Retour aux Sources

December 26, 2006

1, place Adrien Barralis, Luceram; 04 93 13 84 57

(December 24, 2006) When we ate lunch here this fall (see Below) and heard about all the crèches, we made a note on the calendar to come back and see them; and while we were at it, to eat here again.  There had been a little squib in the “Nice Matin” on Wednesday, talking about the 300 or so crèches in Luceram and mentioning that last year there had been 30,000 visitors during the month of December when they were on display.  Since Luceram is a small village, with no parking that we could remember, other than two or three places in the town center, across from the restaurant, we planned to arrive early, see the crèches and then eat lunch. 

And so we did.  The “we” this time includes our friend and Beau Rivage neighbr, Michael West. Parking proved to be easy as there were a few lots set aside up in the town, not only well-signposted but also there were well-placed men to guide us at most turns.  On the way into town we picked up a map in a chapel that served as a boutique, selling explanatory books and trinkets as well as giving away the maps. Up and down and around we walked, probably seeing a few hundred of the more than 300 crèches. Some are life-sized and some would fit in the palm of your hand. 

creche.JPGThe whole town participates in a big way, doing whatever they can for this month.  Evergreen boughs and trees with decorations abound.  Crèches appear in windows, in churches, in homes, in doorways and in what must have once been stables.  The most inventive, to us, was not a crèche at all, but a scene in a bakery at Christmas, larger than life.

Having walked the town, we were now ready for lunch at Le Retour aux Sources, exterior.JPGwhich this month is a menu at 22 €, with 4 choices of entrees, 7 plats and two desserts. Our Bandol, Domaine de l’Hermitage, 2005 (25€) came out right away, and the place began to fill up, reservations only at this busy time.  To start, Varian enjoyed the croustillant de chèvre chavignol sur saladae, with the cheese wrapped in a thin pastry; and Gary relished a tartare de saumon marine au sesame.  The lapin á la Provençale turned out to be a leg and small other piece served on corkscrew pasta with a tomato sauce. It was just OK. Gary and Michael raved about their jarres du porc rôtí á la biere, which they likened to a very lean pastrami on the bone. Needless to say, the garnish of mashed potatoes added greatly to his enjoyment.  With the meat, we drank a Lalande de Pomerol, 2001 (40€), the best wine on the list and a terrific one at that.  Dessert was a choice of various fruit tarts and a cheese plate. No surprise that Varian chose the cheese; and Michael opted for the lemon tart, and Gary took the blueberry tart. With most of the tables full, unlike our last visit, the service was fairly slow but just right for the day before Christmas.Walking back to the car, we passed lots of people, confirming the wisdom of visiting the crèches earlier rather than later.  The day was a wonderful way to get in the holiday spirit, and we truly appreciated all the work that the townspeople had put into making their town so special.                                                                             *****************************************************

(October 22, 2006) Since our guests were interested in taking a long walk, we selected one up near the Col de Turini that appeared to be about 2 ½ hours.  The drive from Nice, once we left the bit of sprawl north of town, offers some spectacular scenery.  Our route took us through L’Escarene, Luceram, and Peira Cava, winding up at the Col de Turini at 1600 meters or so, about an hour’s drive. There is a fairly decent-sized parking area at the Col, and then we started hiking.The start of this particular trail was further up the road, with a very well-marked entrance. The further we got into the trail, the less well-marked it became.  We were supposed to be walking along the crest, and we did, but there was one major wrong turn, so we backed up and took the other.  At just less than two hours from the start, we decided that we should turn around and forgo the pleasure of whatever would be at the end of the trail, if in fact we were even on the right path.

Back at the parking lot, we decided to drive to Luceram which had billed itself as a medieval village with a 15th century church. In front of the tourist office is a little square with some parking and three or four restaurants.  One seemed to stand out from the rest so we sat down at Retour aux Sources. No menu, everything a la carte, but there is quite a nice selection.

The four of us split two orders of petite friture (12€) served with a rouille, a nice dip for these perfectly fried little fish. Gary and Bill followed with a generous sized risotto special that day with gambas and cepes (16€), Pat ooh-ed and aah-ed over her ravioli dusted with white truffles (16€) and Parmesan cheese, and Varian’s grilled maigret (20€) with thyme and lavender with its crispy skin was a very interesting blend of flavors and textures.  Since all of us were quite full, the one giant profiterole (6€) fed us all. interior-5.jpg

After coffee, the chef/owner came out and chatted with us.  He has cooked as far away as Kuala Lumpur and in many closer restaurants before starting out on his own, with his brother as waiter.  It turns out that their busy season is winter because Luceram makes a big production out of their crèches for Christmas, over 400 of them in this little hilltop town.  Recently many Brits and Scandinavians have been buying old houses, at bargain prices relative to sea-view sites closer to the coast, and rehabbing them.  The town is charming and well worth a stroll.  Because we had to get back for an appointment we didn’t quite make it up to the cathedral at the top but have planned to return to see the crèches and the cathedral in December.

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