Time: 9.5h. Up: 1470m. Down: 960m.
Distance: 29km. Difficulty: medium.

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Stage 76: Aspremont (532m) to Coursegoules (1035m)

Click and drag on map above to see area around trail. Click here for large zoomable map.

Along hike today, one of the longest on the H2H, and one which takes you out of the back-country of the teeming Côte d'Azur and into the mostly empty and untouristed wilds of an area that is administratively assigned to the Départment des Alpes Maritimes, but geographically makes more sense to regard as Haute Provence.

You start by dropping down to and crossing the wide Var River, then work your way through suburbs to the old town of St.-Jeannet in its spectacular setting at the base of a huge cliff. Afterwards you turn inland, almost immediately leaving behind the villas and vistas of the Mediterranean that have accompanied you for the last couple of days.

A long walk follows, up through forests and deep valleys, to the village of Coursegoules. There you'll stay the night, if you are fortunate (because it is a lovely place), at the Auberge de l'Escaou. The Provençal name is a reminder of the separatist movement that still grumbles from time to time in Occitania (a.k.a. the south of France), although I have the distinct impression that this is more out of stubbornness and a delight in grumbling than because of any deep feelings of ongoing grievance or targeted discrimination.

The linguistic battle has been lost on the ground -- of the 14 million people who now live where historically Occitan was spoken (southern France and a couple of valleys in Spain and Italy), it is estimated that fewer than 500,000 are proficient in Occitan. And if there is any discrimination against the Provençaux then they share that experience with all other non-Parisians. It is, after all, telling that it is acceptable and completely unremarkable to refer to everywhere outside the capital city as the provinces (la province).

In any case, Provence ceded the Côte d'Azur to the tourists and the rich long ago, and since our destination is in Provence, leaving the Côte d'Azur is a step (well, many steps) in the right direction.

Today's hike mostly follows the same route as the GR51 except for a few kilometers after St.-Jeannet and at the end of the day. From Aspremont head southwest, mostly along the road, to Colomars (330m) and then descend to the west to cross the Var River at the Pont de la Manda (66m). On the far side work your way, again more on roads than on trails, through Carros-le-Neuf and Gattières (280m) to St.-Jeannet (400m). Leave the GR51 temporarily here, while it climbs up and over the cliff above the village, and head west then north along a trail up the valley of the Cagne River. You rejoin the GR51 after about an hour and a half, then leave it again an hour later when it heads south but you head north to le Gourbel (973m) then west to Coursegoules.

Alternatives: there are taxis in Carros-le-Neuf and Gattières that you could take to shorten the day (for taxi contact information, see here).
Maps: IGN-3742OT Nice / Menton, IGN-3642ET Vallée de l'Estéron.

The House to House blog... stage 76.

<A couple of representative photos from this stage will be added here after the hike>
In the meantime, click here to go to all of the H2H photos on Flickr.

GPS Track
<To be added during or after hike>

Room and Board Options
Lunch: you can picnic mid-morning and then have lunch in St.-Jeannet after about 5h, or you could just picnic twice.
Dinner and overnight: there are several places to stay in Coursegoules (for a complete list, see here).

Getting There and Back
Aspremont: Ligne d'Azur buses (line 76) go several times a day to Aspremont from Nice, where there is a railway station and a major airport (for bus schedule information, see here, and for trains, see the SNCF). Alternatively you can look here for a taxi to take you the 10 or 15 km from Nice.
Coursegoules: no trains, no buses... yup, we're in the wilds once more. The nearest place to get a taxi is probably Vence (about 16km away), and from Vence to Nice is about the same distance.
ViaMichelin Road Map and Driving Directions: centered on Aspremont, centered on Coursegoules.

Background Information and Links
Many and various...

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