Aspremont, Castagniers and a monastery

Two Solitaires in a park outside the village of Levens in south of France

Aspremont, Castagniers and a monastery
Two Solitaires outside Levens, Nice countryside, France

Photography, oil, chocolate, etc.

There was a lot of things and places to do and see yesterday because the plans were set for Cascade de Gairaut in upper Nice, Castagniers and its abbey, Aspremont and, as usual, everything in between. Leaving early, as usual, help avoid traffic jam and also "get there" on time for some good light. Between mountains sun rays take a little while before reaching the valley or areas normally in the shadow until 10am. This gives a small margin for reaching destination. Before leaving home I knew today would bring photo opportunities, coffee, lunch, laughing and joking, heat, olive oil and chocolate. Great plan anyways!

A cascade in Nice?

It was my second time at Cascade de Gairaut (More about Cascade de Gairaut can be found on Wikipedia here). I had been there for the photo shoot of a wedding a couple years ago. I remember it was a beautiful day and we spent a lot of time there with the groom and bride, and all their friends and family, taking photos of everyone in front of the cascade. And quite a lot of shots on the other side of the small road, where the view on Nice is spectacular, as well as on the mountains and the Mediterranean Sea. In fact the weather I had yesterday was about the same we had for the wedding, although it was later in the afternoon. Still, the same blue sky, the same light (from a different angle) and the same clear view on the city and sea. However, this time it was all about.. the cascade itself. :-) Many people don't know about this place and I think it's worth visiting.

The site commemorates the entry point in Nice for the waters from the Vésubie canal and has been a very popular touristic site for many years. The site registered for classification 2001. Chapelle Saint-Sauveur, founded in 1441 by Antoine de Brandis, is located at the end of the short road and is certainly worth visiting too. It's a classified monument since June 25th, 1951.


The next step was Aspremont (More about Aspremont can be found on Wikipedia here). A quiet and well maintained village at about 10 km from Nice and accessible through "Route de Nice" (M414). What struck me the most is how clean and renovated the village is. All the houses are beautiful, well painted and decorated, the pavement is like new and I also noticed quite a few undergoing renovations. My guess is that its proximity from Nice makes it a great choice for home buyers and investors. I checked the population statistics and the number of inhabitants almost grew by a factor of 5X between 1962 and 2010. That's a lot.


Castagniers was our next destination for the day, but we decided to head directly to the Abbey of Notre-Dame de la Paix before lunch (The community at Notre-Dame de la Paix is of "cistercian", the same found on Îles de Lérins (Saint-Honorat), which is also know for its wine production (white, rose & red) and a variety of authentic products). The abbey is known for the olive oil, chocolate and other goodies they produce on a very peaceful and beautiful parcel. To bad news for us: the boutique was closed when we arrive. BUT, a star is above us and some members of the community saw us through the window and opened the door to us, extending their business ours just for us.. Very kind people, great conversations and certainly delicious things in our bags to bring back home. The olive oil produced locally, is unfiltered and particularly got my attention. That and dark chocolate bars! :-) Amen.

If you go there I suggest you take your time and walk around the property, at least in areas where the public is allowed. The cypresses are especially imposing on both sides of the narrow road bringing you down to the abbey. Fruit trees and flowers can be found everywhere in a nice and cosy setting in the nature. Finally, just there is a small chapel right beside the boutique and abbey's main entrance.

I have nothing to report on Castagniers itself because we finally decided to leave the abbey and opted for a "sure bet" for lunch: Levens.


Levens (More about Levens can be found on Wikipedia here) is certainly the largest village we had today and we didn't have any problem finding a place to eat. Well deserved after hours of shooting. Photography is a tough job, isn't it? To my surprise Levens has a long history and well known people came from there over the centuries. Inscriptions from the first century testify of the roman presence in Levens. After 1792, lieutenant-colonel André Masséna became Marechal de France, Duc de Rivoli and Prince d'Essling. In 1860, Nice became a "French city" and François Malausséna (also from Levens) was the first mayor.

Well deserved success

During my visit I almost bypassed something interesting and, thanks to my friend Muriel, I could step back and visit La Maison du Portal where sculptor Jean-Pierre Augier exhibits his work. This is a must if you go to Levens. Augier's work is described by 4 virtues: grace, movement, tenderness and humour. He uses old tools and iron pieces and turns them into characters or animals on the move. Check his website for more details and to get an idea of what he produces.

What’s in my 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
  • Glasses
  • Apple iPhone 5

The picture above was taken just outside Levens at the south end of the village. I had a warm feeling of freedom when I got there. That's the kind of place I love to find myself for thinking and at that specific moment I thought it would be amazing to sit there and write down my thoughts and ideas about life, projects, past, present and future. There is a lot of emotion in this photograph and that's why I wanted to share it with you.

You can find the whole picture set on my website.

Good Light!


© Normand Primeau