Summer is on it's way and France is getting busier with tourists from all over the globe. June is a lovely month for visiting France as it is getting warmer and is not yet heaving with tourists so you will have a more relaxed time wherever your destination.
The French markets will be full of the most wonderful fresh fruit and vegetables, fine cheeses and delicious local specialities. What better time to stock up with some of these fresh produce if you are self catering or just wanting to make a wonderful picnic lunch.
One of my absolute favourite destinations is the French Riviera! Well who can blame me - it is so fantastic and the weather glorious at this time of year. It is so splendid with it's history and culture and it is well known as being the destination for the rich and famous. However, it is also a place for the not so rich and famous!
Our destination is usually the city of Nice as it is so convenient for us to fly to Nice airport and within minutes we are in the heart of the city. You can take a taxi from the airport or a bus ride which is what we prefer as it is so inexpensive and takes only ten minutes into Nice.
There are plenty of self catering apartments or villas to rent whether you want to remain in Nice itself or if you prefer to be in the mountains or quieter villages that surround Nice. You will find some beautiful properties here at www.frenchconnections.co.uk at very reasonable prices for a fantastic holiday.
This is our preferred way of holidaying here as we like to relax and do much as the locals do - eating in the local cafes and bistros and shopping in the local markets. Of course shopping in the city itself is a total pleasure especially for women that is! I love to browse the fashion boutiques and shoe shops. Everywhere is bustling with activity yet is warm and friendly.
The best place of all in my opinion is the old town of Nice or Vieux Nice as it is known locally. Here the narrow streets are a colourful display of picturesque houses, boutiques, bistro cafes and small restaurants. I never tire of this lovely old town and walk here every day when we are holidaying in Nice.
Nice was once a part of Italy and this can be seen in the warm yellow tones of the brick work in this area. The food also has the Italian influence as can be seen with the local pasta dishes and the speciality pissaladière. The aromatic perfume of the Provencal herbs waft through the air as you walk down these narrow streets. The herbs are sold in the small shops along with many different spices and of course the large juicy black and green Provencal olives. They are fantastic for a light lunch.
Whilst shopping or browsing you can stop for a cool drink and a snack. There are so many wonderful places to eat but our favourite snack is the local socca (a local speciality which is like a pancake made with corn) washed down with a pastis. Wonderful.
For a more substantial meal in the evening the local restaurants here are fantastic. The owners are usually on hand, sometimes they are the cooks! The food is so inexpensive yet the quality fabulous.
Although many things are now a little more expensive in France than they were a few years ago, you can still buy good quality foods on a budget. You don't have to eat in the most expensive restaurants or hotels. The local produce can be bought here and they have a good butchers, bread shops and an excellent fish market. There are also some small supermarkets where you can buy most things you need. Wine is cheap and you have an excellent choice.
The Flower market at Cours Saleya is truly amazing and you will find fresh and dried flowers as well as tons of fresh fruit and vegetables all brought to Nice by the neighbouring flower and gardening marketers. Other produce such as fresh herbs and spices, sweets and candies are all delicious and you can find most things you need for a wonderful picnic.
This market area changes on a Monday to brocante market ( bric-a-brac) furniture and fabulous linens. This is one market I never miss when in Nice!
A walk up to the Calline du Chateau is pleasant and you can take a picnic lunch of French baguettes, cheese, pate and wine. This can all be bought in the old town. If you are less energetic (especially when it's a hot day) there is a lift at the bottom which takes you directly to the top. The castle is now a ruin but the views of Nice from here are breathtaking and it is well worth the effort.
If you do visit Nice in June, you can enjoy seeing the Fete de la Mer. This takes place every year as the fishermen of Nice celebrate St. Peter's Day. The festival begins with Mass in the Gesu Church and is then followed with a procession to Les Ponchettes beach which is in front of the Old Town. Once here the fishermen burn a boat in honour of their patron saint.
A walk along the famous Promenade des Anglais is a beautiful setting although there is no sandy beach as it is mostly covered in pebbles and not good for sitting! It's name was taken from the wealthy British residents who built it in the early nineteenth century. Of course the British just loved the climate! Queen Victoria came here to holiday and gave it a seal of approval. You may find the promenade quite noisy with the passing traffic especially the noise from the motor bikes! However it is the place to see and be seen. There are many restaurants along the way to stop and have a cool drink or a meal. Try to take in at least one night time view of this beautiful promenade as it is so romantic. However, never be tempted to sleep here at night as it is not the safest place to be.
About midway along the promenade you will find the famous Negresco hotel which is very imposing and has a large plastic statue standing outside the from door. It's different and in my opinion is beautiful and full of unique character.
If you enjoy museums there are several in Nice which are well worth visiting including the Musee Chagnall; Musee Matiss; Musee et site archeologiques de Cimiez with ruins of a Roman settlement; Musee d'art Moderne et d'Contemporain; Musee des Beaux - Arts.
One of the really great things about Nice is that it is ideally situated for visiting nearby towns and villages as the train service runs along the coastline along the French Riviera into Italy. So if you want a change of scenery it will only be a short train's ride away from the city. You can take a day trip to Antibes, Menton, or even to Cannes. This is another reason for visiting this beautiful city - you don't need a car!
Most self catering places have the basic kitchen equipment and you can easily create a simple and easy meal using fresh local produce.
The recipe this month is for a colourful and flavourful Summer Vegetable Tian. It is an easy recipe to make if you are self catering and is great for making good use of the local vegetable produce. It is a typical provencal recipe which is usually baked in a red clay baking dish called a tian but nowadays the contents themselves are often called a tian.
You can of course use any oven proof dish you have to hand as it will taste just as good.
Summer Vegetable Tian (Tian de Lieùme d'estiéu). Serves Four
1 large eggplant (aubergine)
2 zucchini (corgettes)
3 medium sized potatoes (no need to peel them!)
3 ripe tomatoes
1 teaspoon of provencal mixed herbs
Salt and black pepper
Wash your vegetables.
Cut the vegetables into thin slices (use a mandoline if you have one handy as it will slice very thinly).
Sprinkle a little olive oil into the bottom of your tian (or large oven proof dish)
Begin layering the vegetables in the tian starting with the onions, potatoes, eggplant, zucchini and tomatoes.
Sprinkle each layer with a little salt and black pepper and a pinch of provencal herbs.
Finish the top layer with tomatoes and sprinkle a little olive oil over the top.
Place in a hot oven and bake for about forty minutes.
This is usually eaten hot and served with beef or lamb but can also be served cold.
Try it sprinkled with parmesan and serve with pasta. Delicious.