Loop trail above Courmes

Viewing Puy de Tourrettes

The village of Courmes (630 m) is about 16 km from the Mediterranean as the crow flies. We have previously made good hikes from the village, such as to the nearby peaks Puy de Tourrettes and Pic de Courmettes, both over 1200 m.
On today’s hike we wanted to explore a new itinerary that also made a loop in the western part of the vast St Barnabé Plateau.

We forked left from the village parking, heading straight north towards Vallon des Combes. The path was marked yellow. Most of the signposts along the trail had old numbers compared with the new IGN hiking map of the area. For example, we started from signpost #88 which was #250 on the map.

The first stretch offered great views of the Loup River Valley. We ascended further in the woods through Vallon des Combes, came above the tree line to signpost #87a (256 on the map!), and forked left and descended a bit to a clearing named Pré Royer, where the next crossroads signpost#258 in fact had the same number as on the map. We crossed some meadows and an abandoned hut, and came to a dirt track. We turned right; now  heading northeast. At the crossroads there was a signpost placed on a rock with an unofficial signpost with names irrelevant for our planned itinerary. We were still guided by yellow markings, and climbed to little over 1000 m elevation, passing signpost #153 (map # 265), where the trail turned southeast towards St-Barnabé.

We followed the trail to the next crossroads, marked with #155 (on the map #264), showing the trail back to Courmes. Numerous other trails crisscross the St-Barnabé Plateau. We came to an oratory by the path, and descended back to signpost #87a. From this point, we took the same trail back to Courmes.
Our GPS track is shown below; signpost numbers are those on the map.

Elevation gain: 470 m

Distance: 12,3 km

Duration: 3h 35

Map: 3642 ET Vallée de l’Estéron Vallée du Loup

Saint-Barnabé loop hike track
Saint-Barnabé loop hike track


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Veal roast Mediterranean style

Veal roast Mediterranean style
Veal roast Mediterranean style 

French veal roast, rôti de veau, is tied together and surrounded by thin lard slices. These can be removed after the roast is sliced or everybody can simply remove them on their plates while eating. The latter is often the case in small French restaurants.

If you make the roast for 2 people and there are leftovers, you can make the classic Italian Vitello tonnato next day.

4 servings

About 600- 700 g veal roast, roti de veau
2 tbsp. pine nuts
1 tbsp. black olives
1 tbsp. capers or 6 large Italian capers
Olive oil
Black pepper
1 tsp. dried Provençal herbs
150 ml chicken stock
150 ml white wine
Fresh herbs

In a large heavy frying pan, brown the roast in olive oil on both sides. Preheat the oven to 200° C, roast.

Transfer the veal to a baking dish and add the pine nuts, olives, capers, black pepper and dried Provençal herbs around the meat. Pour in the chicken stock and white wine.

Roast in 200° C for 30 minutes. Then lower the temperature to 180° C and continue cooking for 20 minutes. Transfer the veal to a cutting board and slice. Divide the slices on the plates and spoon over the pine nut-olive sauce from the roasting dish.

Serve the veal with lentils and vegetables of your choice. Decorate with fresh herbs.


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Mont Arpasse

Viewing Mont Vial from Mont Arpasse
Viewing Mont Vial from Mont Arpasse

Viewing Mont Arpasse from nearby Levens, it looks more like a hill. But don’t let that impression and the elevation (695 m) deceive you! Situated above the confluence of Var and Vesubie Rivers, you have exceptional views down to both river valleys as well as the to the coast, the nearby mountains (such as Mont Vial) and of course the Mercantour peaks further away.

The village of Levens has a distinguished past; it is the birthplace of the first French mayor of Nice Francois Malaussèna and Napoleon’s Marshal André Massena spent his childhood here.

We drove to Levens along the sinuous M20 road, passing the village of Roquette-sur-Var. We turned left to Avenue Charles David, and after a few hundred meters again left to Chemin de la Môle, passing the fire station then parked soon afterwards on the right-hand side of the street. The trailhead with signpost #293 was just 100 m away.

We first ascended briefly along a wide and partly cobbled trail before descending to Vallon de l’Alborée where we crossed a small stream. We then began to climb again reaching signpost #294. There was a gate and a notice of sheep flocks. We continued south, following the trail marked yellow (and not the dirt track that also climbed up to the summit), and reached the mountaintop after about 1h 10. It was marked with signpost #295 (title picture above). We saw a sheep flock far away south of the summit, so no worries; we could make the tour as planned.

From the summit, we continued northwest then north, descending rapidly. The trail was still very good but became a bit rocky and steeper before signpost #296 so here it was good to have both good hiking shoes and poles. The trail ran under several power lines. In spite of them, we had perfect views all the time. The western flank of the mountain above Plan du Var was precipitous. At #296, we forked right to Ravin de l’Arpasse and ascended to signpost #294, completing the loop.

All signposts are visible in the map below.

Duration: 2h 45 hiking time

Distance: 7,5 km

Elevation gain: 370 m

Map: Vallée de la Bévéra TOP 25 N°o 3741 ET

Mont Arpasse trail track


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Mixed greens with cod

Mixed greens with cod
Mixed greens with cod

This recipe is inspired by a recipe of mista di verdure cotta in the wonderful cookery book “The Mediterranean Diet Cookbook” by Nancy Harmon Jenkins.

 She wrote that the dish used to be served in Roman restaurants in springtime as a first course. It would be a small portion of different cooked mixed greens dressed with olive oil and lemon juice. The Roman ladies believed in the slimming effect of the dish.

I have modified her recipe to include the best spring greens of the South of France and serve it as an accompaniment for cod or salmon.

2 servings

A handful of baby spinach leaves
8 green asparagus stems
A handful of green beans
2 spring onions
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. lemon juice
Freshly ground black pepper
2 nice pieces of cod, dos de cabillaud

In a large sauté pan, warm the olive oil over medium- low heat and gently cook the garlic.

Wash the spring onions, cut into about 3 cm long pieces and add to the sauté pan.

Wash and peel the asparagus. Discard the tough bottom ends and cut the stems about 3 cm long pieces. Microwave for about 2- 3 minutes, then add to the sauté pan.

Wash the green beans, cut into about 3 cm long pieces and microwave for about 3 minutes. Add to the sauté pan.

Wash the spinach leaves under running water and let dry on kitchen paper. Add to the sauté pan and continue sautéing for about 2 minutes until the spinach is wilted. Then add the lemon juice and black pepper and mix.

Meanwhile roast the cod pieces in 200° C for 10 minutes.

Divide the greens and cod on the plates and serve with lemon wedges.


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