Tag Archives: Provence

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 get across 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 little 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, namely, the boulangerie, patisserie and fromagerie.

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 that was! The custard tart and assorted pastries (frangipane, apple and apricot) served as carbs for next day’s breakfast in bed. At 20€ each, Auberge de La Madone is too expensive in that department. Maybe if they had promised me truffled eggs with brioche and 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. We had 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 foodstuffs and one last picnic.

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!

Provence unpacked

Baguettes for the freezer, wine, a couple of rose plants and various only-in-France items. The difference between two days in Provence (compared to last year’s 6) is going home with less stuff. The flipside to that is that less becomes more with every bite of cheese, every sip of wine, and everytime I lick my fingers clean of those potato chip flavors that aren’t available in Italy. A visit to Le Petit Jabron’s farm is totally optional as their products are sold at Super U (large shopping center just north of Sisteron). For yummy sandwiches, breads and desserts, Boulangerie Marie Blachère in Peipin is excellent, and so is the Intermarché next door.

Cheese purchases in Provenc
On the board…an assortment of goat cheese from Le Petit Jabron

Provence unpacked 2014
I have a real weakness for new potato chip flavors, and the Wasabi one was spicy!

Radis noir
What, you never seen a black radish before? It isn’t hot like the smaller red radishes, and it’s probably a little old since the interior was a bit woody.

Not yet lavender time in Banon
Having found the perfect petit village that is Cruis, maybe there’ll be a same time next year?

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.