Tag Archives: Hiking

Walking: France: Roya Valley: CHATEAU DE MALMORT

We read in the “Rando Pedestre” (Walking Guide) of the Roya Valley about the ruins of a chateau standing over the village of Saorge and we thought, why  not try it?

We followed the entire circuit (in red) which the guide says 3.5 hours duration.

The map gives the impression that it is a cakewalk of a walk but lasting 3 1/2 hours, so we packed our rucksack with wine, food and two bottles of water (regretfully, it should have been “three”), drove the car towards  “428” (see map) and parked next to the signpost where it is written  “Chateau de Malmort”.

After only ten minutes traipsing on level ground, including a close encounter with a man-eating bulldog and traversing a derelict wooden bridge, we started our ascent to the mountain.

When walking up or down steep mountain paths, a stick (here shown an improvised “a la Saint Peter’s” cane) is a must-have to give stability and hence, prevent you from falling.


We noticed a huge number of fallen trees in this foresty mountain.  They have collapsed on their own because of some kind of disease that attacks their bases.


From a twisty forest path, the ground gradually changes into a pure rocky surface.


At midday, it was time to unpack our rucksack, laid the picnic cloth and started eating our lunch.  Sorry folks, the baguette was  already ravaged when I thought of the camera.  But the baguette paper bag will give you an idea.


We seemed to be getting nearer the summit, the path was getting rougher and steeper.  I had to practically take a grip on the rocks like a rock-climber, but without the ropes and the gears.  There were patches of almost 80% inclining dirt tracks without anything to hold on to, and only after calling the angels in heaven and promising them that I am going to be good from that moment on, that I only found the courage to hold on H’s  “a-la- Saint- Peter’s” stick so he can tow me upwards!


Err, this is not yet the summit, but we needed to do some photo ops


This is a shot from the top of  a cliff.  The ground where I stood had been badly eroding.

I took this photo to show how narrow the rocky path at that point, that at the slightest miscalculated movement we could fall tumbling down. Encircled is the tower of the chateau.

The Chateau de Malmort

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This fortified 13th century chateau played a big role at the time of the revolutionary wars. This feudal site stands over the valley of the Roya for almost 500 meters. 

Despite the almost impossible climb, it was very satisfying to see the ruins of the Chateau.  Sadly, it is continuing to crumble.  We can understand the authorities not pursuing any renovation plans as it would be a  gargantuan undertaking – financially and physically – to restore something that will benefit only a handful of walkers.


The French flag made of (now rusty) aluminium painted with the tri-colours.

The view from the chateau is fabulous. We could see the valley from beneath our feet particularly the villages of Fontan and Saorge.


After a considerable moment getting stumped in disbelief, wondering how the heck the people who lived in this Chateau fetched water, trekked down the valley to find food, went on with their daily tasks, communicated with the outside world below while almost completely isolated and geographically inaccessible from all sides, we left and followed the sign going down to the “Vallee de Cairos”.

This is a ruin of what used to be an animal shed.

Right at the summit, higher than the Chateau grounds, we stumble upon a flat ground comprising these structures (what are they?)


Walkers! To protect the sheep against possible attacks from wolves, shepherds of this zone are equipped with dogs to protect the troupes. For your security and for the tranquility of animals,  please keep your distance from them.
If a dog approaches you, keep still. Don’t cry. Don’t throw rocks. After some time, the dog will (eventually) go away…

The way down was another two hours,  just as exhausting as the way up because a different group of leg muscles took another battering.  Our water was running low and we were drying up that as soon as I saw a miniscule waterfall in the forest, I practically laid on my stomach so I could  reach the trickling water.  “Wait until we get to the river!” H called out.  But there never was any trace of a river until another hour and  as soon as I saw the crystal clear raging water, i quickly stripped off my blouse (there was not a single soul in the vicinity) and with only my bra and jeans, took a big dip into the cold Roya (river) !  Whoah,  what an instant relief to my dehydrated body that was!  I swear I was at the edge of a heatstroke so despite the  freezing temperature, it was pure heaven to feel the water on my nearly steaming body.

 A shot of the river where I laid like a disabled fish.

Five hours of gruelling walk.  We went over our limits and  it nearly knocked us down.  We collapsed in bed as soon as we got back home, but the experience is one for the books.

We will definitely do it again…

Walking: France: Roya Valley: BREIL to NOTRE DAME DU MONT


One of the many walks in Breil sur Roya is to the Notre Dame du Mont.  

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The footpath is rugged, rocky, sometimes narrow and sometimes muddy as it is alongside the raging tributary of the Roya river.  We see houses and allotments with cottages along the way which make us wonder how did they manage to transport their construction materials when the pathway is not accessible even by a mule.  At one point, we had to cross the river via a crude wooden bridge with a missing plank in the middle. 


I was taken aback when I heard a sudden movement.  Whew!  it was a family of goats – papa goat, mama goat and baby goat.

After climbing a steep and rugged path, we reached a private land.  “Private”  because signs of “No Entry” were everywhere.  One proprietor of the land is a kayak operator as seen in the number of kayaks and rowing paddles stored in a corner.  We eventually found the main road leading to the church.

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We were blown away by the magnificence of the church and the fact that it is surrounded by olive trees that must be around 100 years old!

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I noticed a trace of a sundial.  Whoever took it away  stole a part of history, I thought.


The plaque on the church which says, “This 11th century chapel which used to be a Paris church of the village is consecrated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary.  It was built in two parts, was raised up and enlarged between 1571- 1585.” 


The hills of Breil is dotted with olive trees.


We could see the town so elegantly framed by the hills and mountains.

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After getting mesmerized by the beauty of it all, we slowly traced our way back down whilst enjoying the sight of orange trees,  beautiful gardens and that of the town itself.

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Lovely murals!


We saw another chapel below with the headless statue of St Antoine.


The red train station of Breil sur Roya


We have finally arrived!

Walking: France: Roya Valley: PIENA


We’ve always been fascinated about this old abandoned building sitting above a tunnel where everyone drive past on their way to the coast.     It’s always been my dream to stop the car, take the best vantage point for a good photographic shot.   This was taken from the car as youwill notice from the cloudy glass.

Our chance came one day when, while driving towards the area, we decided to stop at a car park nearby to do some exploring.

Seen from the railroad level

Piena in French or Piene in Italian used to be part of Italy but ceded to France in 1947. 


It is home to a hydroelectric power plant, which exports most of its energy in Italy.

Unfortunately, since its cessation, it was never used by the French to serve the purpose, that of  train station.


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It is now abandoned.  As you can see, the etiquettes are still in Italian; Uomini means men; Donne as ladies  and cessi means toilets.

Only weeds now are queueing up at the Telegraph office

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The glorious yesteryears are still evident.




Seen from the old station.

Herbs like thyme dot the sides of the footpath.   

The footpath which is cleared of weeds regularly

This mysterious house is the only neighbour.