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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Saint Agnes: Lunch with a View

The Road up to Ste Agnes

Ste Agnes from below

Saint Agnes:  Lunch with a View!
Ste. Agnes is one of those beautiful perched villages that I read about and wanted to see two years ago but never had the time.  It’s about 20' km from Menton, France, the largest city on the French coast, immediately west of Italy.  We stay in a Village called Vence that sits in the mountains above Nice so the drive was downhill to reach the Auto Route A8.  No toll payment problems this time, we looked for the signs with the coins going into a basket!

As we began our climb up to Ste. Agnes, I could see why it’s known as the highest village in Europe. The road was the most difficult I have ever driven.  It not only included numerous curves, hills, blind corners and switchback turns, it also had bridges and stretches of highway that were only wide enough for one vehicle at a time.  It’s one of those “whoever is first in the lane wins the “right-of-way”!  Well, we made it up the 9 km mountain drive and arrived, happily finding an available parking lot just outside the village.  My first impression of the village looking up from the road was, how does one live in such an isolated place?  

Ste. Agnes is a pedestrian only village, sits 800 meters high.  The first thing we came upon was the village church.  I thought the bell-clock tower was cool, yellow against a blue sky.  As we began our walk we came upon a “Y” intersection, one high street, and one low street.  We took the low street because it looked easier for Mary Alice to walk on.

As the legend goes, Ste. Agnes was an Italian princess called Agnes who was fleeing a violent storm and had taken refuge in a cave in the village.  The original castle built there goes back to 1180.  The town held a strategic position for invading Italian troops in WW1.  Today, it has been declared one of France’s “Most Beautiful Villages.”

The View 
It was getting close to lunch time and in our wanderings we found the restaurant, Le Saint-Yves of Ste. Agnes.  We had originally just wanted coffee but watching the waiter carrying plates of food made us hungry.  I was not anxious to make the drive back down just yet.  We found a table on the terrace with a view like nothing else.  From there you can see the Mediterranean, mountains, valley and a distant village. We were given the menu which offered three course lunches, appetizer, entrée, and dessert. 

Le Menu (note the drawing of the wild boar at the bottom, should have been a hint!)
We, or rather MA, began talking to the two couples seated next to us.  They were eating a roast dish and it looked delicious.  We learned that they were from Paris and vacationing in Provence.  They suggested we try the sanglier. MA dug out her I-phone’s French dictionary and discovered sanglier is wild boar!  She is not a wild game eater so instead, we ordered “catcher’s mitt” flank steak. It’s a knick-name I’ve given to some of the beef steaks we’ve had. 

All that being said, the first course, appetizer, was a mushroom pate served with bread.  I thought it was ok. After realizing it was not goose live pate, MA tried it too.  My friend, the terrace kitty, loved it as well as bites of the catcher’s mitt steak.

We finished lunch, took a few pictures, bought some souvenirs and headed downhill.  

We decided to go back to Vence from the Var River road instead of the A8.  So we headed north following the Route de Grenoble, turning across the Var River and on up another mountain.  We saw several villages I would like to explore next time. 

We decided to stop at the last one before Vence, Sainte Jeannet.  This was almost a disaster.  I decided to drive in as far as I could to keep MA from walking up hill.  We found ourselves in a village with hairpin curves, blind intersections and streets so narrow I didn’t think I could made a left or right turn.  MA thought we were “boxed in” for life! Maybe they had “smart cars” in mind when they were built hundreds of years ago, but certainly not our four-door sedan. MA had to get out, get directions from the driver behind us and guide me inch by inch through two intersections.  To top it all off, there were cars behind us waiting for me to figure things out.  I managed the corners and made it back down to the main street.  I will not do that again!  I will not do that again! No way will I do that again! 

Back in Vence, Mary Alice wanted to get to a WiFi zone so we walked down to the garden plaza and the tourist office.  She played her “Words with Friends” and got her crossword puzzle started and we made the five block walk back to the apartment. I made spaghetti for supper, some of the best I’ve ever made and we called it a day.

One of the passageways we found in Ste Agnes
Menton from the road down from Ste Agnes (never saw it going up)

1 comment:

  1. You still must go to Ez. We spent two weeks on the Cote D'Azur and found a wine shop where you just bring your clean bottles in and filled them up. Reasonable. Great food, great food, great people. Have fun.


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