Watching the Baie des Anges sparkle in the sunshine is like watching the Mediterranean dance. But it is at night that we are also conquered here, because the sky offers our eyes an incomparable magic. During the day, it is the blue of the Azur. At night it is a deep, almost abysmal blue that serves as a backdrop to the stars. Contemplating the starry sky on the coast or in the Mercantour is to flirt with the emotion of a living nature, day and night. Why not take a night-time tour of the French Riviera sky ?
The quality of the French Riviera sky has been rewarded in early 2020. The Alpes Azur Mercantour area has been officially labelled as an International Dark Sky Reserve (IDSR) by the International Dark-Sky Association, based in the United States. This area joins thirteen other sites around the world, including two others in France (Pyrenees and Cévennes). The Alpes Azur Mercantour area includes several municipalities in our own territory, and it goes without saying that you can enjoy some very high quality night sky views as soon as you get up there.
The Baous surrounding the communes of Vence, Saint Jeannet and la Gaude are already landforms where it is good to look up to the sky. The first reliefs only about ten kilometres from the coast, these baous are popular places for hiking, and the communes that cling to them are beautiful belvederes from which to contemplate the sky.
Above the coast, it is also interesting to take the direction of the Col d'Eze, not only to admire the view, but also to wait for the night and guess one of our numerous constellations.
The Mercantour, for which the High Country is a jewel case, remains the most visible place for the naked eye, because you are far from the cities of the coast, and thus from the famous light pollution.
If you stay in the Vésubie, in Saint Martin, Belvedère or Roquebillière, or have chosen the resorts such as Isola and Auron, then you will be able to benefit from an incredible clarity of the sky at night, if the weather conditions allow it of course !
So treat yourself to a clear and limpid reading by visiting the Nice observatory.
Otherwise known as the Nice Observatory (OCA), and located at Mont Gros a few kilometres from Nice, it offers two-hour guided tours during which you follow the forest paths along a 2 km route, allowing you to observe the beauty of both the architectural and natural heritage of the site, offering an exceptional panorama over the Baie des Anges. The visit allows you to appreciate the buildings and instruments of the former Observatory of Nice, built by the architect Charles Garnier.
On this extraordinary site, you will be told the history of astronomy in connection with the history of the Observatory, and you will be informed of the major contemporary scientific projects of the OCA.
A few kilometres away, at the Fort de la Revère on the Col d'Eze (650m above sea level), you and your family can discover the Astrorama located in the commune of La Trinité, on the Grande Corniche, between Nice and La Turbie.
High-performance tools are at your disposal, and everyone can discover astronomy at his or her own level, use telescopes, watch planetarium shows, receive satellite images, and talk to the animators and astronomers, perfect experts who know how to make the general public appreciate this scientific discipline.
The Astrorama also houses a small museum dedicated to astronomy and space.
Another idea for discovery in summer, in the heart of sublime nature: open-air observation sessions at the Col de Vence : Etoiles Grandeur Nature. Let yourself be carried away by the explanations of a specialist, a member of the National Association for the Protection of the Sky and the Nocturnal Environment, comfortably installed in a deckchair.
The Col de Vence is a unique and very atypical place. Far from urban lighting, this place benefits from the pure and clear night sky. Thousands of stars can be seen and the constellations stand out delicately in dotted lines.
The information given during these sessions is adapted to the public, and even a little 6 year old enthusiast will be delighted to understand the secrets of the night sky, with live explanations. They will be able to look through the telescope in wonder, and in the magic of the moment, it will show them the infinite immensity of the universe.
So why not treat yourself to some unusual accommodation ?
In the Vésubie, on the heights, several choices are possible. On the Boréon road, in Saint Martin Vésubie, you can blend in with nature and the pine trees: observe the sky and its stars with the naked eye, but also the surrounding fauna from the terraces of the Scots pine huts : http://www.cabanedespinssylvestres.com/
What better way to experience an adventure in the middle of summer than by hanging in the trees !
Alternatively, you can experience the ecolodge at Moonlight Chalet in Saint-Martin-Vésubie. Three high quality independent chalets to welcome you and offer you a surprising change of scenery, on the edge of the river, nestled in a green setting, with the principle of having neither television nor WIFI so that you can melt into the landscape and let the night envelop you. https://www.moonlightchalet.com/home
At Belvédère, there is also the option of perched cabins, but these are spherical in shape and each has a skylight above the bed so you can see the sky. Called lov'nids, they also offer a magnificent view of the Vésubie valley. https://www.lesecrinsdebelvedere.fr/nos-lov-nids
In the Moyen Pays, in Gilette, a guest room offers you the chance to bubble in complete serenity and experience your night by starlight. The totally transparent Crystal bubble plunges you into a marvellous undergrowth with a view over the Estéron valley. http://bullesdenature06.e-monsite.com/reservation/une-bulle-de-crystal-au-porte-de-l-esteron.html
So with such elements, we can only invite you to come and stay in this beautiful area.
Come and enjoy our natural balconies and let the night sky tell you all about it. Let yourself be seduced by this other Côte d'Azur where nature serves as a backdrop to your most beautiful memories, and where the nights have the taste of the unforgettable. Discovering the Nice French Riviera region means experiencing it by day and by night.
Information and reservations :
Registration at the Tourist Information Office in Vence –
+33 (0)4.93.58.06.38 firstname.lastname@example.org
From 6 years old. 10€/adult - 8€/child from 6 to 12 years old
Subject to good weather conditions.
This article is brought to you by Yaël from the Nice Côte d'Azur Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau, Vence tourist information office.
Photo credits: Lisa del Sol, OTM, Parsec Astrorama Eze, Observatoire de la Côte d'Azur, Anthony Turpaud