Tag Archives: Alpes-de-Haute-Provence

One fine day in the Alpes-de-Haute Provence

Lavender trail in Sault
Along the lavender trail just north of Sault

Everytime we plan a trip to Provence, I comb the net looking for unique locations in hopes of getting a postcard shot. Some photographers leave just enough clues to figure out where an image was taken, but half the challenge is being in the right place at the right time, and hopefully without a whole bunch of other camera-toting visitors blocking the view.

Bories in Ferrassieres
Bories in Ferrassieres, GPS: 44.138229, 5.471370, on the D189 to Montbrun-les-Bains

Every year Ferrassières hosts a lavender festival on the 1st Sunday in July. We’ve never been, but it sounds like a lot of fun. I wonder if they have food trucks? www.fete-lavande.com

Simiane-la-Rotonde
Simiane-la-Rotonde

Les Lavandes in Monieux

Another thing I love about Provence: restaurants and cafes named lavande/s. Located in quaint or picturesque places, they look like part of a movie set. The above pic is in the tiny village of Monieux. The dogs were great sports about all the driving and walking around, but Maddie is really the best when it comes to posing in front of flowers.

Maddie at Le Jas du Boeuf

Peillon, perched villages, patisseries and picnics

Inevitably, Perosa Argentina’s proximity to France meant that we could not come this far without going all the way. We usually cross the border via Montgenèvre to the east of Torino, but this time headed south, and for the first time ever, used the Tunnel du Col de Tende, just 20 miles south of Cuneo. There is no tariff to traverse the 2-mile tunnel, and it was fairly quick even if only one line of cars is allowed to pass at a time. There was about a 15-minute wait (on either side) before the queue got the green.

Balcony view from Auberge de la Madone
Balcony view from Auberge de la Madone in Peillon, France

Our hotel lay in Peillon – one of those tiny villages perchés that are so cute to look at but often a pain to reach. The pain was mitigated by the fact that we would be driving through a scenic route that included old french villages and the things that we love best about them: boulangeries, patisseries and fromageries.

Tende, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, France
1st stop, Tende. Boulangerie des Merveilles is on the road that passes through the village.

Boulangerie des Merveilles

This is the first time I’ve come across the onion tart pissaladière (center). What awesomeness it was! The custard tart and pastries (frangipane, apple and apricot) were for next morning’s breakfast in bed because at 20€ per person, Auberge de La Madone’s petit-déjeuner is ridiculously expensive. Maybe if they had promised truffled eggs with foie gras…

Goodies from Boulangerie des Merveilles
Yummy french pastries.

The next day came all too quickly and we ate our pastries and italian coffee (I’ll have to show you my set-up one of these days) at dawn. There was a long haul ahead of us to return home – the same way we came instead of the quicker Nice-Genova autoroute – but not before stocking up on more goodies and one last picnic.

Sospel
On the way back to Italy: Sospel in the Alpes-Maritimes department in southeastern France.

Patisserie Alexis Demaria in Sospel scores big for desserts, but what caught my eye from the start were barbagian / barbajuan, a sort of fried ravioli said to be the national dish of Monaco. The seasoned filling is made with chard, spinach, rice, and parmigiano and they were a bit expensive at 3.20€/100 grams, but the taste makes them worth every cent.

Chevre from Auchan and barbagian
Chevre stash from Auchan in Nice; barbagian from Patisserie Alexis Demaria.

Desserts from Patisserie Alexis Demaria
Raspberry tart, lemon curd tart, chocolate eclair! Around 2.50€ each.

Tuna bento from Auchan in Nice
Mini tuna bento (7.10€) picked up at Auchan supermarket in Nice.

Salmon and tuna chirashi from Auchan in Nice
Salmon&tuna chirashi (12.80€) from Auchan’s made-fresh-daily sushi department in Nice. We also had a baguette and french charcuterie!

les Goats N’ Roses (part 2)

Abbaye de Valsaintes
View large
Left: Le Berger; top right: small section of the rose path; bottom right: hummingbird moth

Moth is an aficionado of roses, so when I learned that the Abbaye de Valsaintes cultivated several HUNDRED varieties to admire and perhaps even purchase, I didn’t even bother asking if he wanted to have a look. Situated just southeast of Simiane-la-Rotonde on the D18, it’s about another 2.5 km inland on a narrow access road. Dogs allowed (on leash) and the price for the entrance fee is only 6.50€ for adults.

Abbaye de Valsaintes lavender
Lavender?!? – view large | Top left: the abbey’s 17th century church.

Most likely due to its warmer and drier climate (the abbey sits in a natural “bowl”), this was the only place where we saw lavender in bloom. Ok just patches of it, but finally, lavande! On the other hand, many of the rose blossoms seemed to have succumbed to the heat, so it wasn’t as lush and vibrant as we had expected. A good thing we could retreat into the cool interior of the church, where a collection of present-day stained glass windows added a touch of color to the walls. Upon admission at the garden entrance, you receive a pamphlet that tells a bit more about Valsaintes history, like the fact that monks once called this place home until the French Revolution in 1789!

Les vitraux
Les vitraux – view large

Leaving Valsaintes smelling like roses (quite literally!), we headed out to find a picnic spot. Nailed all the essentials: wine, cheese, a baguette, sweets and something that I had never tried before – brindille, a very long and thin dried sausage from Melchio’s charcuterie in Banon. We always plan ahead, from the folding picnic table and chairs to the cheese knife, but everyone knows that the french are the true picnic pros, n’est-ce pas?

A birthday picnic in France

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.”
~ Virginia Woolf

Have you had your banon today?

Made from unpasteurized goat’s milk and wrapped in chestnut leaves, banon is pungent and deliciously creamy. It is one of our favorite french cheeses, and come to think of it, we really should’ve bought more than just seven.