Think Cannes, and you probably think about the film festival and its red carpet—but exploration can be found everywhere.

The Reason

Translucent sea, a flash of bright sun and a big dash of glitz and the glamour. Cannes, which is possibly France’s most opulent city, isn’t usually what comes to mind as an adventurous, outdoor vacation destination. This is how, during a recent trip to the French Riviera, we—Moisés Jiménez and Kirsten Kortebein—found nature (and altitude) amidst the star-studded glamor.

This isn’t the first time that we’ve taken a chic vacation destination and turned it into something adventurous. Last year, we foot-explored Italy’s Amalfi Coast (renown for its Limoncello, expensive resorts and expansive views.) Foot-powered Italy 

Since Kirsten often travels to these types of glitzy locations for fashion-related work, this means that it’s up to Moisés to turn non-outdoorsy locations into ultra-running training; this requires a bit more creativity and pre-planning than, say, going for a jog up one of Boulder’s Flatirons does.

There’s a certain joy in discovering the rough in the glam. Here, we’ll hand the reigns over to Moisés for a taste of his experience run-adventuring in the South of France.

In terms of choosing running routes, I’m not necessarily a great planner. When I have to train for the first time in a new place, I just like to choose a peak, and try to find my way “up.” This might not the most “logical” or “efficient “ way to train, but I like the spirit of discovering the unknown. For me, it’s the best way to explore the area where I am.

I arrived to Cannes straight from four days of camping in another, very different area of France: Chamonix.  I’d just put in a four- day training block in Chamonix’s steep trails, putting in lots of vert and alone-hours in the mountains. FitWild Chamonix Story.

Coming straight from camping in Alps, I arrived to Cannes feeling really out of context. In a blink, outdoor stores, cable cars and glacial water were replaced with Chanel stores, yacht parties and Aperol Spritz.

There are lots of running options in Cannes. I mean, the city itself is hilly—plus, you can run along the coast for as many miles as you want. I took my first two days in Cannes pretty easy. I needed to recover after my recent Chamonix block of training, so I just run-explored the city areas by foot in the early mornings.

No matter where in the city of Cannes you are, you can see—not too far, but not too close—the Préalpes d’Azur, which are basically the southernmost part of the Alps. Once I felt good enough, my goal became to go and explore these mountains. From far away, they look a lot like the Bay area’s Marin Headlands (north of San Francisco.)

The day that I decided to explore these mountains started with a bus ride along the coast. If you take a bus from Cannes, it will take you about five miles west—closer to the mountains. So, once it looked like I was close enough, I got off the bus and headed towards the peaks.

After jogging for two miles, I found an entrance to a park…and this is where the landscape changed completely.

There, just a few miles from Cannes’ swaying palms, exists a whole other world. These mountains, which are French but look California-esque from far away, are pure Utah on the inside. The Not Trip Road Trip, Utah. These Cannes- adjacent mountains felt and looked exactly like the trails in Zion—but with salty, ocean humidity. Not only was the landscape so unexpected for Europe, but it was also the first time on this continent that I’ve truly felt like I was running alone.

I ended up running for about 20 miles, my legs rolling up and down different peaks. Every time that I arrived to a col or a summit, I could choose to go down either to the ocean side or the forest side of the mountain. It was complete solitude.

Even though you can see the city and “civilization,” these trails felt like a secret, untouched world. Maybe it’s not—maybe I just got lucky to have the trails to myself with the Thursday night evening light. In any case, I finished my run as a dark storm rolled in over the Mediterranean. My legs took me back to Cannes, which was about a 10 mile stretch from peak-to-beach. From Hollywood-glam beaches to dusty Utah mountains and back again in an evening. Not a bad deal.

 

 

So it turns out that Cannes, the city that looks like it has nothing to do with the outdoors or trail running, happens to have a great trail system with limitless running possibilities—all within 10 miles of its designer strip.

The Reward

The arguable highlight of getting dirty in such a elegant place: the reward.

Amidst the fancy hustle and bustle, I found some silence and alone time in the mountains. For me, this is the best form of therapy, and the best way to get to know a new place. It’s always there—sometimes, you just have to dig to find it.

In the end, I finished my exploration run with a swim in the Mediterranean…followed by some pizza and, of course, rosé wine. You’ve got to recharge the batteries somehow—and a big part of the Cannes vibe is partying, music and regional wine. It’s great to get dirty in the mountains— but you can’t isolate yourself too much from where you are, right?