Walk in the isthmus of Saint-Jean


We started our walk from the harbour of Villefranche-sur-Mer, which is easily reached following the Basse Corniche (RM 6098). In the harbour there’s a spacious toll parking.

It is always a pleasure to walk along the Plage des Marinières, admiring the beauty of the location. On a sunny day, you never get tired of the views!

At the end of the beach, we took the stairs to elegant Av. Louise Bordes. After the crossroads we continued towards Beaulieu-sur-Mer and soon reached Plage des Fourmis. After briefly admiring Villa Kerylos on the other side of the bay, we took the Promenade Rouvier. This excellent and mostly paved path links Beaulieu-sur-Mer with Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat.

At the harbour of Saint-Jean, we took stairs to the terrace above. We saw that a lot of renovation work had recently been done there, with some new restaurants and cafes.

Our itinerary continued along Avenue Denis Séméria that ascended from the harbour, eventually passing the tourist office. At this point, it is best to stay on the left side where the pavement is continuous. After about 150 m, we crossed the rather busy main street and walked past the entrance of Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild.After 200-300 m, we forked left taking the stairs up to the top of the isthmus. The panoramic alley on the isthmus was called Chemin des Moulins. We followed it straight north and came to the main road and intersection (pont St-Jean) soon enough. From here, we walked back to our starting point.

Cruise ships frequently call at Villefranche-sur-Mer. This walk would be ideal for travellers who have not booked a shore excursion and wish to explore the area by themselves: A morning walk followed by lunch in the harbour or on board the ship!

Duration: 2 h 
Image of trail around the isthmus of St-Jean

Distance: 8,1 km

Elevation gain: 85 m

Cod with vegetables and red berry compote

Cod with vegetables and red berry compote

It was a programme on the French morning TV, Télématin, which gave inspiration to this recipe. First the journalist told about the health benefits of red berries, such as raspberries, redcurrants, strawberries, blackberries and cranberries. These are packed with antioxidants which can protect from heart disease and other chronic diseases. It is good to know that frozen red berries retain most of their antioxidants.

Télématin then showed a French chef cooking cod with vegetables, sauce, and red berry compote. The following recipe is my twist of the cookery show. The dish is easy to cook, and the red berry compote gives an exotic twist to cod. The recipe is gluten free.

2 servings

2 nice pieces of cod fillet, about 150 – 200 g each
1 tbsp. olive oil

For the vegetables:
5 new potatoes
½ leek, finely sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 handfuls of baby spinach
2 tbsp. olive oil

For the sauce:
150 ml vegetable stock
2 tbsp. crème fraiche, 15% fat
2 tsp. Maizena
A few drops of lemon juice
Freshly ground black pepper

For the red berry compote:
1 tbsp. olive oil
A handful of different red berries (I used redcurrants and blackberries)

Preheat the oven to 200° C.

Place the cod fillets in an oven-proof dish and sprinkle with olive oil.

Warm the vegetable stock in a casserole until very hot. Dilute 2 tsp. Maizena in a small amount of cold water. Add enough of Maizena- water mixture into the vegetable stock whisking all the time until the sauce thickens somewhat. Let simmer on a very low heat about 15 minutes. Then add the crème fraiche and let simmer for about 5 minutes. When you are ready to serve the sauce, add the lemon juice and black pepper whisking briskly so that the sauce becomes a little foamy.

At the same time cook the vegetables. Warm 2 tbsp. olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Start sautéing the sliced leek and minced garlic. Microwave the new potatoes 4 minutes until almost cooked, but still a bit al dente. Slice the potatoes and add to the pan. When you are almost ready to serve, add the baby spinach which only takes a couple of minutes to wilt.

Cook the cod fillets in the oven for 10- 12 minutes depending on the thickness. The fish needs to be opaque, but still flaky and not overcooked.

Meanwhile make the berry compote. Warm 1 tbsp. olive oil in a casserole over medium heat, add the berries, and mix now and again. The berries will “compote” by themselves and this doesn’t take long.

When you are ready to serve, divide the vegetables in the bottom of two bowls. Pour the sauce over the vegetables and place the cod fillet on top. Divide the berry compote around the fish and serve at once.

Chicken with tarragon

Chicken with tarragon

This recipe is inspired by a lady talking about her recipe, Poulet a ’l’ Estragon, on the local radio Bleu Azur while we were driving home from our supermarket in Nice. It sounded so good that I had to try it. The dish was a great success and I want to share it with you.

2 servings

4 chicken thighs with skin, pref. from poulet fermier, free range chickens
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. butter
2 shallots, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
3 carrots, sliced
100 ml white wine
100 ml chicken stock
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp. crème fraîche, 15 % fat
Fresh tarragon

Preheat the oven to 180° C.

In a heavy casserole such as Le Creuset warm the olive oil and butter over medium heat. Fry the chicken pieces on both sides until golden. Remove from the casserole and set aside.

Microwave the sliced carrots for 5 minutes. Peel and chop the shallots, peel and mince the garlic. Sauté the vegetables in the casserole for a few minutes. Place the chicken pieces back in the casserole. Add the white wine, the stock, black pepper, and a few sprigs of tarragon, and bring to the boil. Save some tarragon leaves for decoration.

Transfer the casserole in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Meanwhile cook some brown rice.

Remove the casserole from the oven and remove the tarragon sprigs. Mix in 2 tbsp. crème fraîche. Divide the chicken, carrots and the sauce on the plates. Serve with brown rice and decorate with fresh tarragon leaves.

From La Turbie to Tête de Chien

Cap Martin and Bordighera seen from trail to Tete de Chien

We have previously hiked from Cap d’Ail (80 m) to Tête de Chien (550 m). This classic loop trail called Tour de la Tête de Chien takes about 3h 15.

This time we made a much shorter walk from La Turbie (470 m) to Tête de Chien, which nevertheless offers just as dramatic views over Monaco, the Italian coast in the east and Cap Ferrat in the west.

It was a chilly and clear winter morning on Côte d’Azur. We parked near the entrance of Trophée d’Auguste museum, and walked through the old village of La Turbie. At the western end of the village we walked through a park, where there were signposts showing the way to Monaco, Cap d’Ail and Fort du CNET. CNET, a telecom research centre, is located in a fortress on the summit of Tête de Chien.

We followed the wide trail that descended along the eastern flank of the mountain, and soon came to the first crossroads where the trail forking left would have taken us down to Monaco. We, however, continued straight about 200-300 m and reached the next crossroads where a new signpost showed the trail up to our goal today. This part of the trail we knew well as we had descended along it during the previous hike. Elevation gain from this point to the fortress(CNET) was about 120 m. We came to a paved road next to the CNET facilities, walked along it 150 m before forking left along a trail that took us to the road to Tête de Chien.

After admiring the views down to Monaco and the coast, we used the same trail back to La Turbie. It was a great and effortless itinerary with a very moderate elevation gain.

Climb: 300 m

Distance: 6,7 km

Duration: 2 h

Map: IGN 3742 OT Nice Menton Côte d'Azur

Broccoli and Mozarella pasta recipe

Broccoli and Mozarella pasta recipe

The combination broccoli florets, mozzarella balls, pine nuts and whole wheat pasta works surprisingly well. Broccoli is a popular winter vegetable in Italy. It is a nutritional powerhouse, full of vitamins C, K and folate, minerals, fiber and antioxidants.

Any pasta shape works in this lactovegetarian recipe. It makes a simple, quick and healthy dinner.

2 servings

½ broccoli head
1 shallot
1 clove garlic
2 tbsp. pine nuts
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 package (150g) mozzarella balls
About 4 tbsp. grated parmesan
Freshly ground black pepper
Whole wheat pasta for two servings
Parsley to decorate

Wash half of the broccoli head. If the broccoli head is little, use the whole head. Cut it into florets and microwave 5 minutes until soft. Set aside.

Warm the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium- low heat. Peel and chop the shallot, add to the pan. Pell and mince the garlic clove, add to the pan. Sauté for about 10 minutes until soft.

Meanwhile cook the pasta until al dente, this normally takes about 9- 10 minutes.

Increase the heat over medium in the frying pan. Drain the pasta and add to the pan. Add the broccoli, drained mozzarella balls, black pepper and half of the parmesan. Mix and let cook for a couple of minutes until everything is warm.

Divide the pasta in bowls and sprinkle with the rest of the parmesan and chopped parsley. Top with pine nuts.

Chicken soup

Chicken soup

For many chicken soup is comfort food for cold winter days, especially if one is suffering from a flu. This antioxidant- rich soup may even help to prevent winter infections.

4 servings

2 tbsp. olive oil
2 chicken breasts, cut into about 3x3 cm chunks
2 carrots, sliced
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 litre vegetable stock
100 ml brown rice, instant cooking
2 handfuls of chopped Savoy cabbage
3 cm piece of fresh root ginger
1 tsp ground turmeric
½ tsp Piment d’Espelette or medium hot chilli flakes
2 spring onions, thinly sliced
Chopped parsley

Warm the olive oil over medium heat in a heavy casserole, cocotte. Cut the chicken into chunks and fry in the casserole until golden brown on all sides. Add the onion and garlic to the casserole and continue sautéing for a few minutes. Add the vegetable stock, bring to the boil, then reduce to simmering.

Slice the carrots, microwave for a few minutes until al dente, and add to the casserole. Peel and finely chop the ginger, then add to the casserole. Add the turmeric, Piment d’Espelette, brown rice, and the chopped Savoy cabbage. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

Divide the soup into bowls and decorate with spring onions and parsley. Leftovers can be frozen.

Hike above River Estéron

Above Bouyon

The village of Bouyon (640 m) on the sinuous RD1 road from Carros is only 30 km from Nice. The village is the starting point of this loop hike which also passes the village of Les Ferres at col des Ferres (596 m). Bouyon is a tidy village with one restaurant, an auberge, and a pizzeria. In 1887 it was destroyed by an earthquake and rebuilt two years later.

On the way back to Bouyon the trail offers super views of the Valley of Estéron. We have previously made this hike some years ago in July when the heat was intense. It was much more agreeable in September weather.

The hike starts from signpost #5 right after the centre of the village. We first took the stairs passing several houses above the village and crossed signpost #6, showing the trail to Les Ferres. We continued along the southern slope of Crête de l’Estellier passing signpost #100 and soon the highest point at 1000 m. We now descended sharply along a narrower trail towards Les Ferres and had the feeling that this particular part had been less used. We only met two free roaming goats up here, nothing else! We descended down to the RD1 road just below Les Ferres. From here, we took a small road that descended below the RD1 road, and continued about 3 km as far as to signpost #102. Here we forked right along a good path that led to oratoire Notre-Dame-du-Brec, a three-meter-high oratory with views straight down to the Gorges of Estéron.

The trail after the oratory gave the best views of the gorges. We still descended quite a lot, to about 300 m before starting to ascend back to Bouyon. At signpost #103 in the woods, we took the trail showing the way directly to Bouyon. Not surprisingly, is was a continuous ascent back to our starting point.

Another example of a great and perhaps a less frequented trail in the Nice hinterland, l'arrière-pays Nicois. The itinerary comprises two 300-340 m ascents, and a long descent between them. The French Randozygène guide (Gorges de l’Estéron) has a description of this hike, although they are a bit optimistic regarding the walking time (theirs: 4h15, ours 4H45). When going there in autumn, keep in mind the hunting days in Alpes-Maritimes.

Ascent: 640 m
Free-roaming goat on the trail Bouyon Les Ferres

Map: IGN 3642ET Vallée de l’Estéron

Les Ferres
Trail image courtesy of Google Maps

Oratoire de Notre Dame du Brec
Bouyon hike trail image

Provencal Lamb Stew

Provencal lamb stew

This stew is a brilliant, carefree party dish, because it can be made the day before and just reheated slowly while the guests are having apéro, nibbles with drinks.

A whole lamb shoulder normally weighs about 1100 g, sometimes even more, but after the bone and most of the fat layer covering the shoulder are removed, the remaining amount of meat is for four generous servings. Any stew leftovers can be frozen and incorporated later into a pasta sauce.

4 servings

About 600- 800 g lamb shoulder, cut into about 3x3 cm cubes
3 tbsp. olive oil
About 15 small new potatoes (20 if they are tiny)
3 plum tomatoes, quartered
2 onions, coarsely chopped
2- 3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small aubergine, cut into 3x3 cm cubes
100 ml tomato sauce
2 tbsp. flour
1 fresh bay leaf
1 sprig of fresh rosemary
1 orange peel
Black pepper
300 ml red wine
400 ml chicken or beef stock
4 tbsp. black olives
Fresh parsley and 4 sprigs of fresh rosemary for decoration

Preheat the oven to 180° C.

Spread olive oil in the bottom of a heavy casserole, such as Le Creuset. Add the lamb and aubergine cubes, onions, garlic and the flour and mix. Add all the other ingredients, except the olives, then pour in the wine and stock until the ingredients are almost covered. Place in the oven and bake for 2 hours.

The surface will get nicely browned. Stir occasionally so that the surface does not get too browned and dry. When the stew is baked, remove the herbs and orange peel and add the olives.

Divide on the plates and decorate with parsley and a rosemary sprig.

Villa Kerylos in Beaulieu-sur-Mer

Villa Kerylos Beaulieu

Beaulieu-sur-Mer overlooking the beautiful Baie des Fourmis can easily be reached from Villefranche by foot. We parked in Villefranche by the sea next to the harbour and walked along the waterfront passing the Plage des Marinières, then crossing the Cap Ferrat peninsula. It is part of the coastal trail.

Villa Kerylos is situated on Impasse Gustaf Eiffel just east of the Beaulieu casino. It was built by the archaeologist Théodore Reinach (1860-1928) between 1902 and 1908 as a near reproduction of an ancient Greek villa, designed by architect Emmanuel Pontremoli. During the planning, both Reinach and Pontermoli made several trips to Greece. The only exceptions that were made were glass windows, a concealed piano, and good early 20th Century conveniences, such as electricity and running water. Reinach lived here for twenty years in a classic Athenian style. In 1928, the building was bequeathed by the owned to the Institut de France although Reinach’s children and grandchildren continued living in the villa till 1967 when it was classified monument historique. During WWII, the villa was seized by the Nazis.

Today the villa is open to the public. Events, such as concerts and wedding are held there.

Villa Kerylos is a visual experience. It is quite small, and most visitors spend about an hour exploring it. We had a super guided tour (in French), and could therefore visit the terrace on the roof top. The panorama from the roof is exceptional. All rooms have Greek names. All the marbles were from Toscana, and floors were beautiful mosaic.

There are several good restaurants about 0,5 km from Villa Kerylos. It was a beautiful October day, and we had lunch at the marina, sitting on the terrace enjoying the warm sunshine.

Beaulieu Port de Plaisance

Red cabbage simmered in casserole

Simmered red cabbage with veal chops and potatoes

Too often restaurants are skimping on vegetables. Sometimes they are completely forgotten even here in Nice which is famous for its Mediterranean culinary roots. Some Cours Saleya restaurants have served a tasty fish for plat du jour, but accompanied with only white rice and no vegetables at all.

It is time to focus more on vegetables as we are now advised to eat nine different vegetables and fruits daily.

The following red cabbage slowly simmered in a heavy casserole goes nicely with any meat or chicken in winter. Leftovers can be reheated the next day or frozen.

6-8 servings

1 small red cabbage
2 small onions, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tsp. ground turmeric
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
50 ml water
Freshly ground black pepper

Cut the cabbage in four sections and remove the core. With a large knife finely chop the cabbage leaves.

Warm the olive oil over medium heat in a large heavy casserole such as Le Creuset. Cook the onions and garlic for about 5 minutes. Add the turmeric, balsamic vinegar, water, and some black pepper and mix.

Add the red cabbage, cover and reduce the heat. Let simmer for 45 minutes stirring now and again. The cabbage is going to be scented and almost melting after slow-cooking.