The Mountains North of Nice Côte d'Azur and the Mercantour Park

The Mountains North of Nice Côte d'Azur

Saint Martin Vésubie and the Surrounding Area: The Mercantour

Overall Description of Saint Martin Vésubie

Follow your trip to the Mercantour on GOOGLE EARTH

How to get to the Mercantour

From Nice to Roquebillière

All about Roquebillière

Belvédère; a perched village

The weather in the Mercantour: forecast, weather history

Golf in the area

Skiing and the legend of Cecil Cessole

The Tramway and a local history site

The Mercantour and wolves

ÂNES DE BLORE / Hiking Donkeyswolves

Beuil a Roman village and a Grimaldi fortress

Hotels in Nice and the surrounding areas
Tourist information about the area around Nice

All about Public Transportation in the Côte d’Azur

Our Riviera Reference Section
Wolf near Saint Martin Vésubie

Overall Description of Saint Martin Vésubie

Established on the edge of a glacial plate, San Martin first appears in recorded history in the XIII century, although there are archaeological remnants of a Romanized indigenous population dating back to the first century. The medieval castrum, or fortification, extends along a cliff overlooking Valley of the Madonna through which ran the old Salt Road that extended from the Piedmont to the port city of Nice. It was part of the historic County of Nice until 1860 as San Martino Vesubia.

The Vésubie is a river located in the southeast of France. It is a tributary of the Var River in the Maritime Alps. The source is in the Mercantour National park near the border with Italy. The river flows through the town of Saint-Martin-Vésubie which is a major center for hiking. It flows into the Var near Levens.
Near Saint Martin Vésubie
St Martin Fred's Restaurant
Saint Martin Vesubie

Fred's Restaurant and the bus terminal; as well as some other stores. Fred's is really a "Snacks" place but is a great place to go. Fred's English is pretty good too.

Belvédère is a commune in the Alpes-Maritimes department in southeastern France.

Belvédère official WebSite.
Belvedere Church

Belvedere Church

Belvedere is a "perched village" of about 800 people. Great view of the mountains. Charming place to stay in. I even got to meet the mayor.
Nice Auto Club Jean Behra Historic Car Rally

Nice Auto Club Jean Behra Historic Car Rally

Belvedere was on the course September 11, 2010. Same day as a "Moules Party" (sort of like a town picnic/cookout). Cars went right by the tables in the narrow street. See more of the historic cars in the rally
Nice Auto Club Jean Behra Historic Car Rally

Find out about Challenge and Fair Promise

Organic Foods

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Roquebillière is a commune in the Alpes-Maritimes department in southeastern France.

Roquebillière official WebSite.
There is a new section and an old section of Roquebillière. The old section suffered a lot of damage in a 1926 mud slide.
Roquebillière Sports Bar and Hotel

Roquebillière Sports Bar and Hotel

Roquebillière Sports Bar and Hotel is the best hotel I have stayed in on the French Riviera. Hôtel des Sports; 1 place Corniglion Molinier; 06450 Roquebillière; 04 93 03 40 18 from outside France: 33 4 93 03 40 18
France Motor Hairpins
Valdeblore Data
Valdeblore Data
Valdeblore Data

It’s hiking but not as we know it: let the donkey do the donkey-work!

Experience the Mercantour unencumbered with ‘Ânes de Blore’: the donkeys of Blore. Pédro, Ponpon, Picotin, Basile and the others await your arrival to go and explore the Southern Alps. Their agile hooves are tailored to the mountain paths, allowing you to discover the Mercantour’s magnificent scenery in complete serenity.
The commune of Valdeblore is made up of four villages: La Bolline’s orchards (alt.1000m), La Roche built up against the rocks (alt.1100m), St. Dalmas: a medieval village with Xth Century church (alt.1300m) and the ski station of La Colmiane (alt. 1500m).
ÂNES DE BLORE / Hiking Donkeys
Meteo France Travel Reservations Center Make your Reservations! Visit our Travel Reservations & Information Center Travel Reservations Center
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There is always something doing in Nice. We have great hotel bargains for you.

Valdeblore is a commune in the Alpes-Maritimes department in southeastern France.

Valdeblore / La Colmiane Office of Tourism.
Valdeblore Mini Golf Valdeblore Mini Golf

Valdeblore Mini Golf

Fort Agnes was an important part of the "Southern Maginot Line". It defended France from invasion from Italy.

Find out about these amazing forts that survived World War 2 and the Cold War

Tramway to St Martin Vesubie

The Tramway de Nice was a tramway system serving the city of Nice. The tramway began operations on 27 February 1879 using horse drawn tramcars. The creation of the Compagnie des Tramways de Nice et du Littoral (TNL) was encouraged by the rapid rise in population of Nice The TNL's aim was to build a network linking Nice to several towns along the coast on a narrow gauge network. Lines were
* Cagnes-sur-Mer
- Nice
- Beaulieu
- Monte Carlo
- Menton
All lines were electrified in 1900 and operated by single car tramcars. In 1930 the TNL was operating 144 km of lines, 183 tramcars and 96 trailers. At Cagnes , passengers could board trams of the Tramway de Cannes. The Tramway de Cannes was a tramway system in the French city of Cannes.The tramway operated in 1900 and stopped in 1933.At the end of the XIXth, Cannes' population went on increasing and several public transport projects appeared. The first was a horse drawn omnibus serving Cannes from... and travel to Juan-les-Pins and Mandelieu.
Unfortunately, the coastal line had heavy bus competition. Coastal lines were replaced by buses as early as 1929, the entire suburban network disappeared in 1934 with many comments from the press saluting the disappearance of this old mean of transport. Nice Town-Hall decided to slowly close the tramway network and by 1939, only 4 lines remained open. Due to World War II and the requisition of buses , two lines were reopened. The network was then operated by 48 tramcars and 22 trailers. A few tramcars were rebuilt in 1942. After World War II, the badly maintained tramways were showing their age, which was surprising for such a popular mode of transport in a touristic city such as Nice. Tramways were replaced by trolleybuses from 1948 and the last tramway ran on 10 January 1953.
The Plan du Var - St.Martin Vesubie (ligne de la Vesubie) rose from 139m at Plan du Var to 949m at St.Martin Vesubie, a distance of 34,1km. In 1912 6 new bogie trams were ordered with 6 tap direct control of 4x75ch motors and gear ratio of 113/18. Although bogie vehicles they were only 10,3 metres long on 148cm bogies at 5,05m bogie centres. Magnetic track brakes were fitted. Later, some of these were allocated to the Cagnes-Vence route.

The following is translated from The Tramways in the Mountains, by Christophe Beniamino

A change in mentalities.

In the early twentieth century, French interest in fast means of transport accelerated. The country was covered by railways. The economic exchanges intensify, to supply the cities in particular. In addition there was the concern of making hitherto difficult to access territory more easily accessible. In the wealthy classes of the population the development of the fashion of holidays is also added: villas at the seaside, residences country or mountain. New desires appear, related to an extension of the practice of the sport, at the edge of the sea but also in mountains with skiing in winter, the excursions (the excursion and alpinism) in summer. These places of residence must be quickly and regularly served: the quality of these accesses will play a crucial role.

Service roads of the Highland before 1900.

At the end of the 19th century, some tourists start to be interested in the back country, but only more “bold” venture in the high country gavot. Sitting in an uncomfortable diligence, passing by difficult and dusty roads, the tourists and residents spent approximately ten hours to go from Nice to Saint-Martin-Lantosque (Vésubie) in 1876. It is this year that the road Nice - Levens - Saint-Martin Vesubie is completed. In 1894 the train Pignes is built which serves the Back Country in the direction of Digne in the valley of the Var; the lower valley of the Var is then opened. But one still needs 7 1/2 hours from Nice to Saint Martin Vesubie in spite of the opening of the road between Saint-Jean-la-Rivière and Plan-du-Var.

From 1900.

The proposed rail service throughout the Alpes Maritimes is growing. The back country like the Highland are particularly difficult to access. Several solutions are possible; that of a tram line will be kept. This solution makes it possible to minimize the labor costs. Indeed works of art, tunnels and bridges, are essential to pass from the throats while adapting to the morphology of the mountain lands. Then on most of its course the line shares its infrastructure with that of a motor-road. This road existed already before the installation of the trams. Only some other short parts were built for the passage of the trains. Let us not forget that it is one time without motor vehicles.


The objectives are twofold: to develop the activities of the Highland and to facilitate the access of the tourists at the various stations of the back country which are beginning to be created. They are foreign tourists to the area and inhabitants of the coastal towns attracted by the mountains. That will also allow the residents of these insolated villages to more easily travel and to reach Nice in less than five hours. The transport times were similar to Tinée: two hours between Tinée and Saint-Sauveur-sur-Tinée.


The Conseil General decided to construct three lines in our area (decision of February 10, 1906). The line Plan-de-Var - Saint-Martin-Vésubie for the valley of Vésubie and, for the valley of Tinée, the line “La-Tinée” - Saint-Saver-on-Tinée. These two lines are managed by the T.A.M. (Trams of the Alpes-Maritimes). And finally the Nice - Levens line is managed by the T.N.L. (Trams of Nice and the Littoral). Other projects did not succeed, for example that of the service road of Peïra Cava starting from Escarène. On the other hand, it is for strategic reasons (proximity of the Franco-Italian border) that the line of Tinée is not prolonged to Saint-Etienne.

In the life of every day.

Considered a priority line Vésubie is commissioned in 1909. The electric motor was not delivered on time, a steam locomotive makes a first operation for one year. Only one train runs every day for a year. In 1910 the electric tram finally enters into service. The line of Tinée is brought into service in 1911.

The train was carrying many farmers with chickens as they want to sell their products to the city, newlyweds on their honeymoon in Nice, patients seeking medical attention going to the big city. Conversely, teachers join their school in Saint-Martin-Vésubie, excursionists wishing to explore the landscapes and traverse the peaks of the Mercantour already well described by one the discoverer, the Chevalier de Cessole.

The sounds of the trams were known at the time. They were heard from afar and served as a clock to the peasants. Despite the grinding wheel, the vibrations, jolts, it is a new means of transport and ultra modern in 1910. Indeed, the existing buses did not operate well on roads like the Vésubie. For evidence, a trial of these vehicles tried at St. Martin in 1906. Trams can move goods quickly: milk cans of the mountain pastures are delivered directly to the center of the city, not to mention wood, fruits and vegetables.

A catastrophe does not leave the tram without modifications. The enormous landslide which buried the village of Roquebillière also covered roads and railroads. On November 24, 1926, date of the drama, was engraved in our memories. Consequently, the Saints-Martinois had to travel by a bus to finish their runs until the trams are again allowed to cross the landslide in September 1928. This transshipment supports the use of the coaches instead of the trams. The end of the operating lines was decided in 1929: this means of transport is considered archaic facing competition from the automobile. Let us think of the difficulties of sharing tram tracks with more numerous cars.

Some technical details.

The line managed by the T.A.M. is equipped while single-phase current with 6600 Volts, 25 Hertz. The overhead line is suspended with posts out of wooden or on the walls of cliffs by metal elements. It is envisaged to be rubbed by pantographs to transmit its electricity. The delivered electric motor coaches are used during twenty years, in spite of the difficulties of the course. A more modern, comfortable and robust model is brought into service in 1920 on the line of Vésubie. It will not be brought into service on the line of Tinée because that would have required important work of modernization on this course. For example, the turnings of the road were too tight necessitating very important decelerations. In 1911, four to five return tickets of trains are envisaged each day. But since 1914, because of the war, there are nothing any more but two daily movements until the suppression. The line of Vésubie is removed in 1929, while that of Tinée is it only in 1931 because of the construction of the electric factory of Bancairon.

Side of the T.N.L., it is a D.C. current supply of 500 V which makes it possible two types of motor coaches to circulate. The simple overhead line was suspended to make it possible a pole to take the current. Centre town of Nice while passing by the throats of Saint-Andrew until Levens, the ballet of the trams lasted of 1908 to 1931 at the rate of two return tickets each day. This line of course profited from modernizations of the urban network of Nice. It also disappeared with the appearance of sufficiently solid coaches for these difficult roads.

What remains today?

In addition to nostalgia and a waste feeling, there remain some material traces in the valleys of Vésubie and Tinée. Road deviations, bridges and viaducts, tunnels and places of stations are always in our villages. Viaduct out of reinforced concrete and an exclusive right of way with Saint-Jean-la-Rivière, tunnel under the chapel Sainte-Claire and viaduct with Lantosque, as three viaducts whose disappearance is programmed between Saint-Martin-Vésubie and Roquebillière is always used. In the valley of Tinée, other vestiges in the same way standard visible and are used. For example, the specific viaducts of the Tower, Bridge of Clans, Bolinette and Pont de la Lune make it possible to avoid difficulties. They are the one completed time old vestiges.
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Your trip from Nice or from the Aeroport starts on the main road through the Var Valley. At Plan du Var, you will bear right on Highway D2565.
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Your trip features beautiful views, tunnels, bridges (many leftover from the old tramway that once went from Plan du Var to Saint-Martin Vesubie).
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Another landmark is this old Citroen truck on roadside, just before a large bridge.
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