April 1814. Napoleon is exiled to Elba Island after being forced to abdicate. He had only one idea in mind: to take back the power returned to the monarchy, namely, Louis XVIII. On March 1, 1815, he landed at Vallauris Golfe-Juan and aimed to reach Grenoble, taking a route through the Alps in order to avoid the royalist troops. He then embarked on a six-day epic journey that spanned two modern regions (Rhône-Alpes and Provence-Alpes-Côte-d´Azur) and nearly 324 kilometers (201 miles). The Route Napoleon, officially named in 1932, follows the route he took to reach Grenoble. Photographer Guillaume Dubois is taking us along the route via his captures of some of the most beautiful landscapes of this legendary trail.
Stroll through the streets of Mougins for its art galleries
I love this village because it has a soul. From the top of its hill, Mougins dominates the initial route of the Route Napoléon, from Cannes to Grasse. This small, typically Mediterranean village is very famous among the Azureans because it reflects that unique art de vivre of the Côte d´Azur. With some 20 art galleries and painting studios, this town is particularly recognized for its artistic production. It is always a pleasure to stroll through its small alleys and admire the paintings on display. Mougins is also renowned for its gastronomy. I fell in love with the restaurant l'Amandier de Mougins (External link) , run by a disciple of Paul Bocuse. You can find truly good Mediterranean cuisine here.
Visit Grasse, the city of perfume
This city, MY city, is located about 20 kilometers (12 miles) from Cannes. It is known as the capital of perfume. Here, we don't smell the perfume, we live it. I myself worked for ten years in the production of perfume, in two historic houses. Thanks to their savoir-faire, all these great houses have contributed to making Grasse the world capital of perfume, with a cultural heritage recognized by UNESCO. Leaving Grasse and heading towards Castellane, you enter, in my opinion, the most beautiful part of the Route Napoléon. This is really just a jaw-dropping place. The vegetation varies according to the altitude and exposure (Mediterranean or continental), and blends with an increasingly pronounced minerality.Marks of civilization become stealthy here. The few hamlets along the route seem to cross the ages recklessly. You can still see the sea in bits and pieces throughout the journey. The game is to know when it will disappear permanently from the landscape.
Get an eyefull at the Clars waterfall
Ah, the Clars Waterfall. A pretty nugget little known to the general public. This 40-meter(131 foot) waterfall is just sumptuous and impressive. The main attraction? The sloping mineral wall (which prevents water from flowing along it) allows us to pass behind it. It is easy to reach from the village of Escragnolles, and it's the ideal place for a picnic in the middle of the greenery.
Visit Castellane, a small medieval village
Since my teenage years, I have been fascinated by this medieval village located at an altitude of 724 meters (2375 feet). With its mix of medieval, mountain and Mediterranean architecture, it perfectly represents the spirit of the Route Napoleon, which connects the sea to the mountains. The village is dominated by an enormous rocky outcrop which stands as its emblem: the Roc, 184 meters (603 feet) high and surmounted by a small chapel. I always thought this would be the perfect place to get married! The view is breathtaking. Castellane is the village where the Route Napoléon crosses the Verdon, and therefore leads upstream to the high altitude lakes of Verdon and downstream to the famous Gorges du Verdon. These gorges are the deepest in France. A true mineral masterpiece, this place is a paradise for lovers of nature, canyoning, hikers, and, of course, photographers. Do you see now why I'm so in love with this place?
Relax at Lake Castillon
The Verdon valley is made up of a succession of lakes. Lake Castillon, in direct proximity to Castellane, is the second largest behind Lake Sainte-Croix. It offers a panorama very different from the other lakes in the region, as the intermediate lake between those in Provence and those in the mountains. I am always captivated by its color...especially since it hides the ancient village of Castillon, submerged under the lake following the creation of a dam in 1948.
Observe the Rocher de la Baume in Sisteron
Located between Provence and the Alps, Sisteron is a must-see medieval town on the Route Napoléon. The people of Sisteron are proud of their town's history and they make it known. The city stretches out opposite the impressive Rocher de la Baume. When you look at it, you get the feeling that its crest has been split with a sword: this is the southern gate. And that's what makes it a completely atypical, completely amazing, place.