Isola 2000: Tête Mercière

Trail above Col de la Roubine

The itinerary to Tête Mercière (2491 m) is one of the most popular hikes from Isola 2000. We have done it a few times. Today’s hike in late June was dedicated to the wild rhododendrons that were in blossom in abundance. 


Our timing was perfect regarding the rhododendrons. Isola 2000 was quiet because the summer season had not yet kicked off. Hikers need to avoid the many mountain biking trails (marked) that cross walking paths and ski runs.

From the centre of Isola 2000, we walked to signpost #80 and #81. Instead of forking left along Chemin des Italiens (as advised in the local guide), we ascended first along a steep ski run, then forked left after 150 m and continued to climb along a less steep and grassier ski slope that went under the Pélévos Télécabine. After 700 m, we again forked left to a track that crossed ski lifts and runs. We hiked past the high-altitude landing strip and came to the quasi horizontal dirt track which we followed east to Col de la Roubine (signposts #96, 96a).

From Col de la Roubine, at the foot of Tête Mercière, the trail zigzagged to the summit along the north western flank with beautiful red and green rhododendron carpets by the trail. The summit marked the border of Mercantour National Park. The southern flank of the mountain comprised vast alpine meadows, and remains of bunkers were seen here and there.

We descended to Col Mercière (2342m, signpost #95). At this crossroads we headed north along a yellow-marked trail (some rockslides on the path after the col) to signpost #92 in Vallon de Terre Rouge. The ascending trail went up to the Terre Rouge Lakes and Baisse de Druos. We forked left at this crossroads and descended back to the village.

Rhododendrons in Isola 2000
Rhododendrons in Isola 2000
Rhododendrons around Tête Mercière
Rhododendrons around Tête Mercière

Climb: 550 m

Duration: 3h 50 active

Distance: 8,5 km

Map: “Haute Tinée 2” TOP 25 N°O 3640 OT

Our GPS (iPhiGéNie) track:

Tête Mercière loop hike track
Tête Mercière loop hike track


Aubergine gratin

Aubergine gratin


This is a rich vegetable side best served with a simple piece of grilled lamb or roasted chicken. In summer, you can make it with fresh tomatoes which in winter can be substituted with good Italian tomato sauce. Freshly grated parmesan cheese is a must for this gratin.

Aubergine is known for its capacity to soak up oil or butter if you fry the slices. I have started to roast the slices in the oven and this helps to control the amount of olive oil needed. Slice the aubergine rather thickly, brush the slices on both sides with a little olive oil and roast until soft. This takes about 20 minutes in 200° C. Then use the roasted slices for the gratin.

2 servings

1 medium aubergine, rather thickly sliced 

Olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tsp. dried Provençal herbs

200 ml Italian tomato sauce or 3- 4 fresh tomatoes plus a little tomato paste

Freshly ground black pepper

A handful of grated parmesan

Preheat the oven to 200° C, roast.

Place the aubergine slices in one layer on an oven- tray lined with baking paper. Lightly brush with olive oil and roast for about 20 minutes until soft.

Meanwhile warm 1 tbsp. olive oil over medium heat in a frying pan and sauté the onion and garlic for 10 minutes until soft but not browned. Add the tomato sauce or the fresh chopped tomatoes and some tomato paste. Add the herbs and black pepper, stir and continue cooking until the sauce is nice and thick, about 5 minutes if using tomato sauce and about 10- 15 minutes if using fresh tomatoes. 

Lightly oil a gratin dish with olive oil. Spread a thin layer of tomato sauce in the bottom and place the aubergine slices on the sauce. Top with the rest of the tomato sauce and divide the parmesan over the sauce. Sprinkle with a little olive oil. Roast for about 20 minutes until the cheese is nicely browned.


Pork tenderloin with bell peppers

Pork tenderloin with bell peppers

This tasty pork tenderloin, filet mignon de porc, recipe comes from the Basque country. I have somewhat modified the original recipe but I always use Piment d’Espelette, the local mild pepper, for more authenticity. Serve this hearty country dish with blond lentils.

2 servings

1 pork tenderloin, about 400- 500 g, cut into thick slices
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
150 ml red wine
100 ml tomato sauce
1 tsp. Piment d’ Espelette or other mild pepper
1 tsp. Provençal herbs
2 tbsp. black olives

Preheat the oven to 200°C, roast.

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large heavy casserole, such as Le Creuset, and fry the pork slices for a few minutes until golden brown. Turn the slices and add the bell peppers, onion, and garlic. Continue frying stirring frequently for about 5 minutes.

Add the wine, tomato sauce, Piment d’Espelette, and olives. Stir and bring to the boil. Then transfer the casserole into the oven for 30 minutes. NB! Do not cover, roasting will give the meat and vegetables a nice colour.

Meanwhile cook the blond lentils which take about 25 minutes.

Divide on the plates. Voilà!


Cime de Rocaillon above Lucéram

Viewing Lucéram from Cime de Rocaillon

Cime de Rocaillon (1444 m) is a less visited mountain top in Nice hinterland, moyen pays, about 24 km from Nice seafront as the crow flies.

The views south and southeast do not disappoint. The medieval village of Lucéram (650 m) is clearly visible deep down in the Paillon River Valley.

From Nice, we drove to Luceram along D2566, and further to Col St-Roch where we took the D73. We parked at Col de la Porte (1057 m) which was the highest point of the road; 35 km from downtown Nice. From Col de la Porte, the summit can be reached with a very moderate effort. Starting from Lucéram is a good option if you wish to do a longer hike but that requires more than twice as much climbing.

From Col de la Porte, we started from signpost #189, and ascended gradually along a nice and soft forest trail. The direction of the trail soon turned to south-southeast. We ascended more steeply, reaching the D2566 road and signpost #193. We crossed the road and found our trail that now became narrower, running in an easterly direction along a grassy ridge to Cime de Rocaillon. At some points the trail was almost ingrown but don’t worry, you won’t get lost if you just stay on the ridge.

On this super spring day, we had the summit and the great forest trail all for ourselves! We can definitely call it an off the beaten track. In short, it was a great half-day itinerary with super views, a pleasant forest trail with a moderate ascent!

Distance: 5.9 km

Climb: 390 m

Duration: 2h 30 active

Map: Vallées de la Bévéra et des Paillons TOP 25 N°o 3741 ET

Cime de Rocaillon trail track