La Village du Soleil
Alpes-Maritimes (06390) Population: 540 Altitude: 620 m
Coaraze is perched on a high rocky peak topping forests and olive groves. The village has ancient stone houses, narrow cobblestone streets and many vaulted passages.
Coaraze is one of the Most Beautiful Villages (Plus Beaux Villages) of France.
From the lower square, with parking, the boulanger and the Café des Arts, the old cobblestone streets go up past the Office de Tourisme and through the old village, with small squares at different levels. At the top, the church stands at the upper end of the picturesque Place Felix Giordan, with terraced cobblestone steps and a small fountain with its bubbling sound amplified by its stone niche.
Even more at the top, steps from the corner of the church lead up to a large square shaded by Acacias, cypress and a plane tree. The view from here is of deep valleys and high forested hills to the north and south of the village. In the spring and summer, the surrounding forests are painted yellow with the sweet-smelling spanish broom.
The old village also has a whole maze of narrow tunnel-streets that are a lot of fun exploring. Over half the streets in this labyrinth are covered, jutting out at abrupt angles, with the occasional shaft of light shining in.
There are a number of exceptional sundials (cadrans solaires) in the village - mostly modern but interesting designs by some famous artists. This one in the photo is on the wall of the Gites. Others are on the front of the Mairie and in the Place Felix Giordan.
The village's only grocery store has shut down, so there's only the boulanger (baker) left. Hopefully, a new grocery store will be opening before too long. [Or, will have opened by now, 2007.]
History of Coaraze
According to the legend, Coaraze owes its name to the Devil, who was caught in a trap here and had his tail cut off.
Medieval: In the 13th century, Coaraze was a fief of Chateauneuf and then Chabaud. In 1325 it was acquired by Robert-le-Sage, and in 1331 given as a feudal land to Marquesan.
May (1st) - Brocante - Flea Market
June - Fête communale and patronale
July (Beg) - Fête occitane
July (14th) - Fête communale and patronale
Aug (Beg) - Fête occitane
Aug (Last weekend) - Journées Médiévales
Sep (1st Sun) - Fête de la Ste-Catherine
Sep - Winter Solstice Fireworks
• GPS: 43.865022, 7.293703
IGN (1/25,000) #3742 ouest "Contes, Gorges de la Vésubie"
Didier Richard (1/50,000) #26 "Pay d'Azur"
Coaraze is located on a hilltop amidst forested mountains and deep river valleys, with great hiking trails all around.
• East from the village, a trail takes you 1 km to the Paillon de Contes river at Plan de Linéa. Here you'll find a number of good loop hikes, including around Les Viovieras (821 m), La Blachiera (826 m) or Mont Castello (813 m). To the east, you'll be descending from 620 m to 400 m immediately, with the corresponding uphill climb at your return. You can avoid this by driving a short distance to begin your hike at the river.
• West from the village you can climb through the forest to L'Aboisa (1071, 1141 m), then hike north or south along the mountain ridge, with different possibilities for looping back to the village.
• North out of the village lets you loop west to L'Aboisa, or you can go north about 3 km to the Col St-Michel and the Chapel St-Michel (1089 m).
Eating's no problem in Coaraze. In addition to the Café des Arts, three restaurants are available:
- Auberge du Soleil
- Tel: (33) 493 79 08 11
- Les 4 Bornes
- Tel: (33) 493 79 38 33
- Lightly exotic cuisine of the Ile de Maurice
- La Ferme Auberge
- Tel: (33) 493 79 32 03
Only about 20 km from the center of Nice, Coaraze isn't far away, but it isn't easily accessible. During the first 10 km, the road is fast and not very pretty, with grungy industry as far as Contes. From Contes to Coaraze, the road follows a deep, beautiful river valley, twisting and turning, and quite narrow.