From Tourrettes-sur-Loup (artisans' village) to Puy de Naouri

Tourrettes-sur-Loup, about 6 km west of Vence, has a well maintained medieval centre. When driving from Vence, there’s a spacious parking just before the village. From the parking, the village even has free shuttle bus transportation. 

Tourrettes-sur-Loup is known as an artisan’s paradise. There are many ateliers for sculpture, jewelry and designer household items, all pretty classy and expensive-looking. In spite of this, the village has none of the touristic feel that some other similar villages in the region have. The town hall is in a small castle with a free art exhibition. The village is also famous for its violet festival. There was a market on the day we visited the village. Unfortunately we did not have time to explore this as we were heading for our hike and showers were forecasted for the afternoon. The market seemed to have quality products, so we have to come back later. Our goal was Puy de Naouri (1024 m) above the village (400 m).

The hike follows the trail suggested by the randoxygène guide. The initial part ascends through rather affluent residential areas before continuing in the woods towards north. The trail joins Grande Randonnée for about 1 km heading west then bifurcates left towards the mountaintop.  The route actually circles around the whole mountain. Signposts are clear enough and the rest of the trail has yellow marks. The descent is rapid; consider using poles because of loose stones. From a place called Le Caire the descent is along a paved road about 2 km before turning left and eventually reaching even a more upscale residential district called Les Virettes.

The guidebook rates this hike as sportive. We agree with that. The trail is easy but distance is 13 km including the longish ascent.


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Chicken leg recipe with saffron and almonds

Chicken legs with saffron and almonds

Chicken legs with saffron and almonds

This is a carefree but tasty way to prepare chicken legs. For this recipe I would choose free-range chicken legs, cuisses de poulet fermier and preferably Label Rouge. Tasty ingredients are important for this simple recipe. I would choose organic dried apricots and organic chicken stock simply because they have more taste. Saffron filaments work better in this recipe than saffron powder.

Preparation time:
Cooking time:
Total time:
2 servings

2 chicken legs,cuisses de poulet fermier, Label Rouge
1 tbsp rapeseed oil
2 shallots, in quarters
1 clove garlic, minced
6 dried organic apricots, halved
1 yellow paprika, cut into large chunks
½ lemon, pressed into juice
100 ml organic chicken stock
A handful of sliced almonds
Freshly ground black pepper
A good pinch of saffron filaments
Parsley or mint to decorate

In a heavy casserole warm the rapeseed oil over medium heat. Fry the chicken legs on both sides until nicely coloured, about 5 minutes on each side.

Warm the oven to 200⁰ C.

Add the paprika chunks, shallots, apricots and garlic in the casserole. Pour in the chicken stock and lemon juice. Add the saffron filaments and black pepper and sprinkle the almond slices over the chicken legs. Bring to a boil. Then transfer the casserole in the oven and bake for 45 minutes. You may need to cover the casserole towards the end of the cooking so that the almond slices do not burn.

Divide the chicken legs, vegetables and the sauce on the plates. Serve with steamed broccoli and brown rice. Decorate with parsley or mint.


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Perfume shopping and hiking in Èze

Èze village (11km from Nice on the moyenne corniche ) is an elegant hill top village, village perché. From a distance the village has the monumental medieval unity, and its vaulted passages and stairways were designed not to charm but from fear of attack.

Èze- sur-Mer is the seaside extension of Èze village, and the upper part of Èze, Col d’Èze, is on the Grande Corniche.

The Fragonard perfume shop in Èze village has become a popular stop among tourists. And no wonder because it has all the latest Fragonard scents and a much better selection than their small shop in Nice. Fragonard fragrances are reasonably priced, natural, classic and still rare enough that few people would be likely to wear the same scent that I do. I won’t be telling the names of my favourite scents…

The hike described here is certainly one of the classic littoral hikes on the Riviera.  Named Circuit du Mont Bastide, the starting point can be from Èze- sur-Mer or, as in our case from the Èze village at about 350m. The trail is well signposted and marked with yellow. In spite of its rather modest altitude at 570m, Mont Bastide offers stunning views not only down to the coastline but also to north where the Alpes du Sud peaks are visible. The guide booklet Rando Pays Ĉotier gives additional information in French. The booklet says that the total vertical ascent is about 600m, duration about 4 hours. With a very moderate pace, we completed the circuit in about 3.5 hours. Having done this circuit twice, we consider this hike more like moyenne than sportive as far as the difficulty and effort are concerned.


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Sea bass fillet recipe with orange and lemon compote

Sea bass fillets with orange and lemon compote

Sea bass, loup de mer, is a tasty white fish. In winter and spring it is regularly available in our local supermarket, usually already filleted and without skin. Sea bass is now farmed extensively in the Mediterranean, which has kept the price reasonable. It seems that the wild sea bass from Sète has become a luxurious product.

The delicate sea bass is best cooked simply. For this simple recipe, a really good and fruity olive oil is essential. I like Alziari Fruitée douce which is a classic olive oil from Nice. Alziari has a small and cosy traditional shop in Vieux Nice, 14 rue St Francois de Paule, not far from cours Saleya market place.

2 servings

2 nice loup fillets, about 150- 200 g each
2 tbsp fruity olive oil
1 orange
1 lemon
Freshly ground black pepper
Parsley to decorate

Preheat the oven to 200⁰ C, roast.

For the sauce, peel the orange and lemon. Divide into sections removing all the tough membranes. Warm 1 tbsp olive oil in a small casserole and simmer gently the lemon and orange sections. Grind over some black pepper. NB! Just warm gently the lemon and orange sections, do not cook. In 10- 15 minutes they will turn into a kind of compote.

Place the sea bass fillets on a baking tay Sprinkle 1 tbsp olive oil and grind a little black pepper over them. Roast for about 10 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fillets.

Divide the fish on the plates and spoon the orange- lemon compote over the fillets. Serve with new potatoes and wilted spinach. Decorate with parsley.


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Hiking around Baou a mountain?

Baou de St-Jeannet

Ascent, view and the summit of Saint Jeannet
Baou is a Provençal word meaning a rocky limestone hilltop with a flat summit.

The Baou de Saint-Jeannet (800 m) is a prominent landmark when driving north from Nice along the Route de Grenoble. It is about 20 km from Nice. The medieval village of Saint-Jeannet is protected from northern winds by the Baou. It used to be a frontier village between Provençe and the Comte de Nice during the time when the River Var separated them.

Hitchcock’s 1955 film How to Catch a Thief starring Grace Kelly and Cary Grant was primarily filmed in the South of France. The Villa des Bijoux in the film is situated in Saint-Jeannet. See Hitchcockwiki for details.

The Baou de Saint-Jeannet is well known for climbers who use its southern precipice. The village is a popular starting point for hikes to the Baou and around it.

The hiking trail from the village to the summit is signposted and initially follows GR 51 then bifurcates left ascending along the hillside to a plateau from where the summit with the viewpoint indicator can be reached in 10 minutes. There are, as always, many variants. The Randoxygène guidebook hike called “Circuit du Castellet” continues north after the summit along the plateau, eventually joins the GR 51 trail, descends to the western side of the Baou, bifurcates again from the GR 51, just before Castillon ruines and continues back to the village right under the steep southern wall of the Baou. Visiting the summit is described as optional but in reality it is the highlight of the whole hike. In fact, it is one of the most popular summits among locals and visitors. If you haven’t done this hike on the French Riviera you haven’t done anything!

Every spring, a competition called la Foulée des Baous is arranged, this year it is on 13 April. It is an event attracting a lot of people. If you are a participant it’s OK but for other visitors, hikers etc there will certainly be a parking problem on that day!


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