Sunday, 5 July 2015

Summer mini break in Provence

It was great to escape to the west for a couple of days before the catering onslaught of eight hungry mountain leaders last week!

We were tempted to Chateauvallon near to Toulon to see Alonzo King ballet - Chateauvallon is a small outdoor amphitheatre in a lovely - if difficult to find! - area above Toulon.

Their programme is already available into 2016 - best to book early - OR - if you can't get tickets on line straight away - buy a loyalty card for popular tickets and pay the same price for the card and your discounted tickets - it's great value!!!!

Back to finding the venue - my own fault entirely but I had the location in my head - and was wrong!  It was quite fun - it a bit bizarre - finding ourselves in Toulon housing estates asking where the ballet was!!

Once night falls, you are given the major treat of seeing the lights of Toulon harbour twinkling below you and having a centrally heated seat - afficiandos bring cushions! but I was so captivated I didn't even notice the hardness of the stone!!  The ballet was magic - no suprise there then!!

There wasn't much chance of grabbing anything to eat on the way back to our chambre d'hote - okay it was midnight - but a bite of something would have been very welcome.

There's not a huge amount of accommodation to the North West of Toulon - crossing Toulon was not recommended as a bright option, but we stayed in a small, friendly place in Sollies, not far from Cuers and our culinary adventure at Le Verger des Freres Kouros - where the son of the lovely Christine of the Grand Chalet  completed some of his cheffie training - now wowing them with his pastries in Melbourne!

The early morning swims were much appreciated - thanks Gina and Jacques!!!!

The resto had immediately gained brownie points in their willingness to provide a veggie menu - and is astonishingly good value with a lunchtime menu for €22.  Wines about €30 a bottle.  The outside dining area is very lovely - shame the motorway is just nearby but the racket of the cicadas, and fellow guests yapping, soon covers the traffic noise.

We were well tended by one of the brothers, with more than just a passing resemblance to a certain Rowan Atkinson and a young lad waiter who was a bit bemused by my "er sorry but I don't want ham"!!!!  Mel took the €45 menu which was excellent........very high quality food at a bargain price.

Thanks so much to the guys for posing for this photograph in the kitchen (which is absolutely SPOTLESS!)............for Charles Lemai........

In the evening - we were hardly peckish - but wished to escape the high decibel apero session of our car rally enthusiast fellow guests and fell upon a very good pizza place - the Firenze - where you can choose either small, medium and large size pizzas (read "more than enough", "huge" and "vast" into that) - wood fired oven, long established family business.........nice!!!

The area was recently described as "moche" but the upside of that "moche'ness" is good value accommodation and food, and not an ex-pat in sight - we didn't hear another English voice all weekend.

Useful information

Les chambres de Gina
Le verger des Kouros
Firenze - 0494487070 -  45 avenue de la Republique - La Farlede - closed on Wednesdays and Sunday lunchtime


Thursday, 11 June 2015

Nature AND Art in the Mercantour

A very talented local photographer, Mathieu Vernerey – who has already produced a stunning book called “Les Alpes Océanes” – is creating a summer first, for the pleasure of walkers, by offering an itinerant exhibition of his photographs around four refuges in the Mercantour. 

The exhibition will start on June 13 and continue until September 24 with Mathieu’s lovely shots being visible as follows - 

Refuge - Valmasque : June                                                                               
Refuge - de Nice : July
Refuge - Madone de Fenestre : August
Refuge - la Cougourde : September       

Launch events at 14.00, 14.00, 15.00 and 14.00, respectively, on the first day of opening.

The exhibition is dedicated to Hervé Gourdel – a fellow Mercantour enthusiast who recently lost his life.  

Furthermore entries to a concurrent competition based on Mercantour refuges can also be enjoyed.

Spare a thought for the volunteers who will be transporting the 30 or so images between the refuges!

The refuges are easily accessible in day walks and of course overnight stays can be arranged on the Nice French Alpine Club site,  for the more adventurous.

Alternatively if you are quick, you might be able to stay with local accommodation and holiday provider – spacebetween – who are based in Berthemont les Bains in the Vésubie.

Please support this great effort initiative to enhance your visit to the wonderful Mercantour National Park.

If you require any further information please do not hesitate to contact Liz Lord or Mel Jones of spacebetween – they’ve lived in the area for 12 years so know their onions!

Photo credit  - Mathieu Vernerey - of course!!

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Wolves under fire in the Alpes-Maritimes

The wolf polemic continues here in the Mercantour!!

For sure on the plus side it was great news that our local wolf park has accepted three male wolves to accompany (and procreate with, one hopes) the three young female wolves.   Two of the ladies - pictured above.

The down side - and surprising - given that the winter here has been so mild, is that there have been several wolf attacks in the area, very close to villages, over the past few weeks.

The first was in Venanson where six or so of a friend's young goats had been killed; the second in Roquebilliere where the wolves had the temerity to kill two dozen sheep, in the very close proximity of the house of our local mayor.

The third strike was further south near to Pelasque, topped off with a couple of deer carcasses being found in Saint Martin Vesubie.

This had lead to much uproar from local farmers - who are fortunately (?) re-imbursed for kill losses among their beasts, and the extremists who are now suggesting that wolf cubs should be sought out and killed in their lairs.

Articles below for french readers!!!

Wolf kills 
Wolf killed by hunter

Come to see for yourself - with us spacebetween - open doors now!!!!!

Photo - Alpha wolf park