Until the summer of 2004 we always thought that it was necessary to go as far as Chamonix to find truly majestic Alpine scenery, so discovering the Mercantour national park just two hours' drive from our home was a revelation. The Mercantour national park runs along the Italian border, north of Nice.

We stopped in the village of Urtelle on the way to the park and this Baroque fountain caught our eye.

Now we are in St. Martin Vésubie, the 'capital' of the Vésubie valley.

St. Martin is about as charming as Chamonix, with attractive pedestrian streets like this and a fast-flowing stream running in a channel down the main street (you can just see it here at right).

We spent a night in St. Martin in what felt like an old people's home and then headed further up the valley to Boréon, passing this waterfall on the way.

The main hotel Boréon hotel had a plumbing problem but they also had an ancient shepherd's cabin, shown here, which we rented for 3 nights (at €200 per day full board we couldn't afford to stay longer). The old stone walls are attractive but it took us several hours to drive out the humidity and the accompanying musty smells.

We appreciated the relatively cool temperatures compared to the coast - it was about 28°C when we took this picture at 1500 m (5000 feet). The surrounding peaks reach 3000 m (10 000 feet) and more.

We enjoyed a couple of nice walks through the beautiful scenery.

Perhaps due to the high altitude, the cows here seem to have developed lesbian tendencies - in this picture there is... no bull.

We unexpectedly came across a huge WW2 bunker on an isolated peak in the neighboring Tende valley - it was rather spooky.

Looking down on St. Martin Vésubie...

... and the Vésubie valley - we'll certainly go back soon!