We decided to pop over into Italy on Saturday for a spot of food shopping and lunch. We left later than we intended and just after the St Isidore exit we ground to a halt. There had been a major incident on the motorway – a car had burst into flames. We didn’t move for over an hour. We then crawled along for a bit as the traffic was down to a single lane. As soon as we got moving again, we took an executive decision to annul our trip to Italy, we’d go next weekend.
This is the first time we’ve been caught up in this type of incident and our thoughts went out to those who may have been injured in the incident. I then had a lightbulb moment. We weren’t too far from a restaurant which I have adjudged to be the perfect neighbourhood restaurant.
Sadly, it’s not nearby, it’s in La Turbie, a charming historic village overlooking the Principality of Monaco, which stands on a remarkable natural site offering one of the most splendid panoramas on the French Riviera. Though not yesterday when there was low-lying cloud.
We got to know the village many years ago as it’s a favourite with cyclists. There’s a water fountain on the main road on the way back from rides to Monaco/Menton and just down the road from Eze. We found the restaurant, which is next to the fountain, while we were cycling back from a particularly arduous ride where my tank was empty. The restaurant was offering a very keenly priced set lunch which included lobster salad as a starter. Sold to the female cyclist!
It’s a restaurant where you need either to have booked or arrive as soon as service starts. It’s owned by the chef from the nearby Michelin starred Hostellerie Jerome, which is in a 13th century former Cistercian monastery. The restaurant looks unprepossessing, no starched white linen tablecloths but the food is excellent – menu short and seasonal – and the small selection of wines is keenly priced. On Saturday we snagged the only remaining table for two!
I had wild mushrooms to start followed by salmon with ratatouille. Sadly, there was no room for the home-made fig sorbet and figs. My beloved had home-made ravioli followed by a tip-top steak and chips with béarnaise sauce. Replete, we had a quick wander round the town picking up some bread from the excellent bakery and patisserie a couple of doors down, before driving back over Col d’Eze.
La Turbie has an interesting history, largely on account of its geographical position. The ancient Romans built a monumental Trophy there to honour the conquests of the Emperor Augustus which originally consisted of a round tower, surrounded by Doric columns, built on a square platform bearing the names of the 44 people subdued in the Ligurian campaign. It stood 49 metres high and was topped by a giant statue of the Emperor.
It was used as a fortress in the 12th century, dismantled by Louis XIV, and was then transformed into a … stone quarry. It was subsequently restored by a generous American donor called Edward Tuck. Today all that remains is a fraction of the tower with its columns and niches which housed the statues. That said, it’s still worth a visit, as is the village itself with its charming houses, meandering walkways and spectacular views back down to the coast.