Following Princess Grace's footsteps in Monaco-Ville

Alfred Hitchcock’s to Catch a Thief starring Grace Kelly and Cary Grant was partly filmed on the French Riviera. One of the most memorable scenes of the film is their picnic during the car trip above Monaco.

During the 1955 Cannes Film Festival, Grace Kelly met Prince Rainier of Monaco. They were married in April 1956, and Grace Kelly began her duties as Princess of Monaco.

On a beautiful spring day in the end of March we made a trip to Monaco-Ville, The Rock, to trace the locations familiar to Princess Grace. We parked our car in Fontvieille and walked the short distance to Monaco-Ville.

The Prince’s Palace had not yet opened its state apartments to visitors. We admired the beautiful surroundings and the changing of the guards. Several ancient cannons by the Palace reminded of the turbulent history and the Palace’s role mainly as a fortress in ancient times.

We then strolled to Saint-Martin Gardens past the Monaco Cathedral where Grace Kelly’s and Prince Rainier’s wedding ceremony was held. The beautiful gardens with its magnificent flower beds, views and statues is not to be missed.

We had a tasty lunch at U Cavagnetu on Rue Compte Félix Gastaldi. Princess Grace used to walk along this narrow street when taking Princess Stephanie to school. Today’s plat du jour, the recommended lunch dish, was Filet de St.Pierre, John Dory Fish. It was well prepared with a South of France twist, and the price was not any higher than in Nice.

After lunch we headed to the Oceanographic Museum. This is now Monaco’s number one tourist attraction. The museum was inaugurated in 1910 by Prince Albert I. We have previously visited the museum six years ago, and it was interesting to see how the museum is continually being renewed. The new Turtle Island on the roof terrace was a nice discovery. In one of the aquariums a young turtle was swimming among the fish. It had been saved in 2014 from the Monaco harbour suffering from hypothermia. This touching story is an example of the Museum’s commitment to protect the marine world.

The whole itinerary of Parcours Princesse Grace comprises 25 locations in Monaco to commemorate various aspects of Princess Grace’s daily life. The length of the tour is 5.5 km and the map is available at Monaco’s Tourism and Convention Office.

The young turtle saved from Monaco harbor


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On a wild trail from Col de Castillon


Col de Castillon (706 m) above Menton has a spacious and quiet parking. We have made some excellent hikes from here, such as to Mont Razet (1285 m), and Mont Ourse (1239 m). This time we wanted to explore the trail to Sospel (350 m).

From Col de Castillon we first followed the trail north, first along a small road then along a trail passing the last houses. At the crossroads at signpost 137 we forked left along the trail(old yellow marks) leading to Sospel. A storm named “Elke” had hit the region a few days ago bringing snow to fairly low altitudes. We were nevertheless surprised to find this much snow between just 700-800 m.

It was a gorgeous morning with blue skies. The air was pure and crisp. The nature was peaceful, just starting to wake up after winter. The sounds of civilization were far away, and we could enjoy the singing of the birds. Only a deer had marched along the trail during the past few days.

Our progress in the snow was slow and heavy. After about 1h 30, and after a fairly steep descent the snow finally disappeared. We passed some farmhouses below the trail and soon found a sunny and warm clearing, a perfect spot for a picnic. From this point, the remaining distance to Sospel would have been ca. 45 min. Our aim was to explore the trail, not necessarily to visit Sospel. We were therefore happy to turn back to the starting point after the picnic, and take our time to enjoy the nature.

First spring flowers surrounded by snow


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Stuffed turkey escalopes

Turkey is healthy white meat, a good source of protein and very low in fat. Unfortunately, it does not have much taste so you need to add flavour by stuffing and cooking them in a tasty sauce. To further increase the flavour, I like to serve them with ratatouille, a classic French vegetable stew, and brown rice.

Turkey escalopes are thinner than turkey steaks. In our supermarket in Nice you can even choose extra thin escalopes, escalopes de dinde fin, which are perfect for this recipe. If you can only buy turkey steaks, you need to flatten them. They should be as thin as traditional veal escalopes, but larger. Turkey steaks can be flattened by placing them between two pieces of cling film and flattening with a rolling pin, or your own fist.

2 servings

2 thin turkey escalopes, about 150- 200 g each
2 tbsp. low-fat soft cheese, such as Philadelphia Light
2 slices Parma Ham, Prosciutto di Parma
2 cocktail sticks, to close the stuffed escalopes
2 tbsp. rapeseed oil (canola oil)
2 tbsp. butter
1 shallot, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
150 ml white wine
1 tsp of chicken stock cube
50 ml tomato sauce
1 tsp dried Provençal herbs
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp. crème fraiche, 15 % fat

Spread the soft cheese on the escalopes. Place a slice of Parma Ham on top of the cheese. Then roll over the escalopes to make a pocket and fix with a cocktail stick.

In a frying pan, warm the rapeseed oil and butter over medium heat. Fry the escalopes on both sides until golden brown.

When you turn the escalopes, add the minced shallot and garlic to the pan. After about 5 minutes add the white wine to the pan. Then reduce the heat to simmering and add a small piece of chicken stock cube, tomato sauce, herbs, black pepper and the crème fraiche. Mix well, cover and let simmer for about 15 minutes.

Serve with brown rice and some vegetables, preferably ratatouille.


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Carefree ratatouille recipe

Ratatouille, the traditional vegetable stew, originates in Nice. It is popular on the South of France coast in summer when tomatoes are at their best. Other vegetable ingredients are onions, garlic, bell peppers, aubergine/eggplant, courgette/zucchini, black olives, olive oil and Provençal herbs.

There are many different ratatouille recipes. Some are quite time-consuming as all the vegetables are first sautéed separately and then combined with tomato sauce. Some need a very long cooking time and the end result is more like a purée.

The vegetables need to be soft, but I like that the individual vegetables still are recognisable. I like ratatouille so much that I start making it already in February- March when the new vegetables start coming from Spain and Italy to our supermarket in Nice.

Ratatouille is a great accompaniment to meat and chicken and especially good with lamb. It can be gratinated with parmesan and bread crumbs and served as a vegetarian dish with white beans, good bread and a salad.

2-3 servings

3 tbsp. olive oil
1 small aubergine, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 small courgette, chopped
1 large tomato, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 black olives, pitted
1 tsp dried Provençal herbs
Fresh basil or other herb to decorate

In a large heavy casserole, cocotte, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Wash and chop the aubergine. Start sautéing first the aubergine, which takes the longest to cook. Then chop the red bell pepper and courgette and add into the casserole. Stir frequently.

Add the onion, garlic, tomato, black olives and Provençal herbs. Continue sautéing for about 10 minutes. Stir now and again.

Then reduce the heat, cover the casserole and let simmer for about 1 hour until the vegetables are soft. Stir occasionally. Decorate with basil/other fresh herb before serving.

Preparation time:  about 20 min
Cooking time:   about one hour


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Provence vineyard with a Californian connection

Domaine Saint-Jean in Villecroze (Var)

During the Aups truffle festival we stayed two nights in Hôtel Le Grand. One evening we had a delightful local red wine with our dinner, so on the way back we decided to stop by the nearby vineyard in Villecroze.

It was a grey Monday morning, but they were open. A nice young lady gave us an excellent description of the vineyard and their wines.

The farm “Domaine Saint-Jean” was bought by a French-American couple in 1973. At that time there were no vineyards on the property and the new owner had no plans to start producing wine. However, a visiting American oenologist made a major study of the land, and calculated that the soil, climate and environment would be beneficial to producing great wines similar to those of California. Under the guidance of French and American expertise, 30 hectares of vineyard were planted, and most modern wine making equipment was acquired.

The grape varieties were carefully selected. At the beginning Cabernet Sauvignon and Cinsault were grown, later Syrah and Grenache as well as some white wine grapes were added. The property later changed ownership, but the new owners carried on aiming to produce quality wines.

We tasted some of their reds that interested us. First, the same that we had at our hotel: La Petite Chapelle Rouge 2012. It was 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, and aged for at least one year in French oak barrels. For just 9€ per bottle it was just as delightful as we remembered from the hotel dinner.

Was also tasted Reserve Rouge that was 80% Syrah and 20% Cabernet, a darker and spicier wine to go with beef and fermented cheese.

Lastly, we tried their La Petite Chapelle Collection Rouge 2010 (17€) made only from very good vintages. We bought a few bottles of this in addition to La Petite Chapelle Rouge 2012. So our purchases were 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, perhaps a bit unusual in Provence where other grape varieties such as Grenache and Mourvèdre tend to dominate!


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