Napoléon Bonaparte (Napoléon I) was a charismatic and ambitious leader who was exiled to the Italian island of Elba in 1814 after the Treaty of Fontainebleu.
He escaped Elba and landed at the beach in Golfe Juan on the French Riviera with 1200 men at 3pm on 01 March 1815, announcing before his troops:
“L’aigle, aux couleurs nationales, volera de clocher en clocher, jusqu’aux tours de Notre-Dame“
(The Eagle, the national colors, will fly from steeple to steeple, up to the towers of Notre Dame)
It would have been much easier to have landed at the valley of the Rhône Valley where his march to Paris would have been faster, but he was wary of royalists in the Rhône area so chose an inland route from Golfe Juan through the Alps.
After he left Golfe Juan he continued through the Riviera towns of Cannes (he camped at 15 Rue des Belges near Notre-Dame-du-Bon-Voyage church), Le Cannet, Mougins, Mouans Sartoux and Grasse.
Crossing through Provence to Sisteron he made his way to Laffrey where he was met by royal guards sent by King Louis XVIII to arrest him, but instead they supported him.
From Grenoble, he continued to Paris where he arrived at the Tuileries Palace on 20 March 1815.
He briefly returned to power during his Hundred Days campaign, but after a crushing defeat at the Battle of Waterloo he abdicated the throne and was exiled to the island of St Helena where he died at the age of 51.
200th anniversary / Bicentennial celebrations on the French Riviera in 2015
The French Riviera will commemorate the 200th anniversary of Napoléon’s arrival in this region with numerous events.
In particular, an unmissable weekend will be held Saturday 28 February and Sunday 01 March in Golfe Juan with military bands, a soldier’s camp, horse displays, fireworks and a historical re-enactment of Napoléon’s landing.
The historical re-enactment is the main draw card to be held on plage du Soleil, a 5-minute walk from Golfe Juan train station. Please note, there is no public toilet and no elevator at this train station so if you are arriving from Antibes/Biot/Cagnes-sur-Mer/Nice/Monaco direction be prepared for some stairs.
Most of the events are free of charge to the public, excluding the cavalry display and historical re-enactment. Tickets can be purchased from the Office du Tourisme at Golfe Juan port.
For the 2015 programme of events for Golfe Juan, click this link here flyer_debraquement_napoleon_golfe-juan_2015
(Note: If you miss the major 2015 commemorations, the re-enactment of Napoleons landing is an annual event in Golfe Juan).
Grasse will also hold many events including guided walks through the town and displays from Imperial Guard lancers.
For the 2015 programme of events for Grasse and surrounds, click this link here programme_bicentenaire_napoleon_2015_grasse
The Route Napoléon
Today, tourists can drive the Route Napoléon (RN 85 road), a 325km stretch between Golfe Juan and Grenoble that is a scenic route following Napoléon’s great journey.
The route is marked by statues of the French Imperial Eagle along the way, and crosses beautiful countryside in the Alpes-Maritimes, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, Haute Alpes and Isère departments.
For a bilingual map (French and English) of the Route Napoleon, click this link here RouteNapoleon
Other Napoleonic places of interest on the French Riviera
Napoléon moved to the French Riviera with his family in 1794, and was responsible for the defense of the coast. When Robespierre fell, Napoléon was briefly imprisoned in Fort Carré that overlooks Port Vauban.
Musée Masséna (Villa Masséna) on rue de France has the Arnott / Cannes wax death mask of Napoléon.
Number 6 rue Bonaparte was the residence of Napoléon in 1794 where he discussed plans with his generals. A plaque marks the building.
Number 2 rue Saint-Françoise de Paule (now Palais Hongran de Fiana, a complex of holiday rental apartments beside Ma Nolans Irish pub) is where Napoléon slept briefly after the building was confiscated in the late 18th century. Look for the commemorative plaque on the façade. If you’re interested to rent an apartment for a holiday, visit their website www.palais-hongran.com (I’m in no way a salesperson for them, though I’d say most guests are completely unaware that Napoléon once slept in this building!).
Place Masséna, one of Nice’s main squares, is named in honour of André Masséna who was one of the Marshals of the Empire created by Napoléon.
Pont Napoléon III is easily recognisable as the bridge with the urns and cycle paths crossing the Var River near Nice Airport. It was renovated for the 150th anniversary of Nice’s attachment to France.
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Sources: Wikipedia, www.route-napoleon.com
Images: Wikipedia, freeriders-overblog, comtedenice.com