Alpes-Maritimes (06450) Population: 308 Altitude: 650 m
This is a little village at the lower end of a valley going east from La Vésubie up through the Forest of Turini. The village is attractive and rather charming. It's not an outstanding tourist destination, but it's a good place to stop while travelling, and a decent base for hiking in the area. And it has one outstanding attraction (more below).
The villlages sits on a small ridge projecting from the flank of the mountain, facing north towards the Vésubie. The center of the village is nicely decorated, and there are a scattering of cafés, hotel-restaurants and some typical village commerce.
Away from the center there are a few streets for wandering, although not so much the maze of vaulted passages and such that you find in the perched villages of Provence. Some of the village streets go up the hill past houses with extensive gardens of vegetables and flowers. The houses are packed tightly together, and many have the roofs and upper halves of the typical Alpine style.
Musée des Papillons
In the many villages we pass through or visit we often run across a small local museum, usually about local history or geology or nature. Most are created with enthusiasm and love of the subject, and most are rather plain, sleepy and dusty. So our expectations weren't high when we ran across La Bollèn-Vésubie's Musée des Papillons (Butterfly Museum).
Entering, we were greeted by Jean-Luc Desrayaud, the current "curator", who's a very experienced botanist and mountain guide. Instead of dust, we were confronted by clean, well-lighted rooms with modern displays of a faboulous collection of butterflys, moths, beetles and other insects. The collection, by Doctor Hansen, is very complete and impecibly arranged and presented.
The building, bright and modern inside, is a renovated chapel, adjacent to the village church, and the vaulted ceiling retains the ancient religious paintings.
The floral part of the museum is presented as photographs, a taken by M. Desrayaud, who can tell you anything and everything you could want to know about Mediterranean and Alpine flora.
The museum is free, and is open weekends in the summer: 9h-12h; 14h-18h.
Mairie: 0493 030 102
Desrayaud Jean-Luc: 0493 033 926
History of La Bollène-Vésubie
First record, 1140 Abolena; end of 12th-c La Bolléne-Vésubie. The chateau-fort was mentioned in the 12th century.
• GPS: 43.989622, 7.331049
IGN (1/25,000) #3741 OT "Vallée de la Vésubie"
Didier Richard (1/50,000) #9 "Mercantour"
There's excellent hiking available directly from the village, with a variety of short, medium and long loop hikes. We did a nice 4-hour hike, going south and east on the GR52A, then looping back on a petite randonée (PR) trail.
You can do variants of that, continue on the GR52A to the Col de Turini, or take some longer trails out through the mountains northeast of the village.
The GR52A goes north to the villages of Belvédère, Saint Martin-Vésubie and beyond, with a multitude of local hiking trails branching and intersecting along the way.
You can also drive the very scenic 12-km road from La Bollène-Vésubie to the Col de Turini, where you'll find hiking trails and a ski station.