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Provence’s Best Kept Secret (So Why Am I Telling You?)

Our second to last week in France, Tirrell and I decided to leave Max with my mother-in-law, who visited us in Pignans, so we could have an overnight by ourselves. Tirrell had been clamoring to hike in the mountains, and found an AirBnB apartment in a place called Saorge. We knew nothing more about the village than you do from clicking that Wikipedia link. Still, it was in the Piedmont mountains, nestled between Italy and France. We were game.


We immediately fell in love with this village that cascades down the mountain. The population is only 445 — 10% of that of Pignans, yet we find it so much more charming and interesting.

Our first visit, we hiked around, admiring the town, the monastery perched on the hill, and the nature. Oh, the nature! I’ve never been in mountains so mighty.

Bon Vin et Conversation

On our way back from hour hike, we ran into Gibi, the owner of our apartment. He invited us to La Petite Epicerie, the restaurant and grocery store (which, coincidentally, Gibi used to own) at the center of town, for “une verre de vin.” What an experience. One of his friends, George, came by, and we invited him to join us for wine. The conversation — in French, bien sur — was just plain fun. We learned about the town, learned why each of them ended up staying there, learned how it took 10 years to cut a tunnel in the mountain, and how the first giant machine “was afraid” on the first day, and they had to resort to dynamite. It was a challenge, speaking so much French, but excellent practice.


A woman came up to Gibi and told him she had the brebis (sheep cheese) he’d asked for. As she prepared his chunk, I asked if she had more. She generously gave me a healthy slice for free.

“Are You Thinking What I’m Thinking?”

After we said our goodbyes for the evening, we mounted the stairs to our apartment above La Petite Epicerie. After moaning and groaning over the farm-fresh cheese, we looked at each other, smiled, and made plans to come back.


To Be Continued…

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