Sunday, June 19, 2011

Saint Paul de Vence

This week Q found an article in the NYTimes travel section about a couple who went back to Provence for vacation forty years after having lived there. Since C is in the area, she decided to check out one of the towns that is nearby Nice, Saint Paul de Vence.

Saint Paul de Vence is a lovely fortified old city, both with a touristy area, and with a section where people actually still live. Many of the first floor apartments have been turned into a shop, restaurant, atelier (artist's space) or a gallery.

C enjoyed the afternoon walking around the town and exploring the different alleys. At every corner a picturesque old house was waiting to be photographed.  All the flowers were blooming, the sun was shining and it was a perfect day for an excursion.

After a little while, C found a true gem of a restaurant, Le Caruso. It is located just a little bit off of the main touristy area and was excellent. C's lunch included a salad with goat cheese melted over a toasted slice of bread, drizzled with balsamic vinegar, pork slices with a sauce forestiere (mushroom), rice and veggies, and finally, a little piece of heaven for dessert, "Sabayon gratine aux fraises." This simple yet tasty dessert is strawberries covered with a marscapone and cream sauce, sprinkled lightly with sugar and grilled to get just the taste of the creme brulee crust. The combination of the excellent food and very friendly waitstaff gives this restaurant a MGB rating, for Must Go Back!

Le Caruso

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Fragonard and Eze

In France this weekend we have an extra day to celebrate Pentacost. So it was the perfect time to
explore the surroundings a bit more.

The area around Nice, Provence, is well known in
France for perfume production, since flowers grow well in the moderate climate. On our 2006 trip, we visited the perfumerie Fragonard, and another visit was in order. The visit started with a guided tour of their factory. The factory here handles all of their soaps and cosmetics, while the factory in Grasse makes all of the perfumes. The colored ovals shown in the photo are soaps which are each hand-stamped into their final shape. After a perfume testing in the boutique, it was time to visit the village itself.

 Eze was first populated around 2000 BC. At some point in the 1200's, the castle (now destroyed) was built and in the 1300's a church was built, which is still standing today. The town has been maintained and is now filled with little shops, restaurants and lots of flowers.  At the very top of the hill is a garden surrounding the ruins of the castle. From this height you can see a fair amount of the riviera coastline, and on a clear day, Corsica. At several points during the visit, C asked herself "do I really live here?"

Cours Saleya and Villefranche-sur-mer

So! Having arrived in Nice just the day before, we started to explore the area. The first stop was the famous Cours Saleya flower market. Why a flower market you may ask? Because in addition to flowers, it has pretty much everything that you could want to eat and more.

Located in Vieux Nice, everyday except Monday, local producers setup their stalls to sell fruits and veggies, spices, eggs, sausages, bread, honey (made from bees that pollenated lavender fields) and jams. This is definitely C's favorite place in Nice.

After shopping, we grabbed a pissaladiere, a local specialty with bread, onions and a little sardine on top and headed to the promenade des anglais, which is the local "board walk" next to the sea to munch on our goodies. At home, we then had a feast, which started with a local melon and some prosciutto made in Corsica. So tasty.

Later on that weekend, we ventured to the small town next door, Villefranche-sur-mer. We imagine that Nice was like this town maybe 100 years ago, but now has been completely built up. In Villefranche we ate at the La Mere Germaine, a fabulous restaurant that we first discovered five years ago during our first trip to the south of France. Our table was right on the water by the little harbor and we thoroughly enjoyed our meal. Q would eat here everyday if our budget allowed! Afterwards, we went for a swim on the beach, a lovely end to the afternoon.