Barcelonnette (Ubaye Valley)
September 15, 2007
(September 12, 13 2007) We had heard about the town of Barcelonnette in the context of its history with Mexico. At the beginning of the 19th century, two brothers left the family textile mill and headed to Louisiana and then to Mexico, where they opened a fabric store.
The emigres prospered and more French came from the Ubaye region until they had more than 100 fabric stores in Mexico.WWI saw many of the emigres return to fight for France, and most returned to their native soil by the 1950’s and built sumptuous villas in Barcelonnette and Jausiers.
As it turns out, Barcelonnette itself isn’t that “Mexican” as we had heard, but is a charming town and the drive alone is worth it. Our route was charted at www.viamichelin.com, with a scenic drive in mind. Once on the D2205, the drive became spectacular. There are beautiful views along the Tinée, rolling farm valleys and almost “Swiss” style A-frame houses. Near Saint-Étienne-de-Tinée, we turned to the D64, sign-posted as the highest road in Europe.Arriving along it through the Parc Mercantour, we saw waterfalls, mountains, and finally climbed above the tree line at Col de Restefond at 2802 meters.From there the road descends to Jausiers where we turned on D900 to drive the few kilometers into Barcelonnette, which is itself at 1100 meters. We parked in the central town lot and walked around, stopping at le Patio for a light lunch on their pretty terrace.A few shops sold Mexican souvenirs but there was no other sign o the Mexican influence we had expected. The town is interesting, however, because at the end of any street you look up there is a mountain looming in the background.Our hotel in Jausiers, called Villa Morelia (www.villa-morelia.com ), is housed in one of the villas built by one of the returning sons. When Marie-Christine and Robert Boudard bought it seven years ago, it had been abandoned for 20 years. They spent the next several years restoring it, and now are at a point where they are actually turning a profit there.We ate in their one-star restaurant, comprised of two small and charming dining rooms. There is only a tasting menu of five courses at 58€ which changes daily. We added the wine tasting at 39€ and enjoyed a nice meal, highlighted by the vegetables that garnished most courses.Up early we began our drive back to Barcelonnette and turned on the D908 and over the Col d’Allos, and into Colmars. At St. André-les-Alpes, we were back on the 2202. We stopped at Enrevaux and walked over the drawbridge into the old town, and then at Puget-Théniers where we had a simple lunch overlooking the river Roudoule at Café Coste.Another time we will eat at Edelweiss, a simple but proper restaurant that offered, among others, an interesting-sounding dish of dried foie gras, not too surprising in an area known for its dried meats.
After lunch we had only 58 kilometers to Nice, much of it along the Var and quite scenic.