Abandoned in Vallée de la Tinée

Once a cosy home for a large family, this house is now one of many ruins found in Le Pra.

Abandoned in Vallée de la Tinée
Abandoned house in Le Pra, Vallée de la Tinée (France), Leica M (Typ 240), Summicron-M 28mm, f2 ASPH, 1/750 sec., f8, ISO 200

A short break in Vallée de la Tinée

It's hard to believe September is already knocking at our door. Summer has been both quiet and busy, depending on how you look at things. It's all about perception I guess. But one thing is sure, I've been going places and moving around quite a lot over the past 2-3 months and that's why I barely saw summer pass. It just happened like that. At about the same time I started to schedule photo excursions every Mondays and began to rent a co-working space in Cannes every Tuesdays. I also undertook the creation of my company which is still keeping me very busy. And it will keep me busy for at least another month before I see the light at the end of the tunnel. And hopefully it's not a train.. ;-). The tourists are gone (well, at least most of them), vacations are over, kids are back to school and everyone is shifting their minds from "relax" to "productive". But living on the French Riviera makes this shift a little less radical and I see it as an opportunity to be relax and productive at the same time. Photography is a good fit for me in these conditions and I have no plan to stop that anytime soon. Not only is there so much to discover, but the good weather allows for some additional time in the process.

But a short break is always welcome and it's important to acknowledge that and do something that's good for yourself. For me, a day in the mountain away from the noise is all I need. Nature. Fresh air. Rocks. Rivers. Hummm, turbo charging batteries. And this time again, St-Étienne de Tinée was all indicated.

St-Étienne, St-Dalmas-le-Selvage, le Pra

When I leave Saint-Paul and go to St-Étienne de Tinée, it usually means going up to Col de la Bonette. But not this time because we decided to take the dogs with us and they are not allowed at the heart of the park. And any National Park for that matter. So we set out for St-Étienne and Saint-Dalmas-le-Selvage. A restaurant had been recommended to me in the past few days in St-Étienne and we thought it would be a great opportunity to try it this time. Unfortunately there was a wedding private event and the restaurant was closed to the public. But our time spent in the village was very pleasant and relax. I've been there quite a few times now and it's always a good experience, enjoying quality time walking the streets and observing the normal life of the residents, or the visitors, bikers and hikers.

As my appetite was growing, I remembered that another restaurant was mentioned to me recently, so why not give it a try. It's only about 5 kilometers from St-Étienne and the area is very beautiful, so nothing to lose. What we found there was somewhat surprising. Let's talk about it.

You said a nice restaurant?

In fact, I thought it was a bit weird to imagine a very good restaurant in a village that is almost completely abandoned: Le Pra (Check out this site, in french, for Le Pra's history). Why would someone setup a restaurant in such a strange place? Le Pra is just before Bousieyas, the last hamlet before heading to Camp des Fourches, Col de la Bonette and its high peaks. These two hamlets were established in 1617 when several families had to leave St-Dalmas-le-Selvage for lack of resources (overpopulation). So we're talking a few centuries back. At an altitude of 1680 m, life in Le Pra was rough, especially in the winter. Yet the population reached 160 at its peak and most of the activities evolved around agriculture and breeding. In 1940, when hostilities between France and Italy began, the French authorities ordered that inhabitants living near the border (including Bousieyas and Le Pra) must be evacuated to Vallée du Var. Today, Le Pra is completely unoccupied during the winter (the road is closed until April), with only some houses occupied the rest of the year. But there is also an excellent restaurant where you can enjoy a nice (and hearty!) meal from specialities of the region. The place is called "Le Pra" and is really worth it.

I had a great photographic time in Le Pra. The ruins, the rust, old pieces of wood, the mountains, etc. I had a real blast of textures and shapes. Also, make sure to ask the key for the church at the restaurant. Not so many people know about it but it's very special and you have to see it. Everything is so grey in Le Pra, getting inside the church makes you go wow! It's so old and deteriorating, yet surprisingly colourful. It's a big contrast and I was really impressed by what I saw there. Looking at the village, you would never expect to find a church like that, with all the painting, furniture, lamps, etc. I don't know if they still have celebrations there from time to time (special occasions) but I suspect they do. Anyways, you have to see this. Just in case you can't visit, I have included some photo in the series. Check them out at here

What’s in the bag

  • Leica M (Typ 240) + spare batteries x 2
  • Summicron-M 28mm, f2 ASPH
  • Summilux-M 50mm, f1.4 ASPH
  • Summicron-M 75mm, f1.2 ASPH
  • Olympus VF-2 Electronic View Finder
  • Sony RX100 + spare batteries x2
  • 64GB Sandisk Extreme Pro SD cards x 3
  • Lens cloth & brush
  • Glasses
  • Apple iPhone 5
  • Leatherman Flair multitools
  • Fenix PD22 flashlight

The picture above was shot in Le Pra. It shows an old house that was left there as a ruin. I like ruins because they ignite in me a need to find out more about the past. I'm always wondering how things where at the peak of their existence, how people were living, what they were doing, how and why they were doing things. Winter months were rough in Le Pra and it must have been quite a challenge to stay there all year long, knowing the equipment and infrastructure were pretty basic centuries ago. A few houses like this one can be found in the hamlet, as if they would like to still form a small "village" in this lovely setup between the mountains.

You can find the whole picture set on my website at www.normandprimeauphoto.com

Good Light!


© Normand Primeau