Honey strawberries

Honey strawberries

The following healthy but melt-in-mouth dessert is quick to assemble. It is essential that you use the best ingredients: tasty local strawberries and good quality honey.

Here in Nice I use Provençal lavender honey, miel de lavande, from Manosque, they export to several European countries). I use local strawberries from Carros which are in season from April to mid- June. I use fromage blanc 0% fat, French soft cheese. Elsewhere this can be substituted with Italian mascarpone.

2 servings

2 heaped tbsp. fromage blanc 0% fat or mascarpone
About 250 g local strawberries in season
1 heaped tbsp. good quality honey
1 vanilla pod
Dark chocolate shavings

Place the honey in a small saucepan. Cut the vanilla pod in half, then lengthwise. With a small sharp knife scrape the seeds into the honey, then place the vanilla pod in the saucepan. Infuse by warming very gently.

Meanwhile wash, dry and half the strawberries. Save a few small ones for decoration. Place one heaped tbsp. fromage blanc or mascarpone in the centre of the plates. Arrange the strawberries on top and around the cheese. Sprinkle with the infused honey and decorate with vanilla pods and dark chocolate shavings.


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Queyras: Pic Caramantran 3025 m

The village of St-Véran (2040m) in the Queyras Regional Park is said to be the highest village in Europe. Obviously there are higher settlements, notably ski resorts but perhaps they do not have a village status.

St-Véran is known of its high wooden houses with attic balconies as well as several sundials. In winter, it forms a ski resort together with neighbouring Molines-en-Queyras. Situated in the heart of Queyras, St-Véran is a very popular hiking centre in summer. The GR58 long-distance trail (Tour of Queyras) goes through the village. The ascent to Pic Caramantran (3025m) is the easiest 3000+ summit that we have done so far.

From the village, we took the shuttle bus to the parking (2340m) just below the Chapelle de Clausis. The navette was mandatory (unless you prefer to walk!) in July and August as no private vehicles were allowed on this ca 5 km long dirt road. From the parking, we walked a bit towards the chapel, and located the GR58 trail. We started ascending east towards Col de Chamoussière (2884m). GR58 is well marked and signposted. Once at the col, we saw a lot of hikers climbing from the opposite direction namely from Col Agnel (2744 m) from the D205 road, hence having an especially easy ascent. Our goal, Pic Caramantran was looming above. We took the well visible trail to the summit. At the same time, the weather was deteriorating. Dense clouds rose from east preventing the views, in particular towards Mont Viso (3841m). We nevertheless reached the summit after a 35 min ascent from Col de Chamoussière. At least we could see Le Pain de Sucre (3208m) and the neighbouring Pic d’Asti (3220m) between the clouds.

From the summit, we initially decided to descend along the same trail because distant thunder was heard from the Italian side. Further down, we forked left from GR58 at about 2700m altitude and headed south towards Refuge de la Blanche (2499m). You could walk almost anywhere on a soft alpine meadow, we just had to mind the marmot potholes and some wet areas.

At the refuge, we had coffee and blueberry tart. From here, we headed back towards Chapelle de Clausis. There were many trails used by hikers, mules and donkeys. From the chapel, we descended to the parking, and took the shuttle bus back to St-Véran.

Hiking time: 5h

Ascent: 700m


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Baisse de Druos: Snow and chamois in July

Just before mid-July, snow and hail fell over Isola2000 mountain resort. We made the hike from the village to Baisse de Druos(2628m) after two sunny days, and patches of snow were still visible in the terrain, and even on the trail in places as you climbed higher.

This is a beautiful and a very popular hike.  In spite of its popularity, you have a good chance to spot chamois, especially early in the morning and late afternoon.

From Isola Village (870 m) in the Tinée Valley we followed the sinuous road up to Isola2000, and located Hotel Diva (2070 m) in the upper part of the village where the trailhead of our hike was at signpost #90.

The itinerary described in the randoxygène guide first went to signpost #90a (about 300m), then forked left to the Terre Rouge Lakes where the path climbed steeply in the woods to signpost #91 near a ski run that looked more like a wide dirt track in summer. We opted to walk a bit further passing some new chalets, then forked left and climbed next to a grassy ski run, soon reaching the same crossroads at #91. A small detour but perhaps an easier start. From this point, we followed the trail to the lakes and Baisse de Druos in most beautiful surroundings, no ski lifts were in sight anymore! We reached The Terre Rouge Lakes soon after signpost #92. These lakes seemed to be popular picnic spots. We, however, continued along a good trail to signpost #93 where we forked right and ascended towards Baisse de Druos. From the mountain pass, the trail descended to Italy and the Valscura Lakes. If you want a more demanding adventure in an alpine environment, consider conquering Mont Malivern (2938 m) north of Baisse de Druos (2 hours extra).

We returned along the same trail to Isola2000. Several chamois were spotted on the way back, and were captured in our video footage.

Total hiking time: 4h

Total ascent: 600 m

IGN map: Haute Tinée 2 3640 ET


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Green spaghetti with beef skewers

Green spaghetti with beef skewers

This easy and quick pasta dinner is super in spring and summer when fresh basil is available, the grill season starts, and you don’t want to spend hours in the kitchen. The soft and round tastes of avocado, parmesan and some crème fraîche go very well with beef.

 I have chosen ready-made beef skewers from our supermarket in Nice. These have been consistently of good value and make the dinner even quicker to prepare. But if you wish to assemble you beef skewers yourself, it won’t require much time.

Good avocados are not easy to find these days. They are often either hard and tasteless or already dark and mushy inside. If you have to discard the avocado, it can be replaced by 2 tbsp. olive oil.

2 servings

1 avocado
½ clove garlic, minced
½ bunch basil leaves
2 tbsp. crème fraîche, 15% fat
About 6 tbsp. grated parmesan
2 tbsp. olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper

Whole wheat spaghetti for 2 servings

A package of 4 beef skewers
1 tbsp. butter and 1 tbsp. rapeseed oil, huile de Colza, for the grill pan.

First make the cold green spaghetti sauce. Wash and dry the basil leaves. Peel the avocado, remove the stone and cut into chunks. Grate about 6 tbsp. parmesan and crush ½ clove garlic. Place the avocado chunks, minced garlic, basil leaves crème fraîche, grated parmesan, olive oil and some black pepper in a blender and mix until smooth. Pour the mixture into a large dish.

Cook 2 servings whole wheat spaghetti and set the casserole aside.

Meanwhile place the butter and rapeseed oil in the grill pan and heat it over high heat. Quickly fry the beef skewers on all sides. Set the grill pan aside. If you want to barbecue the skewers, have the barbecue ready at the same time as the spaghetti is cooked and then quickly grill the skewers.

Mix the cooked spaghetti with the green sauce in the dish. Divide the spaghetti in bowls and place two beef skewers on top. Grind over some black pepper.


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Lucéram hike


Lucéram (650 m) is only 28 km from Nice. Medieval Lucéram was a fortified town at a strategic location on one of the salt roads between the Riviera and Piemont. Along these routes, the Genoese sent oil, salt and dried and salted fish north and got flour, cheese and red wine in return.
The elderly in Lucéram still speak a local dialect which is said to be Occitan with a Piemontese twist. The main church and the chapels in the village are famous for their late medieval artworks.

We started the hike called Circuit du Grand Braus from signpost #170 in the village centre and walked past the tourist office to the church. The first part of the trail is GR510 with white and red signs. After the church, the trail crosses a small tributary of the Paillon River. We ascended to Col de la Plastra (977 m), and continued from there along an unpaved road about 200 m to signpost #174. Here we forked sharply left leaving the GR510 and followed the trail now marked with yellow to Caire de Braus (1273 m). The ascent from the village to this point was almost continuous.

We then followed the ridge with excellent views down to Lucéram north passing Grand Braus (1331 m), then descended a bit to Col de l’Ablé (1149 m) where we found a perfect spot for our picnic. On the day of our hike, there was a local rally passing us on the nearby RD54.

After the break, we followed an unpaved road heading west to signpost #180. At this point, we forked left following the trail that descended rapidly first in a pine woods then passing some beautiful meadows and lime trees(tilleul) to signposts #183 and #184 before reaching Lucéram.

Total ascent: 740 m

Duration: 4 h

Map: IGN IGN 3741 ET “Vallées de la Bévéra et des Paillons”


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