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April 2009

French Riviera Restaurants: Gourmand Treats


If you've bought the Guide Michelin 2009, you've discovered a little red and white slip inserted among the book's back pages.

It's a "Pass Privilège" and it lets you in on gourmet menus with very digestible prices.

From March 9 to April 5, 2009 some 800+ restaurants participate in the program.

With a magic Pass Privilege in hand, two can feast on the restaurant's Mois Gourmand treat, typically offered for a portion of their regular menu prices. 

Who participates in the Mois Gourmand on the Western Côte d'Azur?

Here's a taste of the main participants on the western side of the French Riviera:

  • Lou Galoubet in Draguignan
  • Grain de Sel in Cogolin
  • Le Gourmandin in Le Luc
  • Eric Maio in Montauroux
  • L'Ecurie du Castellas in Ramatuelle
  • Le Bretonnière in Grimaud
  • Le Castellaras in Fayence
  • La Table d'Yves in Fayence
  • La Farigoulette in
  • La Gloire de Mon Père in Seillans
  • Le Relais des Moines in Les Arcs
  • Le Logis du Guetteur in Les Arcs
  • Le Chrissandier in Lorgues
  • La Bastide des Magnans in Vidauban
  • Les Potiers in Fréjus
  • Le Sud in St Raphael
  • La Table d'Emi in St Raphael
  • La Cave in St Raphael
  • Le Relais des Maures in Rayol-Canadel
  • Mathias Dandine in Le Lavandou

As many participate on the eastern side of the Riviera. In Nice, one we know and can highly recommend:

  • Au Rendez-Vous des Amis, Nice

but also:

  • Auberge de Madone in Peillon
  • Les Terraillers in Biot

Can you give an example of these Mois Special deals?

As an example, the charismatic Logis du Guetteur in Les Arcs (set among the interior arches of a 11C donjon in medieval Les Arcs sur Argens, Var) offers a special Mois Gourmand menu for around 25 euros until April 5, 2009. If you've missed it, check out their web site or call as they regularly offer other treats such as Plat+Dessert that are gentle on the wallet.

More info?

For more info on the Michelin Guide, see our post:

For the full listing of participating establishments, see

Wineries That Don't Vegetate

 IMG_1259Spring has sprung and so will cork bottle stoppers, this weekend at the Château Sainte-Roseline vineyard in La Motte, Var, France. 

As with a growing number of wineries in France, Château Sainte-Roseline runs busy year-round by hosting celebrations & seminars at the Domaine. In the Fall, the château celebrated the vengandes; in the Winter, they showed-off local specialités du terroir such as truffles, for example. It's a nifty way to rally potential customers around the Château's Côte de Provence wines while supporting local arts and crafts.

SteRoselineWines2This Sunday, Mars 29, 2009, it's the Spring that's being celebrated at Sainte-Roseline's Journée Printanière. Cork stoppers will exit bottles as mini-conferences will be held around the theme of local vegetables. We'll be treated to a visit of the vineyard's own veggie patch, guided by Mr Roget, an avid gardener.

 We'll also have a chance to talk honey with local beekeeper Mr Commencas.

And for the main course... Gui Gedda and his daughter Mireille will concoct a Velouté of Topinambours (Jerusalem Artichoke) with foie gras at 11:30AM and, for the sweet-toothed, a Light Strawberry Torte at 3PM.

Attendance is free, but you need to reserve on location for the Gedda cooking show. A scrumptious Provençal lunch will be served to those who reserved before Wed, March 24.

At 50 euros a piece, I can't afford lunch on the premises. But I'll try to snatch a recipe from Gui and experiment in the kitchen...

By the way, Guy Gedda, known in France as the Pope of Provençal Cuisine, has written a few excellent cookbooks, among which this Provençal Cuisine Cookbook:

Boulouris: La Tortue Reopens

Plage de La Tortue, Boulouris
The Tortue beach side restaurant in Boulouris (between St Raphael and Agay, French Riviera) reopens this Friday, March 27, 2009. It closed after being pounded on by an unusual series of winter storms.

This winter, howling winds stirred up the sea with waves that rose as high as 6 meters. We witnessed the destruction of beach-side constructions from St Tropez to Cannes. See this article for details. Most of the coastline is back in spiffy shape - winter has been erased.

We had previously written about the Tortue Restaurant. The seafood restaurant opens every day from March until October. Decent food and prices, and excellent site. Phone: 04 94 83 60 50.
Plage de la Tortue

French Riviera: Whether to Weather

BeachLapTop Here are the two most common questions we hear on the French Riviera, especially in early Spring:

  1. What will the weather be like?
  2. Will it be warm enough for us to swim in <your-chosen-town> on the Côte d'Azur in <your-chosen> time to visit?

Here's the most annoying answer: it depends.

The fact is that, aside from Summer when it's reliably warm to hot, Spring, Fall and Winter weather n'en fait qu'a sa tête. It's warmer on average than in Brittany, Normandy or Paris. But it varies. Yesterday, we froze our butts. Today, sunshine.

And it also depends on your definition of warm and warm enough to swim. I swim in the sea from May, sometimes even April all the way to October. Some people swim year-round.

To help you gauge your chances of "warm enough", here's a nifty chart I found courtesy of the Golfe de St Tropez tourism association. It shows average water and air temperatures by month of the year and number of sunny days. I've not double checked with weather stats, but they seem spot on with our experience. Click on it to enlarge.


Esterel Hiking: l'Esquine

Esquine, Esterel

While hiking around the Esquine (in Provençal language, it means spine or back) hill, we met a couple from the Vosges region of France. They mentioned how well marked hiking trails are in the Vosges.

Not the case on the western side of the French Riviera. The Var counts a huge number of footpaths, and most lack markings.

The Esquine Hike, Estérel

So here's a description of a new Estérel hike, the Esquine hike close to Fréjus. It's short (6 km) enough for a couple of hours. It loops along the wide sandy trail of the Esquine, touches on the GR51 and then heads back toward the Auriasque hill. On a clear day, views extend from the Estérel to the pre-Alpes behind Grasse all the way to the Aix en Provence's Sainte-Victoire mountain. And if you're up to it, you can even stretch it all the way to the Malpasset dam.

Our loop runs for 6 km, although the paths continue on of course so you can go as far as desired.

Map of its starting point:

Click to View Google Map

  • Park at the Col de l'Auriasque and walk toward the H75 Cante-Perdrix fire road. H79_Footpath
  • Instead of heading up the H75, make a right onto the small sinuous dirt path that drops down to join the FRJ-14 green water cistern.
  • Go right onto the H79, Piste de l'Esquine.
  • At the FRJ-06 water cistern, turn left and head down on the H80 Route Forestière du Balcon de l'Esquine.
  • At the next intersection with a hairpin turn, make a sharp left.
  • You may not spot them easily, but about 200 meters before the next intersection, on your right, 3 or 4 millstones were extracted from the flat rocks along the trail. These are similar to those found by Bagnols-en-Forêt by the Col du Coucou (an excellent hiking spot when not too hot.)
  • At the next Y intersection, go left and walk over a little bridge before you begin to head up.
  • At the FRJ-21 cistern, go left. You'll be walking by the ruins of an old charcoal mine before you reach the FRJ-14 cistern and the parking lot.

The Western side of the French Riviera may not have the best sign posts for ramblers, but we're thankful its many large water cistern.

Nice-Menton Bus Line 100

Both train and buses frequently run the coastal route from Nice to Menton. On occasion, buses (and of course cars too) find themselves clogged in traffic or, on rarer occasion, re-routed.

Such is the case on the Basse Corniche road this week. From March 9 to 13, 2009, the tunnel between Eze bord-de-mer and Cap d'Ail called Tunnel du Cap Estel is closed to traffic for maintenance work.

During this week, our beloved bus 100 that runs along the Basse Corniche road to link Nice to Menton, will hook up with the Moyenne Corniche road above for part of its trip.

The tunnel du Cap d'Estel will reopen at the end of this week.

View Larger Map

Picasso in Antibes

Antibes, Musée Picasso

"Every act of creation is first an act of destruction." - Picasso

In the summer of 2008, the Château Grimaldi in Antibes reopened its doors to the public after a long period of renovation.

Built in the 12C on the site of the ancient Greek town of Antipolis and the site of a  Roman castrum, it was the residence of medieval bishops until it turned to the hands of the Grimaldi family in the 16C. The municipality of Antibes bought the castle in 1925 and made it a museum, the Grimaldi Museum.

 "Give me a museum and I'll fill it."                                   

It's in 1946 that Pablo Picasso settled in the Grimaldi Museum for a couple of months and set off to work. He donated to the museum what he produced while in situ at the castle and some additional works: 23 paintings and 78 ceramics he made in Vallauris in 1948. More donations and purchases trickled in over the years. Today, the museum and its 2 floors brim with Picasso's expressions.

"Inspiration exists, but it has to find us working."              

His art work during that period appears light, airy. The year 1946 was a hopeful, optimistic one for Picasso: World War II was over and Picasso was in a new relationship with young painter Françoise Gilot.

It's in 1946 that Picasso drew his famous goat "La Chèvre" with its rounded belly, droopy eyes and contented look. More famous yet and imprinted with happiness is the larger than life painting "La Joie de Vivre". Painting "Ulysses et les Sirènes" spreads across a wall, in blue and green where the wind and waves dance. 

"It is your work in life that is the ultimate seduction."         

Photos by Michel Sigma show Picasso at work with his muse Françoise at his side. A few lines from Paul Eluard illustrate the photos here and there.

While Picasso fills the museum as its prominent artist, Nicolas de Staël, Anna-Eva Bergman, Hans Hartung, Léger, Magnelli and Max Ernst also inhabit the place with their creations.

"Everything you can imagine is real."                                

I wish I could have snapped pictures of the museum's floor, but my camera was confiscated at the entrance desk: photos are only allowed outside.The museum's floor weaves old stones, bricks, ceramic tiles in earth tones.

Walls are covered in white paint. Tall gray french windows offer views of the Mediterranean Sea.

"All children are artists.                                                    
The problem is how to remain artists once we grow up.

The Picasso Museum is anything but an austere castle; it's an airy summer cottage where Picasso's soul floats across his many creations.

Details on Musée Picasso's opening hours: Musee Picasso Web Site

Antibes Picasso Museum Garden