Walking holiday in France, Mercantour Reflections

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Date
Price
Basis
19 Apr 2019
£ 725
excluding flights
Available
Click here to enquire about or book the 19 Apr 2019 departure
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Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism: Walking holiday in France, Mercantour Reflections

Environment

Food air miles are limited here as fresh organic produce, fruit and veg, milk, cheese and honey (and now from our own bees!!) are available within walking distance. Our water comes straight from the hill. We also grow our own vegetables, which we are happy to share with our guests.

Although we are 5km from the nearest town, we do try to encourage guests to use the €1.50 Alpes-Maritimes bus, and limit our road miles as much as possible using our minibus.

We recycle as much as possible, already have a super "green" heat pump for hot water and central heating and are working on other development plans.

Information is provided to our guests to enable them to enjoy the Park to the maximum while showing the utmost respect for the environment. We only use local, qualified guides who are passionate about the area that they live in. They are paid a living wage for their excellent services.

We are 100% focused on creating awareness of this magical corner of South East France. Your walking leader is a partner of the Mercantour National Park, which has a continual training programme for its leaders, to keep them abreast of developments and issues, and to enrich their local knowledge. Visitors can enjoy an unspoilt mountain environment and appreciate a traditional rural way of life. As permanent residents we are fully integrated into the community in the Vésubie valley.

Our base
As we await permission to fulfill our vision for our centuries old farm house and land, we are keen to implement as many environmentally sympathetic measures as possible. We encourage the preservation of our pure water which comes straight off the mountain and use our splendid climate for laundry drying outside.

As much waste as possible is re-cycled, including pony manure which goes straight onto our vegetable patch. We aim to be as self sufficient as possible from your own garden. Guests are welcome to help themselves to fruit and vegetables.

When meals are provided they are prepared with local produce only, often solely from the Vésubie valley. Vegetarians are willingly catered for. Energy efficient bulbs are used throughout the house. We try to minimise the use of paper in our office. Guests are encouraged to shop locally and of course to respect the integrity of the National Park.

Working relationships
We only work with qualified guides for all activities. These passionate locals create a genuine and rich experience for our visitors. They are paid the appropriate rate for professional guides. Our local accommodation partners are chosen for their warm welcome and a willingness to share their love for the region.

Business development
In the longer term we will use abundant natural resources (wood and sunshine) for heat and light as well as providing alternative accommodation on our land. We work closely with other like minded partners here in the Mercantour, and can offer other eco accommodation, plus those adapted for the less mobile. We have have our own horses who are available for riding and taking out as a companion on day walks.

Community

We have lived here in the Mercantour for 14 years and are proud to be part of the community. The area, despite its proximity to the French Riviera, is quite poor, but inhabited by people who are passionate about the area, so we are delighted to be able to make an impact on the local economy. Our guests can take advantage of our local knowledge for walks and other activities, and recommendations for fun places to eat and drink. Therefore guests don't waste a Euro or a day being disappointed, and our local suppliers who merit support, get it.

We support the active community in Roquebilliere with its local weekly market, and buy as much as possible from local producers. We are also keen to contribute to cultural events which keep the "patrimoine" of the area buoyant - these include dancing in the village square in July and August, a summer program of music and drama, an art gallery showcasing local talent, and a cost free system for bartering goods and services between inhabitants.

When using other accommodation we try to ensure that a night could be spent with a local farmer or craftsmen, providing valuable income to our hosts and also giving guests an appreciation of a typical rural life here.

6 Reviews of Walking holiday in France, Mercantour Reflections

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Reviewed on 19 Jul 2018 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


1. Wonderful walking in the Vesubie valley and Mercantour National Park in stunning mountains with superb views and dazzling lakes. Beautiful wildflowers and countless butterflies, lots of other wildlife to spot – chamois, raptors, marmots, snakes, lizzards, black squirrels and fireflies.
2. Exploring some of the fascinating and attractive medieval villages in the area including Saint Martin Vesubie, Utelle and Venansson.
3. Liz and Mel’s warm and welcoming hospitality and the superb meals prepared by Liz.
4. The comfortable Gites accommodation at Berthemont les Bains with fine views

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


We selected the self-guided walking option and this worked well for us. Mel provided us with a map for each walk and instructions including interesting and useful notes on the history of the area and what birds and animals to watch out. Mel took us to the start point of the walk each day by car and collected us again at an agreed time. Therefore you don’t need to bring a car to enjoy this holiday and can just relax and enjoy the beautiful surroundings. Travel to Nice (by plane or train) and then take a low-cost bus up to the Vesubie Valley nearly all of the way to Berthemont les Bains where Mel will arrange to meet you from the bus.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


It was clear that Liz and Mel are very much part of the local community and their holiday business clearly benefits local people by introducing visitors to the Vesubie Valley and increasing awareness of this as an attractive holiday destination, especially for walkers. A lot of the food prepared provided for us appeared to be either sourced or purchased locally e.g. bread, fruit and cheese. We travelled to Nice from London by train with the significant environmental benefits this has compared to taking a flight (CO2 emissions per passenger for trains estimated up to 90% less compared to taking a flight). As above, we continued our journey by bus and so had no need to hire a car. As all the walks were in the Vesubie Valley or nearby Mercantour National Park this minimized the distance we needed to travel each day by car to the start of the walks.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


A wonderful holiday. We certainly hope to return one day for another holiday in this beautiful place.

Reviewed on 23 Jun 2018 by

From early on in our enquiries about this holiday, we found Responsible Travel very informative and responsive.
The Mercantour holiday stood out as particularly interesting, and the pictures and description on the website were impressive and well-presented. The location seemed quite easy to get to and yet sufficiently far away from the main tourist spots, and it was an advantage to have transport to and from the walks included. These were all selling points for us. As we were new to the area, we opted for a combination of self-guided and guided walks, and this worked well for us.

The route descriptions and maps provided for the self-guided walks were detailed and comprehensive enough for us to feel confident walking on our own, and Mel would drop us off and show us the start of each walk.

Mel has an abundance of local knowledge of the history and wildlife, and shared this with us during the guided walks, pointing out birds and animals along the way. The walks were very well-planned and gave us a really good glimpse of the superb and varied scenery in this corner of the Mercantour.
One of the highlights was seeing a pair of golden eagles from outside the gîte one evening.

Liz and Mel made us extremely welcome and were excellent hosts. We were given delicious meals and snacks every day and Liz went out of her way to cater for dietary needs, which was a real bonus on a holiday like this.
The week was well-organised in every way, whilst being relaxed and flexible at the same time. The accommodation was excellent and we felt privileged to be staying in the gîte at Liz and Mel’s home in Berthemont-les-Bains, surrounded by such beautiful scenery.

An over-riding impression that we both came away with was the amount of care that Liz and Mel had put into every aspect of the holiday.

Reviewed on 01 Jul 2017 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


Seeing fantastic landscapes & wildlife

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Get your 'walking legs' ready

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Yes

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


Really great

Reviewed on 17 Oct 2014 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


Our first guided walk to Col de Fenestre was the highlight of the week for me. The route was filled with outstanding mountain views and we saw chamois, ibex, marmot and mouflon during the walk.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Book early so you can get a spot!


3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Yes - all of the above.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


Tres bien! Liz and Mel took good care of us and went above and beyond our expectations to ensure our holiday was great. Good value, too!

Reviewed on 19 Sep 2012 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


The variety of the walks and scenery - and loads of wildlife. Marmot, chamois, vultures, various birds. Level of challenge was set just right for the needs of the group. Very hospitable and friendly hosts, who did so much for us. Fantastic food cooked for us every night! Lovely, spacious gite in a tranquil location.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Make sure you're properly kitted out with good boots, a water bottle you can easily access and comfortable walking gear. Walking pole/s are useful for long ascents/descents when knees start to get tired. Bring a warm layer for the evening (not the sweaty fleece you've been wearing all day...) as it can get a bit chilly.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Yes.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


Great - would do it again! Really good value for money.

Reviewed on 06 Sep 2012 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


Exploring, mainly on foot, a 'new', relatively unknown but scenically stunning corner of France on the back of excellent, welcoming accommodation and hospitality.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


You need to be quite fit to fully appreciate walking in high Alpine scenery - but with that proviso, go there! It is far less crowded than most Alpine areas; consequently there are higher chances to observe nature.

The walking itineraries are well constructed but adaptable in response to group preferences, capabilities, the weather, etc. Each walk is well-led by a knowledgeable, informative guide.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


It was self-evident that wherever practical, food is locally sourced, that other local associated businesses are supported, and that there is some employment of local people.

During the walks we were conscious of being in a National Park and learnt something about the way in which the French National Park system is constituted and managed; we also increased our awareness of aspects of the local ecosystems, including issues surrounding Chamois over-population and the re-introduction/reappearance in the Mercantour of the Wolf.

It was possible to do plenty of walks in this location without the need to travel long distances by car to the start/end points.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


The arrangements for this tour were impeccable. There was a wonderful combination of fine scenery; abundant wildlife; superb food; comfortable and welcoming accommodation; brilliant hosts/guides; historical, cultural and social dimensions; memorable mountain days. A high quality experience all round.

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