout with parsnip pure

The French spice mixture quatre-épices was developed in Saint-Malo. It is a mixture of ground cinnamon, ginger, clove and nutmeg so it is easy to create if you don’t find it in your shop. Here in France it is sold in all supermarkets.

As Saint-Malo is famous for its fish and seafood one would think that quatre-épices goes very well with them. However it is not that often one can see fish and seafood recipes with quatre-épices.  So when I came across a trout recipe using quatre-épices I was eager to try it.

The following recipe is my adaptation of that recipe. Saint-Malo is a “butter and milk” region, but I have replaced them with olive oil and vegetable stock according to the Mediterranean tradition. Quatre-épices gives an unexpected twist to this very tasty dish.

2 servings

For the parsnip pure
500 g parsnips
500 ml vegetable stock
2 tbsp olive oil

For the fish
2 small trouts in portion size
2 tbsp rapeseed oil
A handful of chopped parsley
2 small shallots, chopped
½ tsp quatre-épices
2 tbsp pine nuts
50 ml white wine
Lemon wedges to serve

Peel the parsnips and chop them coarsely. Cook them in vegetable stock until soft. This takes about 45 minutes. Keep covered and warm.

In a large frying pan warm 2 tbsp rapeseed oil over medium heat. Fry the trouts for about 5 minutes on one side until golden brown. Turn the trouts and add the pine nuts and chopped shallots in the pan. Sprinkle the quatre-épices over the trouts and cover them with chopped parsley. Continue frying for 5 minutes.

Pour the white wine in the pan. Reduce the heat a little, cover the pan and simmer for 10 minutes. Meanwhile add 2 tbsp olive oil to the parsnips and mash them into a nice pure.
Arrange the trout and pure on the plates and serve with lemon wedges.


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Island of Sainte-Marguerite outside Cannes

Leaving Cannes to Ste-Marguerite

Northern shore of Ste-Marguerite

The two islands Ste-Marguerite and St-Honorat, known as Îles de Lérins, are at only 15 and 30 min ferry rides away from Cannes, respectively. Ferries leave from quai Laubeuf in the Old Port. The smaller and quieter St-Honorat has been owned by monks since the foundation of the monastery in 410 AD. Today we visited the larger island Ste-Marguerite (Ferry 13,50 €) and made a two-hour walk also described in the French Randoxygène
Aleppo pines in Ste-Marguerite

There are some restaurants and snack-bars at the picturesque harbour of Ste-Marguerite. We were informed already when purchasing the ferry tickets that all of them were still closed in early March.  We were prepared for this with some refreshments and opted for a late lunch in Cannes after the visit. This turned out to be a good choice as we found a small
Étang du Batéguier Cannes in background
bistro in the old port. They had an excellent three course lunch menu for just under 19 €! In Cannes, you can apparently  have a Sunday lunch as late as 3 pm.

Many French people seemed to bring their picnic to Ste-Marguerite, and there were tables along the path. That would have been another nice option on this sunny albeit a bit windy day.
Ile St-Honorat seen from the southern shore of Ste-Marguerite

The walk starts from the harbour following the unpaved road to the western tip of the island. The trail goes around Étang de Batéguier, a brackish water pond surrounded by a wood of Aleppo pines. Continue along the southern shoreline to Maison Forestière. At this intersection, turn left and walk along the allée des Eucalyptus back to the harbour.
Southwstern shore of Ile Ste-Margueirte
The walk is pretty short, but you could continue as far as the eastern point of the island and back along the good network of trails.

The main tourist spot on the island must be the Fort Royal. This is yet another fort improved by Vauban during the reign of Louis XIV. The main attraction here is the maritime museum and the prison cell said to have held the mythical Man in the Iron Mask.
The eucalyptus alley in Ile Ste-Marguerite


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