Hiking (mountain trail, in places narrow and exposed)
Alpine route (equipped or very exposed section, snow field, blocks)
St-Martin-Vésubie » Belvédère
The trail leaves St-Martin-Vésubie on the GR® 52A. It follows its course on a steady mountainside slope to reach Berthemont-les-Bains, a thermal village dating back to the 19th century, before heading on to the hanging village of Belvédère, the stage destination at the meeting point of the Vésubie and Gordolasque valleys.
From the village square (town hall), head to the north west on the D94, passing alongside the esplanade on the left. After passing some shops over a distance of about one hundred metres, head uphill on a road that veers broadly to the right, cut across a village street (marker 77) and continue in the same direction, following the red and white markings for the GR® 52A. Pass through the Saint-Antoine neighbourhood and continue on the Bioulet road (still marked in red and white) that borders the mountainside. The road turns into a farmland track. Cross several small valleys to reach the Bioulet barns. At the end of the track, in the bend, walk between the maisonettes on the left, cross a meadow (bear in mind that this is private property) and climb uphill on a well-built path to the north east towards the Pinéa barns. At a shoulder (approx. 1,350m), the path descends in tight bends on a straight slope, crosses the little Vernet valley and joins a track. Cut across the D72 (start of Berthemont-les-bains) and continue generally to the east, still following the red and white markings. Cross the little Espaillard and then the Figuière valleys and make the winding ascent to reach location mark 1128. Head gradually down again to reach a road that must be followed for several metres. At a bend in the road, leave it behind to follow the path that heads directly southward. Walk past the Planet chapel and pass close to the cemetery to reach Belvédère. (Paul Guglielmi, CDRP 06)
Natural and cultural heritage
Faced with the angry water from the bottom of the valleys, our ancestors built their villages on the ridges. Little by little, in tandem with technological developments, this water came to be seen as a source of life and energy, and later developments took advantage of this. This stage provides a perfect illustration of the progress. The forest trail leading to Berthemont crosses numerous bridges and hamlets of former summer dwellings. The village of Venanson appears to the West, perched on a rocky peak and overlooked by the crests of the Caïre Gros. The flowing water irrigates the terraced crops and chestnut forests. The streams are channelled and used to feed the hydroelectric stations at the bottom of the valley, which in turn supply the valley with energy. The Boréon stream has even been channelled using a penstock leading to the village of St-Martin, 15km lower down. Water is so present in the hollow of the crystalline Mercantour massif that they could provide the entire electricity supply for the coastal towns (Cannes, Nices, Menton). These sources do in any case provide them with most of their water supply. However, the village of Berthemont-les-Bains in its fresh, shady valley makes rather different use of this mountain water. Naturally sulphurous and siliceous, the spring water here has beneficial medicinal effects (respiratory tract and rheumatology). The spring has therefore been officially tapped since 17 April 1878. The trail continues along the mountainside and passes above the village of Roquebillière, from the word Roccabellera, the “rock of the bees”, owing to its early location at the foot of the Caïre de Mel peak (from miel, or honey in English). In 1926, the infiltration of the mountain water caused a tragic landslide that destroyed some of the houses, thus forcing the inhabitants to rebuild on the opposite bank of the river on the Curros plateau, which explains the current division of the village into two parts. Further along, Belvédère, from the word bello meaning beautiful and vedere meaning to see, offers a panoramic view over the meeting point of the magnificent Gordolasque valley and the Vésubie valley. The layout of this picturesque hanging village is typical of the XIIth century, with its XVIIth century church in the centre of the village paying tribute to St Pierre and St Paul, the church of St Roch (who protected against the plague epidemics that decimated almost 80% of the mountain population in the XIIIth century) and its cemetery, the narrow dark streets and the wash houses, and the mill and fountains. (Sara Zeidler, Gilles Chappaz, Grande Traversée des Alpes)