The Wild West of the French Riviera

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Théoule-sur-Mer may lack the glamour and urban flair of some of its coastal neighbours in the East, but has a nice little walk attached to it Looking back over the Easy Hiker posts from the last six months or so, it strikes me how few of them refer to anything that we have done on our home turf.

On the one hand, this is good, I suppose, because it shows how busy we were making all those wonderful sponsored trips to places such as Greece, Malta and the Alps (full disclosure: travel bloggers actually quite like sponsored trips), but on the other hand, it is also a bit of a pity because there is still so much left for us to explore in our own backyard.

Take the western half of the French Riviera, for example: we have, until now, never gone

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Death is an Italian Opera …

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… at Milan’s Cimitero Monumentale

But there are cracks in the bombast, and you can feel how a very modern sense of discomfort is creeping in.

For centuries, death operated a strict two-tier system: cathedral tombs it was for crowned heads and high clergy, the local churchyard for everybody else. (Unless you were a certified saint, in which case your bones were distributed piecemeal across Europe, more precious than diamonds and gold.)

Sometime in the 19th century, this feudal two-class system was no longer felt to reflect the needs of a changing society, and a new middle class of cemetery was invented. The most famous representative of this new type of cemetery is the Père Lachaise: often described as a “city of the dead”, but in fact more a Paris of the dead, neatly arranged into streets and districts with large and

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The Hub of the Dolomites

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The provincial capital of Bolzano has a long history, rich cultural attractions – and even some lessons for all of us

One thing is for sure when you go hiking in the Gardena Valley: sooner or later you will come to Bolzano, in nearly all respects the hub of the province, if only between trips to different resorts. So you’d better know what to expect.

Expect, above all, crowds. Stunningly large numbers of people. We were there in early October, which means late in the hiking season and roughly 6 weeks before skiing takes off in earnest, but the place was packed with tourists. Venice in August cannot be much busier.

This is probably inevitable, taking into account that Bolzano (Bozen) is the capital of a province which mainly lives off its tourism industry. Everybody who visits the Val Gardena or one

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The Hills Are Alive …

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… with the sound of sizzling frying pans on our Selva-to-Monte-Pana hike in the Dolomites Something I forgot to mention in the report from our first hike in the Dolomites: for the hiking guides, that hike served as their “orientation tour”, intended not only to familiarize the hotel’s newbie guests with the landscape but also to sort out the more resilient hikers from those who would probably be a danger to themselves in the hostile world of the high mountains. So what did Pauli and Thaddäus make of the Easy Hikers’ manner of handling a proper Alpine trail?

They were unimpressed, I am afraid, and we were among those who were politely approached and gently nudged towards the “easy walk on next day’s programme” – the one we had laughingly dismissed as a “granny’s walk” when we had first seen it on the programme.

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Made it, Ma: Top of the World!

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In terms of drama, scale and majestic beauty, few areas in Europe can rival the Italian Dolomites

For us, one way of rating the quality of our hikes is simply to count the number of pictures that we have brought home.

On some of our hikes in the past, we have made no more than 20 or 30 shots, sometimes with half of them showing the same motive – a lake or a particularly picturesque water mill, let’s say. After hikes like that, it can be difficult to pick the six or seven photos that are the bare minimum for a viable post – and to find something meaningful to say about them, too.

At the other end of the scale, there are hikes that leave us simply speechless, but for the exact opposite reason.

From our first hike in

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