July 27—Day 40: Lacs d’Angel to St. Étienne de Tinée
Woke early in the morning and enjoyed a relaxed breakfast with Patrice and Dominique. He made some coffee and had cookies for dunking; I shared some of my granola and berries. With the lakes and mountains around, it was a perfect start to the day.
We crossed through the alternatively grassy and dirty Salso Moreno, then up Col des Fourches and immediately back down into Bousieyas. Just behind the col is the Cima de la Bonette, apparently the highest road pass in western Europe. Lots of road cyclists and motorcycles went by, rounding the many hairpin turns. Our trail cut straight across the turns, crossing the road several times. We also passed a section of old ruins, crumbling barracks houses from the war with brick pointed arches.
In Bousieyas we stopped to make a reservation for a gîte for the evening since the way passed through several small towns ahead. A short, easy climb (in the heat again) over Col de la Colombiére brought us to a long and winding, beautiful valley descent into the first village in the valley, Saint Dalmas la Selvage, where we stopped for lunch. The path crossed from one side of the valley to the other, contouring the slopes and gently making its way down. It was a great section of the trail, and St. Dalmas la Selvage was a beautiful little town in the Alpes-Maritimes, buildings and alleyways all tight together. There was a chapel at the front of the town, small, but still the steeple was the tallest point in the village.
We walked another couple hours, all the way down into the valley and another beautiful town at St. Étinee de Tinée. The path was open at first with lots of views of the valley, then we passed through some trees, giving day to hedges and a sort of cobblestone like path closer to town. It was steep at times and the stones were smooth and rounded; probably it was a centuries old trail connecting the towns.
The gîte we’d reserved was on the far side of town, so we walked through a few streets passing lightly colored buildings and a few churches. Before dinner, we went into the town center and each had a glass of “pastis” in the main square—it’s an anis-flavored liquor, the local specialty of the Côte d’Azur. Anis isn’t my favorite, but it wasn’t bad. Had a big square of lasagne for dinner with a few other hikers staying at the gîte, then another local specialty: “genepi.” Tasted a bit like gin, but it’s not the same.