The mild climate combined with the vegetation of evergreens makes the South of France a perfect location for year-round hiking. For example in Leucate, you can do several easy walks that are around 7 kilometres in length. I lured Chérie into doing the Sentier du Guetteur with me on a beautiful Friday, when the kids were at school. Guetteur means observer in English, and this trail takes you from the beach of La Franqui over the cliffs to Leucate’s lighthouse. Or the other way around, as you walk back along the same path.
As you have to come back on the same 4.3 kilometre path, the Sentier du Guetteur is not a circular walk. Chéri and I decided to start at the parking lot of La Franqui. Strangely enough, there are no clear signs at the beginning. Since I had found a map on the internet (which you can find here), we knew we had to look for a stairway that would take us to the cliffs. After searching and asking around for a bit, we finally found the stairs on the Rue de la Douane. They are to the left of the pizzeria Le Gecko Bleu, which you can recognize by the giant blue gecko on the terracotta red façade.
Fort de la Haute Franque
After climbing the steep steps, we were finally on the right track to the ‘falaises’, or cliffs. Once we had climbed the stairs, the path was easy. The first part took us through a small pine forest with an extraordinary view of La Franqui on the left. Soon enough, we arrived at the first observation point for the Mediterranean Sea: Fort de la Haute Franqui. This fort, built under King Louis XIV in 1711, has been restored entirely to its original state.
Cap des Frères
Even though the soil of the limestone cliffs is rocky, there is still a wide variety of vegetation and wildlife. Next, the Sentier du Guetteur took us to the lookout point of Cap des Frères, where we could admire the magnificent view from the 52 meter high cliffs. The deep blue sky married perfectly with the crystal clear water of the Mediterranean Sea and the bright green of the pine trees. A warning though, as there are no barriers whatsoever, so be careful at the edge, especially with children!
At this point, we were about halfway. And we finally saw a sign with our hike Le Sentier du Geutteur! We had another 2 kilometres to go to the lighthouse. Via the cliffs of Cap Leucate, we arrived at the second, more modern, observation post. This permanent semaphore is one of 19 that watches over the Mediterranean Sea, using the newest technology. By this time we could hear our stomachs growling a little. As we weren’t sure if there would be any restaurants nearby or open (we did the hike pre-lockdown…), we had brought picnic lunch. Although we would miss lunch at a chic restaurant, I said with a wink.
As we arrived closer to the lighthouse, the final observation point of the day, we did spot a restaurant kind of building though. The closer we came, the more surprised we were to find that there actually was an ultra designed, one star Michelin restaurant next to the lighthouse! Chéri and I were just joking around, but I was right! However, since we had brought fresh bread and some excellent dried sausage from our butcher, we had an outdoor lunch at the bottom of the lighthouse. And with the amazing view, it tasted just as good as a fancy lunch at Le Grand Cap. Well, I hope we are able to test the restaurant soon, though…