In and around Saint-André-Les-Alpes
St André Les Alpes
Our local village is two minutes away by car or a pretty twenty minute walk along the Issole river into town from the house. Situated right on the northern tip of Lac De Castillon and surrounded by mountains and ridges with fantastic walks the town is a typical Provencal village with all the general services and local shops you need. It is also one of the world's best flying sites with an excellent paragliding centre situated right on the edge of the lake. The local tourist office in the village has lots of great information, which we have in abundance in the Gites as does their online site.
There are 3 Boulangeries to visit for your morning croissants and baguette, and an outstanding Patisserie, their award winning shop in St André is a must visit.
The pretty town of Castellane is just a 20 minute drive away and is the starting point for expeditions into the Gorges du Verdon. It has an excellent market on a Saturday morning and it's town square is perfect for lunch and people-watching any day of the week. There is a stunning hike up to the old chapel on Le Roc in the centre of Castellane.
It also has an excellent tourism office and a fascinating fossil museum. Between St André and Castellane is the EDF (French electricity board) central hydroelectric plant and dam - free guided tours are available in July and August through the Castellane tourist office. Wiki has some great local history information on the Gorge du Verdun, read here.
The view of Castellane from Le Roc.
If your not at a market in France on a Saturday morning... you must be flying...
St André - small local market every Wednesday and Saturday morning. Digne-les-Bains and Castellane both have excellent markets every Saturday morning.
The markets are extremenly busy in July and August. In Castellane there are some incredible gift stalls which are a must see if you want to take things home. You can get anything from beautifully crafted wooden homewares to local honey, cheeses and meats. You need to find the 'Pipe de Marmott' stall and give it a try, if your over 18. :-)
The market in St André is not as big but still has a great selection of foods, clothes and curiosities...
Overlooking the road from Castellane to St André, high up in the mountains is the walled city of Mandarom . Oversized statues glitter and sparkle in the sunshine and are worshipped by the Aumist cult (founded in 1969). There are guided tours of the park in English from 10am to noon and 3 to 5pm in summer and 3 to 4.30pm weekends only in winter. It really is a fascinating thing to see even if you only look on from the gate.
Chemins de Fer Mountain Railway
The Digne-Nice mountain railway chugs from the sea to the mountains crossing five valleys en route with breathtaking views not seen from the road. The track was built between 1890 and 1911 and passes across 16 viaducts, 15 metal bridges and through 25 tunnels. One tunnel is 3.5km long and took 400 workers over two years to construct. In October passengers can enjoy part of the route on the Train des Pignes, as steam locomotive dating from 1909 which used to be fuelled by pine cones. Find out more...
There are two towns en route, Entrevaux and Annot that are particularly worth a visit and you can catch the train down to one of these towns in the morning, have lunch and an explore then catch the train back in the afternoon. These towns can also be reached by car.
The village station or gare in Saint André.
Entrevaux is a 45 minute drive or an hour's train ride from St André. This breathtaking hill-top village has been classified as one of the 1,000 most beautiful villages in France . It is a fabulous sight: a medieval village guarding a narrow pass, a draw-bridge entrance across the river, and a walled walkway which zig zags it's way up through fortified doorways to a 17th century citadel which magnificent views across the surrounding valleys.
This village is famous for its Grés d'Annot - sedimentary sandstone rock created around 60 million years ago when this area was under the sea. A haphazard arrangement of rock formations makes for excellent rock climbing and spectacular walks. Find out more...
The village of Peyresq was founded in the 13 th century by the count of Provence . Peyresq (or Peiresc which means "stony") owes its name to the limestone rock in the area. The village had become derelict by the beginning of the 1950's until a young architect and stone-mason restored the village over thirty years with the help of thousands of Belgian student-builders. Nowadays it plays host to students from the Université Libre de Bruxelles for seminars on subjects as varied as Linear Physics, Cosmology and Ecology. This village is worth visiting for the architecture as well as the incredible views on the drive there. Read more...
Digne les Bains
In the early 19th century Digne was a luncheon stop for Napoléon but today it's a popular tourist stop for French and foreign visitors. The town is named after it's thermal springs, visited by individuals seeking a water cure for rheumatism, respiratory ailments and other medical conditions. Read more... There is a large commercial centre for shopping alongside the fast-flowing Bléone river and with forested mountains all around. Digne has a unique geological position because of the transition between the Alps and the Provence plains and the area is protected by the Réserve Géologique des Alpes-de-Haute-Provence. The area is also known for it's lavender production which is harvested in July and August and honoured in Digne with a five day Carnival (Corso de la Lavande) starting the first weekend in August. Read more...
Val d'Allos & Lac D'Allos
Allos is a village with mountain charm offering skiing in the winter and alpine walking in the summer. Val d'Allos comprises of the village of Allos and tow ski resorts - Seignus at 1,500m and la Foux at 1,800m The ESPACE LUMIERE linking the Foux d'Allos and Pra-Loup skiing areas has created one of the largest skiing areas in the Southern Alps , providing over 200km of pistes for the enjoyment of skiers. Read more...
If you have kids of any age you need to visit the Parc de Loisirs in Allos. They have activities to suit all and a water slide. You pay on entry and everything else from Crazy Golf to Tennis is included. As you enter the park there is also a Jungle Park climbing area suitable for ages 4-8. Always check they are open before going. Allos has within it's boundaries the largest natural high altitude lake (2,230m) in Europe . The walk up to the lake is spectacular and guided nature walks can be booked through the tourist office in Allos. It is also possible to camp at the lake, but they are incredibly strict on what you bring and you must LEAVE NOTHING behind. Beautiful spot. Find out more here...
Colmars les Alpes
Colmars is a pretty fortified village en route to Allos and ringed by ramparts and guarded by two forts. The village has pretty little square with fountains and beautiful old houses and is known as one of the 'villages of character' In August they hold medieval fayres here with people in full costumes and jousting on horseback. Read more...