Weekend in The Mountains

Trip Start May 19, 2007
Trip End Sep 02, 2007

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Monday, July 9, 2007

While at work, Glenn just couldn't resist the chance to take part in an electric bicycle test, promoting green transport in the area. These were basically battery assisted bicycles and Glenn's work had sectioned off an area where you could take the bikes for a spin.

So Glenn jumped on and did a lap, quite impressed at the assistance the bike gave when climbing hills. However, Anne-Marie, the secretary of the group where Glenn works, was armed with a camera and by the afternoon, not only had the picture been posted up at work, but had been sent back to Australia with the comments of how hard Glenn was working...

On Friday night we had dinner with a work mate of Glenns in Vence. There was lots of translation necessary but lots of fun. Were again spoilt with dinner of scollops and prawns! We didn't get home until 1am so we were a bit weary when we had to get up for our drive to the mountains.

Glenn's secretary here in France invited us to stay with her at her mountain retreat in the mountains behind Nice this weekend in St Dalmas / Valdeblore.

Anne Marie has pretty much been Glenn's surrogate mum during our time here and is constantly doing things to help him out, find him the information he needs, encourage his French and give him a good kick up the bum when necessary. So we were both pretty happy about getting to spend the weekend with her in an area that we have never been to before. (Apparently a lot of locals don't even know about it even though it's only an hour away from Nice).

We set off on Saturday morning for the drive up to the mountains and couldn't believe how quickly the scenery changed. It was so beautiful and different in such a short space of time. Following the instructions Anne Marie had given us, we managed to find her town without too much hassle (apart from Christie freaking out a little at the height). The road leading up to St Dalmas rises in altitude from about 484m to 1335m high in one part.

Anne Marie called just as we were about to arrive and asked us to meet her for a coffee in town. Mmm, coffee, Glenn and Anne-Marie are both addicted to the French coffee. After recharging the coffee batteries, we grabbed our bags and then it was off to her cute little apartment overlooking the town of St Dalmas and the mountains behind. (On the way to her apartment she dropped into the bakers to tell them that Glenn would be picking up the croissants in the morning!).

She had arranged to stay in a friend's apartment for the weekend so that we could have her apartment to ourselves. The apartment was inside the old medieval part of the village which dates back to 1634. Pretty special.

She had arranged a weekend of food for us too. Firstly it was Foie Gras (Liver Pate). Something that we had been meaning to try but hadn't been able to bring ourselves to do without knowing what to get. It was pretty good too!

Then it was a cooked lunch and a siesta before a drive to the larger town in the area called St-Martin-Vesubie, first stopping for a beautiful view over St Dalmas. It was a beautiful old town although much busier and touristy than St Dalmas. It also had a medieval old town, with a little paved channel of water that runs the whole way down the steeply inclined street. Known as gargouille, this is a rare feature today.

On the way back to St Dalmas we stopped off a restaurant nearby to visit some of Anne Maries friends and have a drink with a beautiful view over the mountains. We could just imagine the atmosphere of everything being covered in snow in winter.

Glenn had seen photos of St Dalmas covered in snow and had insisted that when we visit it must have snow. Well, she provided some photos anyway.

After that it was back to Anne Marie's flat and another feast. This time Anne Marie made us some mountain cuisine - Raclettes. Melted cheese over boiled potatoes served with pickles, Italian ham and saucission (deli sausage). Though the cheese wasn't just melted, she actually had a special Raclette machine with special little pans for the cheese that went under a round grill. There was a hotplate on top to keep the potatoes warm. You took a potato, peeled it, chopped it up and then slid the cheese on top. After that you added what you liked to it from the rest of the ingredients.

After dinner we had some of Anne Marie's home made Lemoncello (mmmm...) and then it was game time. We decided to play Boggle in both French and English at once. The two languages made for a very interesting game and it was fun trying to explain some of the more slang / lesser known English words to Anne Marie (like "nag" - hmmm... you can only guess how Glenn described that one!).

Anne Marie had given Glenn the job of getting the croissants for breakfast, so the next morning we walked through the village to the boulangerie (baker) and picked it up. We had a slow breakfast enjoying the view over the mountains and then Anne Marie took us for a walk into the Bois Noir (Black Woods/Forest), just behind the town.

Along the way into the forest we came across wild cherry trees and wild strawberry plants, all full of fruit. Of course all of the cherries that would have been in normal reaching distance had already been eaten. There was a big drop off the edge of the path and it wasn't possible to walk around the tree, so Glenn had to try his hardest to get to the cherries. The strawberries were delicious, however very tiny.

Once into the forest we were surrounded by pine trees, the smell was pretty amazing and brought the memories of the pine forests of Lithuania flooding back to us.

After our walk in the forest we went back into town to pack a picnic and then we took a drive up to Le Boreon which is a really picturesque little area with a stream running through it down to an aqua blue lake which is surrounded by pine trees. As we arrived at lunch time on a Sunday the place was busy with families having picnics, flying kites and kids splashing in the water. We decided to head upstream to find a quieter spot for our picnic. We managed to find the perfect spot, with a table in the form of an old tree stump, surrounded by boulders for seats, right next to the stream. We plonked our wine and beer in the fridge (the stream), and set about another feast of foie gras, bread and saucisson.

With all of this rich French food we are both turning into little boombaladas and our clothes are starting to get a bit tight. But hey, we can eat salad when we get home. We are really enjoying the food this time around, that and we are being spoilt rotten by our friends here wanting to feed us only the best all the time! We might need some of you to meet us at the airport to roll us off the plane!

After picnic we made our way to the nearby wolf sanctuary. Due to 1000 years of hunting wolves eventually disappeared from France in 1930. Over the last 10-15 years the wolves have slowly been making there way back over the alps from Italy and now the sanctuary has been built to help the wolves survive and to give knowledge to the public. There are viewing platforms in the sanctuary to try to spot the wolves without disturbing them. We didn't have much luck at first, but we did manage to spot quite a few in the end.

Once we had finished our visit to the sanctuary we were all pretty exhausted, so it was back to the apartment for a pick me up coffee and then we made the drive back to Antibes.

(Glenn's boss from Australia would join him at work on Monday, so the coffee abuse will have to continue).
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