The Lou Messugo Blog - life in the south of France from a British/Australian TCK's perspective, bringing you French culture, travel on the Côte d'Azur and beyond, expat issues and a little bit of je ne sais quoi all mixed up with a hefty dose of photography.

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Sunday Photo - 20 November 2016

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autumn river walk Alpes Maritimes

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Sunday Photo - 13 March 2016

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Gourdon from Plateau de Caussols French Riviera

 
 
 
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The Côte d'Azur, or French Riviera as it is also called, is a fabulous playground for young and old alike.  Perhaps more well-known for its glamorous hedonistic lifestyle than for child-friendly vacations, this list should help dispel that myth.  Here are 10 top ideas for great days out and activities for older kids, tweens and young teens, perfect for holiday-makers and residents alike.

Top 10 things to do teens French Riviera

1. Canyoning in the Loup river gorges.  This activity is for adrenalin seekers and not for anyone with a fear of heights.  You spend about 4 hours in a mountain river climbing along narrow passages, sliding down and jumping into rock pools from up to 11 metres high!  It takes stamina and strength but is such a thrill it's well worth the effort. It can take a lot longer than advertised in the brochure depending on the size and ability of the group.

canyoning gorges du loup cote dazur

2. Canyon Forest zip-line adventure course in the trees (in the style of "Go Ape" in the UK).  There are 4 different courses for different levels of difficulty consisting of rope ladders, zip wires, rope bridges, via ferrata, wooden tunnels, trapezes and swings.  This activity is billed as being possible from 8 years old (or 135m tall) but it's pretty tough that young.  On the other hand it goes up to adult level and teenagers will certainly find their thrills here.  Beautifully set in the gorges of the Loup river access is by a 2 km bike ride (or on foot) and the price of admission includes the bike rental.  There is a spectacular flying fox (zipline) 330 m long across the gorge!  You won't have time to eat while on the course but there are a couple of small snack bars for ice-creams and drinks at the end.  Needs to be booked ahead in summer.

canyon forest villeneuve loubet french riviera

3. Hire a pedalo & jump off massive inflatables at St Cassien lake, an enormous man-made reservoir near Montauroux.  The huge blow-up icebergs and bouncy platforms are only out in the summer but the lake is a lovely place to walk and picnic at any time of year.

lac st cassien aqua parc

4. See wolves in their natural habitat at Alpha Parc.  Wolves used to exist in the wild in the southern Alps but were hunted to extinction in the 1930s.  Since the 1990s they have been making a comeback however and this park sets out to showcase 3 different viewpoints of how the wolf can or cannot co-exist with sheep farming.  Set in the beautiful surroundings of the Mercantour National Park, you get to view wolves in their natural habitat and learn all about the pros and cons of their return through an excellent audio-visual presentation.  With trout fishing and many hiking trails nearby in the pristine forest there's plenty to do for a whole day out, but be prepared as at 1500m altitude even in summer it can be cool and the weather can change rapidly.  For a full write up about Alpha Parc check here.

wolves at alpha parc st martin vésubie mercantour

5. Make your own perfume at Galimard Perfumerie.  You can visit several perfumeries in Grasse, the world capital of perfume making, but only Gallimard and Fragonard offer workshops where you can make your own.  The session takes a couple of hours and can be arranged in many diferent languages.

Perfum workshop

6. Rollerblade along the seafront at Cagnes sur Mer or along the Promenade des Anglais in Nice.  I've written about this in detail here.

roller blading in cagnes sur mer

7. Hire a catamaran, optimist, windsurfer or sea kayak at the Yacht Club at Villeneuve-Loubet.  The club is open all year round but check for hours which are restricted in winter. Available by the hour or half day. Courses (individual or group) are also available during school holidays (in French). During the summer there is a café on the beach.  Out of season you need to take your own snacks.

sailing at villeneuve loubet

8. Geocaching adventure "treasure hunt" using GPS in the local forests, mountain plateaux and even many towns.  This is a great way to motivate and inspire teenagers to go for a walk or sightsee!  The aim is to find a hidden "cache" having looked up a nearby one online.  You need a GPS device or smartphone, everything that you'd take on a hike (water, food, sturdy footware, first aid kit) and a pen to sign the log book when you find the treasure. You may also need a torch depending on the difficulty of the search.  

plateau de caussols

9. Le Village des Fous is a unique theme park consisting of a "crazy village" and a labyrinth with challenges and obstacles that you have to get through in order to access the village.  Not only do you have to find your way through the maze but you have to answer riddles and succeed at physical challenges to pass each stage.  The riddles and challenges are graded according to age, with 4 levels starting at 4 years old and up to adult and the clues are in English as well as French. Once you've made it through the maze the "crazy village" awaits!  This is a fun park with original rides such as pedal karts, a flying bath tub, water catapults, and plenty more.  You can take a picnic or eat at the café.  The maze gets very hot in high season but there are plenty of drinking fountains and areas where you can cool off in water spray making it perfectly bearable even on the hottest day.  There are water play areas in the crazy village so bring swimming gear (and plenty of sunscreen).

le village des fous villeneuve loubet

10.  Aquasplash   Don't all kids (big and small) love a water park?  A vast choice of waterslides, some not for the faint-hearted,  huge wave pool, aquarobics and a pirate playzone for the littlies make this a fun day out.  It can get very crowded in high season so my advice is to get there as it opens.  You're not supposed to take picnics but you can get away with it if you're discreet (I always do).

aquasplash

Don't forget if you're looking for ideas for things to do with younger kids on the Côte d'Azur or fun on rainy daysactivities for toddlers or indoor activities for all ages I've also made some Top 10 lists.  Have you been to any of these places?  Can you add any other ideas?

You may also be interested in 3 of the best adventure activities in the Alpes-Maritimes

 

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Top 10 activities for teens on French Riviera

 

Photo of perfume workshop courtesy of Collège Croix-Menée Le Creusot, Dijon

 

 

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Skiing on the French Riviera?  Well not quite, but very nearly.

alps meet mediterranean

It’s not exactly a secret but it’s certainly one of the lesser known things about the Côte d’Azur...what am I talking about?  Its proximity to the mountains.  And by mountains I mean real mountains, with peaks above 1500m rising to around 3000m.  There’s a clue in the name of the département (county):  les Alpes-Maritimes…yes this is where the Alps meet the sea in spectacular and dramatic fashion.  And the good news is that this means skiing (along with plenty of other adventurous activities of course) nearby.

powderI thought I knew a fair bit about the south of France when I moved here in 2007 having spent many holidays in the area since childhood but I had no idea at all about the mountains.  I was surprised and delighted to discover just how close we are to the nearest ski resort – under one hour’s drive (usually about 50 minutes).  Gréolières les Neiges is only 22 km as the crow flies from the coast which makes it the closest resort to the famous Riviera, (possibly the closest ski resort to a coast in the world), and the closest to the only slightly less famous Lou Messugo!  We still pinch ourselves on spring weekends when we ski in the morning and paddle in the sea in the afternoon, barely believing our luck that we live in such an amazing location. 

ski2Gréolières les Neiges is a small resort, very family oriented, perfect for day trips with children.  It lies at 1400-1800m altitude with 30 kms of mainly red pistes.  It also has cross-country tracks, sledging areas and snow-shoe (raquettes) trekking trails.  You’ll find all the necessary hire shops for equipment, ski school and a handful of cafés and restaurants.  Some years there’s a tiny skating rink and the possibility to take a ride on a dog-pulled sleigh.  But what is so unique about skiing at Gréolières is the view from the highest piste (Mount Cheiron) over the sea.  There can’t be many places in the world where you can ski and see the sea, particularly a warm sea such as the Mediterranean rather than somewhere icy cold in the north.  On a clear day you can see from Italy, over Monaco, across to the Estérel, over the Alps and even Corsica, 180 kms away!  It’s pretty special. 

sea view from top

The other thing I love about going to Gréolières les Neiges is the drive.  It’s not an exaggeration to say it’s stunning!  Unlike many roads to ski resorts there aren’t too many wiggles on hairpin bends, but those that there are are truly worth it.  The road passes the cliff-top village of Gourdon, (see bottom photo), continues along the Gorges du Loup and through the old medieval town of Gréolières with its ruined castle picturesquely placed on the edge of the mountainside (not to be confused with Gréolières les Neiges).  It then comes out on a perilous mountain ridge, going through rock bridges and amazing cliff formations.  Having survived this section (where several notorious car chase scenes have been filmed, including in the James bond film Goldeneye) the temperature plunges as you head through a magical snowy forest always several degrees colder than elsewhere.  And then you come out on a large snowy plain before turning up to the resort itself.  It’s such a varied and beautiful route, especially atmospheric early in the morning as the sun rises.  I recommend the drive itself even if you don’t want to ski.

road to Gréolière

If you’ve never skied before and not sure you’re going to like it or you want to introduce your children to this fabulous sport but don’t want to spend a whole week in a ski resort, staying at Lou Messugo could be just for you.  Gréolières les Neiges isn’t the only local place to ski, it’s just the nearest.  For more variety there are another 5 around 90 minutes away (Auron, Valberg, Isola 2000, Roubion and La Colmiane) and even more within 2 hours. You can combine a spot of skiing with warmer activities on the coast and make the most of the glorious winter weather we have here.  Don’t forget we have an average of 300 days of sunshine a year and many of these are during the winter months.   The Riviera was famous as a winter resort well before it became fashionable to visit in the summer after all!

Gréolières sparkling in sun

view skiinggréolières les neiges

greolieres piste rouge

ski3

ski Gréolières

ski5

Gréolières les Neiges

ski tracks

Gourdon in winter

 Did you know there was skiing so close to the coast?  I'd love to hear from you.

 

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skiing on the French Riviera

 

 

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