Barcelonnette Tourist Attractions
Barcelonnette, the headquarters of the Sous-Prefecture des Départements Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, is situated some 70km/44mi east of Gap in the Ubaye valley.
This little town, reminiscent of many in the southern hemisphere, lies in magnificent mountain country, surrounded by fruit fields and meadows. The roads to the south lead over the well-known passes of Col d'Allos, Col de la Cayolle and Col de la Bonnete; the latter, 2,802m/9,196ft above sea-level, is the highest pass anywhere in the Alps.Raimond Bérenger, Count of Barcelona and Provence, built a fortress here in 1231; it was named Barcelone, from which developed the present name of Barcelonette. From 1388 Barcelonette, together with the whole of the Ubaye region, belonged to the House of Savoy until it was ceded to France under the Treaty of Utrecht in 1731.Barcelonette was the birthplace of the politician Paul Reynaud (1878- 1966), a staunch opponent of European unity after World War II. In 1940 he was made President of the Council, resigned and was replaced by Marshal Pétain. He was interned by the Vichy government and deported to Germany between 1942 and 1945. After the liberation he was elected to and made president of the European Economic Commission.In 1821 the Arnaud brothers from neighboring Jausier emigrated to Mexico and opened a textile and clothing shop in Mexico City. From 1830 onwards they encouraged more emigrants from the valley and by the end of the century more than 100 such shops in Mexico were owned by "Barcelonnettes". Over a number of years more than a half of the men aged over 20 left the Ubaye valley to go to Mexico. Some of them became financially very successful; dealings in gold and silver began, and a group of them bought the Bank of London, Mexico and South America, which had the license to issue banknotes for the whole of Mexico. In the 1880s the "Mexicans" started to build luxurious villas in their home town and these give the townscape its unusual character.This golden age came to an end with the Mexican Revolution between 1910 and 1920, and a wave of the "Mexicains" émigres returned to Barcelonnette to settle.
The Museum of the Valley
The Musée de la Vallée (Ville de Barcelonnette) in the "La Sapinière" villa on the avenue de la Libération has a department devoted to the Mexican history of the Barcelonnetes.
Address: 10, avenue de la Libération, F-04400 Barcelonnette, France
Opening hours: Jun 1 to Aug 31: 3pm-7pm; Closed: Sun, Mon, Tue, Fri
Sep 1 to May 31: 3pm-6pm; Closed: Sun, Mon, Tue, Fri
Sep 1 to May 31: 3pm-6pm; Closed: Sun, Mon, Tue, Fri
Entrance fee in EUR: Adult €3.30, Youth 20 & under €1.80, Child 10 & under FREE
Useful tips: Open every day during school holidays. Annual closing on November 14 to December 18.
The Avenue de la Libération is lined with fine parks containing the villas built by the "Mexicans". One of the most lavish, known as "La Sapinière", houses a museum and also the offices of the Mercantour National Park (Maison du Parc National du Mercantour); another villa is now a hotel.The Place Manuel lies outside the chessboard pattern of the old bastion. This broad square, with its colorful house fronts and cafes, is now a favorite meeting place for tourists. The Tour Cardinalis, the old bell-tower of the Dominican priory, dates from the 15th C.
This little village of St-Pons some 3km/2mi to the northwest of Barcelonnette, has an interesting church, a relic of a Benedictine priory. The Romanesque parts - the west door and the choir and section immediately adjoining - date from the 12th C. The 15th C. south door has rich figure decoration, the theme of the simple scenes being that of Death.
The well-known winter sports resort of Le Sauze, 4km/2.5mi southeast of Barcelonnette at a height of 1,380m/4,530ft, is one of the oldest anywhere in the Alps. Its sister resort of Super-sauze lies at 1,700m/5,580ft.
Col de la Bonette
The direct road linking Barcelonnette with Nice, 149km/92mi away, passes along the Route de la Bonette, built in 1832; the present road dates from 1963-64. Fortifications along the way are reminders of the strategical importance this route has always had, including the period of World War II. A winding road - with a fine view of the Ubaye valley along the way - leads up to the top of the pass at 2,802m/9,196ft. From here it is a half-hour climb there and back to the Cime de la Bonette (2,862m/9,393ft) from where there is a superb panoramic view, from Mont Pelvoux to Monte Viso in the north and from the foothills of the Alps in Digne to the Maritime Alps in the south.
The road over the Col d'Allos (2,240m/7,350ft) together with the Col de la Cayolle (2,327m/7,637ft) provides the link with the valley of the Upper Var. While a wide road leads to the Pra-Loup winter sports region, the road through the pass - closed in winter - is in dreadful condition and requires strong nerves to negotiate it. Any barriers along the edge afford little more than token protection; large stretches should be taken at a snail's pace and a lookout kept for vehicles coming from the opposite direction!
The Alpine view around the popular winter sports resort of Foux d'Allos (1,425m/4,677ft) is extremely impressive, but tends to be spoilt in summer when skiing is over. Large areas of the grass turf on the gently rounded slopes have been badly damaged.