Route de Napoleon – Castellane, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, France

Today we *should* have been visiting Nice then Monaco. Then this morning I got a random Facebook post which talked about the Route of Napoleon, an iconic must-do drive through the Alpes and a new plan was born. We had toyed with a crazy run to Tuscany, Pisa and Florence then trip through the Swiss Alpes. However, we are down to our last month and it was beginning to feel like that was going to be a full on route march. All those places deserve more time and Italy will be another trip.

Route de Napoleon – see black numbered circles

The Route de Napoleon sounded like a fantastic drive but also historically interesting as the route that Napoleon took after escaping from the island of Elbe near Corsica. Napoleon had been imprisoned following unsuccessful campaigns in Russia and Berezina. However he made his escape, landing on the Côte d’Azur in Golfe Juan on 1st March, from here he made his way across the Alpes to Grenoble and onward to Paris. At Paris, he took back power for 100 days until he was again defeated at Waterloo on 18th June 1815.

We had wanted to spend more time in France on this trip and this felt like an ideal way to do it. The route officially starts in Golfe Juan but then goes to Cannes before heading north. We were not too keen to head into the city of Cannes and would need to pass Cannes on our route from the west to then double back. Therefore, we decided as this would be the least scenic part of the route through busy streets we would just head north at Cannes.

Grasse Old Town

The first stop looked like it might be Grasse, just above Cannes up the hills behind. However when we approached it was quite a busy town which looked modern and not what we had in mind. We stopped at a Boulangerie for lunch and decided to carry on into the hills. We decided it might be best to fill up with diesel there before heading into the wilds. We pulled into a petrol station which was combined with a tyre garage. We had 3-4 fitters lined up at the window pointing at our van then a car pulled up belong side us and asked if we spoke French. I understood that he had ordered the crossover model of the Hymer ML570, very similar to ours which he is due to get in September. He was very excited to meet us and asked where we had been / where we were going. He suggested the Gorge of Verdon if we were headed this way.

Looking back to the Mediterranean from Grasse

As we as ascended up the hairpin bends into the old town of Grasse it was much prettier but there were limited overnight options so we carried on up the hill. At the top were amazing panoramic views over Cannes and out to the Mediterranean. However there was nowhere to stop for photos so the best I have was taken whilst driving.

The next hour of driving through the switch backs, up the hills and down the valleys through the foothills of the Alpes was stunning. There were lots of lay-by type options to park up for the night but we decided to try out the small town of Castellane to see what the community was like in this area. I had read that one of the Things to Do in the area was to walk to the church on the hill. As we approached this was quickly vetoed it being more of a cliff than a hill!

We arrived into the motorhome aire at about 4pm. Parked next to a lovely river where we took to the girls for a nice dip. The town looked historic and idyllic. Apparently Napoleon did stop off for dinner on his way We had a walk round taking pictures on every corner of the lovely narrow streets and ancient looking buildings. I visited the Tourist Info office and got some helpful maps and tips for the Gorge of Verdon which is close by.

We are really taken with this little town, in many ways ideally located to skiing and the Côte d’Azur. We have 48hours to stay on our parking ticket… so we may stay a little longer 😁

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: