White fish fillet with lemon-caper sauce

White fish fillet with lemon caper sauce

Raie au Câpres, skate with lemon-caper sauce and croutons, is a typical Parisian bistro dish. The following recipe is inspired by a dish cooked on the French TV’s Télé Matin.

As we seldom find skate in our shops in Nice, I have replaced it with pollock or whiting fillets. Any thin white fish fillet, which is not so tasty in itself, is suitable for this recipe. There is plenty of taste in the lemon-caper sauce! Skate wings are normally fried in butter, but I prefer to bake thin white fish fillets gently in the oven. You cannot fail white fish fillets by baking in the oven; about ten minutes in 200° C!

2 servings

2 thin fillets of white fish, such as pollock or whiting
3 tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. capers
1 lemon, peeled and finely chopped
Freshly ground black pepper

Start by making the croutons. Preheat the oven to 200° C. Cut some bread, preferably whole wheat, into cubes and mix these with 1 tbsp. olive oil in a bowl. Line an ovenproof dish with baking paper and arrange the bread cubes in one layer on it. Bake for 5- 10 minutes until the cubes are golden. Set aside.

 Generously butter an ovenproof dish and place the fish fillets in it. Transfer to the oven and bake for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile make the lemon- caper sauce. Warm 2 tbsp. olive oil in a small casserole over low heat. Peel the lemon and cut into small cubes. Add to the casserole together with the capers, black pepper and some chopped parsley. Warm gently over low heat.

While the fish is cooking in the oven and the lemon-caper sauce is warming in the casserole, wilt some spinach in a large casserole and microwave new potatoes.

When the fish is done, divide it on the plates and pour over the lemon- caper sauce. Decorate with croutons and serve with the spinach and new potatoes.


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Walk above Saorge

Saorge seen from the Monastery

The medieval village of Saorge (510 m, 443 inhabitants in 2013) can be reached from Fontan in the Roya Valley. In ancient times, the salt route passed through Saorge. It is said that some 10000 mules travelled each year along this route towards Tende.  In 1860, Saorge became French after a referendum, then occupied by Italy during WWII, and finally annexed to France in 1947.

We parked at the entrance and walked through the village. Cars were not allowed here, but some locals used ATVs on the narrow streets. The village certainly has a special atmosphere as much of its medieval past has been preserved.  The GR52A trail actually goes through Saorge, and we followed this. We soon reached the Franciscan Monastery Notre-Dame-des-Miracles on the outskirts of the village. The good and partially cobbled trail ascended to signpost #162. Here we forked left following the trail marked with yellow towards Peiremont and signpost #433 as recommended in the guidebook (Circuit de Peiremont). We soon came near some houses, flocks of sheep and dogs that weren’t too happy about our presence. We walked back to #162 and took the GR52A trail instead. The views down to the valley were better from this trail, too. We continued to signpost #163 and a bit further to Chapelle Ste-Croix. It was closed and looked very much abandoned. Here we took a break and assessed the deteriorating weather. We decided to turn back here. Signpost #433 would have been quite near albeit 200 m higher, and the optional Col de Peiremont a bit further at 1070 m altitude.

Based on this short walk, we recommend taking the GR52A trail both ways as the views are better and the trail is good. Doing the loop via Peiremont does not add much.

Duration: 2h 30
The trail between Saorge and Chapelle Ste-Croix

Climb: 250 m (The loop would have been 360 m)

Map: IGN Vallée de la Roya 3841 OT

The Randoxygène guide


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Tête de Chien above Monaco

Tete de Chien

Tête de Chien (550 m) is a well visible landmark above Cap d’Ail and Monaco. From some angles the mountain resembles dog’s head, hence the name. A fortress was built on the summit in the 19th century, today there’s a telecom research centre (CNET).

The previous day’s weather front with rain, wind and low clouds was replaced by clear skies on the morning of our hike, and the night’s breeze had cleaned the air making the visibility unusually good.

The hike called Tour de la Tête de Chien offers magnificent views towards Cap Ferrat, Cap d’Antibes and even the St Tropez peninsula further away in the west, and Cap Martin, Menton and the Italian coastline in the east. The views down to Monaco and Beausoleil are dramatic as the they are straight below you. We were even lucky enough to see the mirage of Corsica above the horizon.

We parked at the centre of Cap d’Ail (80 m) and started ascending along a narrow street called Chemin des Mimosas. We crossed the RD 6007 road (la moyenne Corniche) at a pedestrian crossing (traffic lights), and followed a narrow street (chemin romain) before entering the trail proper. The signposts showed the itinerary, and we followed “Tour de la Tête de Chien” signs and yellow markings. On the way up, we had to cross the RD 37 road three times before heading east towards the mountain top. We passed a rock climbing wall and met a few trail runners. The trail was well maintained, climbing steadily but there were no steep or difficult parts.

After a break at the mountaintop, we continued straight north a few hundred meters along a paved road coming from La Turbie. We forked right (east) at the signpost and came to the other side of the ridge from where the trail back started. Signposts here were recently renewed. While descending, we had pretty dramatic views of the Principality below us. Even the high-rises, including the new Tour Odeon looked so small!

We descended rapidly towards Cap d‘Ail, and reached soon the first fancy villas of the Bautugan neighbourhood. We came to RD 6007, crossed it again and continued back to our starting point along the same route.

Descending from Tete de Chien

Duration: 3 h (walking time)

Climb: 500 m

Tete de Chien trail image

Map: IGN 3742 0T Nice Menton Côte d’Azur


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Chemin du Paradis above the French Riviera

Chemin du Paradis

Bar-sur-Loup (310 m), our starting point today is a rather small village on the RD2210 road above Cannes. But Bar-sur-Loup has its festivities; right now they were preparing for the Orange Festival.

Our goal, the hilltop village of Gourdon (760 m) is totally different. We think it is a bit touristic, but it is nevertheless a nice spot for lunch on a warm and sunny day. On a clear day, the views to the coast are remarkable.

We parked in Bar-sur-Loup in the parking (290 m) by the RD2210 road. From there, we climbed through the old village to the Mairie and continued to Chapel St Claude (320 m). The loop hike is called Circuit du Paradis, and we followed the signposts to Gourdon.  At the Chapel, the trail forked left (yellow signs) and started to ascend, eventually joining the GR51 trail (red and white signs). We continued north along the GR51, which at this point was wide and well maintained. After a while we crossed a small stream called Riou de Gourdon (a tributary of the Loup River) along a rather narrow iron bridge.

We soon came to the crossroads where we joined the Chemin du Paradis, continued ascending along this, walked over the Aqueduc du Foulon, a water pipe catering for the water supply of Grasse. From here, the ascent is somewhat steep all the way to Gourdon, our turning point today. We have made the ascent along Chemin du Paradis previously starting lower from Pont du Loup (about 200 m).

After lunch we descended along the same trail to the crossroads mentioned above, but now continued all the way down to the paved road near Pont du Loup, turned right (south) and walked back to Bar sur Loup (a small ascent). The signpost said 45 min but in reality it is an about 30-minute walk. You can follow this paved road all the way or fork right about 500 m before the village, following yellow marks. This route passes the graveyard and ends in the village centre.

Duration:    3h 30
The Mairie of Bar sur Loup

Vertical climb: about 550 m from the parking by the RD 2210 road

Map: IGN 3643ET “Cannes-Grasse” Côte d’Azur

Circuit du Paradis trail image


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Steak Marchand de Vin Recipe

Lately fast food has become very popular in Paris. When yet another hamburger restaurant was opened in Champs Elysees, there was a line! And a restaurateur from Barcelona has recently opened his fast food restaurant in France- with food made in Barcelona.

It seems to us that the French are forgetting their culinary classics. Steak marchand de vin is a classic French bistro recipe, and in fact fast food at its very best; fait maison from local quality ingredients!

In this video clip we show how quickly and simply it can be cooked and served with microwaved or steamed new potatoes and green beans. Anyone can cook this!

For two servings you need two nice fillet steaks, one shallot, one clove garlic, olive oil and butter, new potatoes, and about two handfuls of good quality fresh or frozen green beans. For the wine sauce you need a generous glass of red wine. Freshly ground black pepper and some fresh herbs add the final touch. For the steaks we chose tournedos, which in France come wrapped in a slice of lard. You can of course remove this on your plate. For the red wine we chose Château de Pampelonne.

First sauté the chopped shallot and minced garlic in olive oil in a small frying pan for about 10 minutes until soft. Set aside.

Wash the potatoes, top and tail the green beans if using fresh beans. Place the potatoes and green beans in their separate small microwave dishes with 1- 2 tbsp. water in each dish. Cover and microwave, about 5 minutes for the potatoes and 3-4 minutes for the beans. Set aside and keep warm.

In a heavy frying pan warm olive oil and butter over high heat. Cook the steaks for 3,5 minutes on each side for medium. Take care not to burn the steaks. After 3,5 minutes turn the steaks and pour the red wine in the pan. When the steaks are done, remove them from the frying pan and transfer on the warmed dinner plates. Cover with aluminium foil and keep warm.

Add the shallot and garlic in the bubbling red wine. Continue cooking until the wine is reduced to about half.

Pour the red wine sauce over the steaks and divide the potatoes and green beans on the plates. Grind over black pepper and decorate with fresh herbs.


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Cassis to Belvédère d'En Vau

The little fishing port of Cassis about 17 km from Marseille has long lured painters. Dufy and other Fauvist artists painted here, and later Winston Churchill used to come here to paint. Quoting a recent Elle magazine, these days Cassis is said to be popular among chic Parisian media people. FranceTV2 Telematin showed a report of the local cuisine last summer.

Cassis is also famous for its white wines. There are several small wine shops in the centre of the town selling local wines. We visited Cassis in mid-February, and many of the shops were closed. We were lucky to find one which was open, and bought wines produced by Clos d’Albizzi, Domaine des Quatre Vents and Cassis Bodin 2015.

Massif des Calanques is situated between Cassis and Marseille. Now a national park, it is best known for its several calanques, fjord-like inlets with high limestone cliffs. On a glorious and warm day, we headed from the Cassis Port to Belvédère d’En Vau, a renown viewing point. We initially followed the GR98 trail. A trail map is essential even on shorter hikes. The GR trail is marked with the usual white/red, and other trails (that are numerous in the Calanques) with different colours. But signposts are pretty much non-existent.

From the port we followed the GR signs along streets to Port-Miou where the trail proper started. We made a short detour to Point de la Cacau admiring the pine tree covered peninsula. By the trail, we heard a weird breathing sound coming from under the ground. In fact, there was a fissure in the rock as far as to the sea, and incoming swells pressed the air through this opening. It’s even marked in the hiking map and called trou souffleur.

We continued along the GR 51/98 (also a green trail #8 in the map), climbing in the woods to about 180 m altitude. Here, at a clearing we crossed a blue trail #4. We followed the GR trail west. The trail now descended abruptly to Vallon d’En Vau where the GR merged with a dirt track. We forked right (turning left would have taken us directly to the Calanque d’En Vau beach) and followed the track about 800 m before forking left leaving the wider track. The trail -still marked with both white/red and green-took as rapidly to Col de l’Oule.

From the col, a wide trail now marked blue #2 ran south directly to our goal, Belvédère d’En Vau (170 m). Calanque d’En Vau, considered by many the most picturesque of all the Calanques, was right below us.

We headed back to Col de l’Oule, and chose to take a longer inland route back following first a trail marked with brown north. The trail soon merged with a dirt track (red, #7), and we walked along it as far as to Maison Forestière. Now heading back to Cassis, we forked right and followed a red trail #7a southeast to Auberge de jeunesse. From here, we followed an unpaved track down to Port-Miou. The last part of the hike followed the streets back to Cassis Harbour.

Trail image Cassis Belvedere dEn-Vau

Duration: 5h 50

Climb: 528 m (our GPS data)

Length: 17.7 km

Map: IGN Les Calanques de Marseille à Cassis (9€50 at the Tourist Office)


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