My “Auntie” Jilly lives just below Gorbio village. She recently bought an new 24″ iMac and needed some help in migrating files between her Windows machine and the Mac over the LAN. I don’t know Mac OS X that well; I know unix like systems and Mac is a BSD derivative under the hood, but the graphical user interface and the location of things are different from those I know (OpenBSD, FreeBSD, NetBSD, Ubuntu, Debian, and Redhat) and add to the fact I use unix-like systems for servers more than a personal desktop, the differences can take some time getting used to. But I digress.

Menton road, looking
west towards Gorbio.

Gorbio lies in the hills (aka mountains) above Menton (official site) about 20 minutes drive east of Monaco. The southern Alpes come right up to the water between Nice and Italy, so most of the villages and homes are all built on the side of the mountain with views overlooking the Mediterranean sea.

It takes me about an hour from my place in Cannes to get to Jilly’s place, which is just below Gorbio village under the A8 autoroute viaduct. You might think it would be pretty noisy there, but the sound of traffic is pretty muted; the sound seems to go outwards and upwards rather than downwards, probably because the autoroute itself blocks the noise. I suppose it also helps that she’s partially deaf, so the location works out well for her.

The autoroute is a bit of an eyesore, but otherwise Jilly is in an nice location for what she does, which is run a pension, essentially a doggy hotel where the dogs have free rein of the house and fenced in garden. People who travel or need to quarantine their animals before moving countries can leave their pets with Jilly knowing that they will be loved, cared for, and have others to play with.

Menton road, below Gorbio

I left the A8 autoroute at La Turbie (official site) and drove along the Grand Corniche till I reached the D50 road just before Roquebrune village (official site). The D50 road is a narrow road that passes above Roquebrune and traverses the hilly terrain to approach Gorbio from the west. There are only two roads into Gorbio, the D50 and the road coming up from Menton on the east side.

When ever I go to visit Jilly in Gorbio, I tend to always come along the D50. I really find it a pleasant scenic drive. The mountain side is covered in evergreens and a scattering of deciduous trees. Driving along this route you really feel like you’re really isolated, despite the proximity of the coast, the autoroute, and the popular tourist towns. One thing about France is the towns are small and there is often a clear distinction between village and country side. The city of Nice is the 5th largest in France, yet it’s tiny compared to what I’m used to; Toronto, Montreal, Sydney. So everything else is just that much smaller. One minute your in a popular coastal town, next your in the Alpine highlands.

On this day, it was gloriously overcast. The clouds were just above the village at around 900 metres. It reminded me so much of being in the Swiss mountain village of Leysin, where I spent many a ski season during my teens. There the clouds often descend to envelope the village, imposing a peaceful blanket of silence. This day in Gorbio was almost the same, though the clouds wouldn’t come much lower.

The Beau Sejour
in autumn.

Jilly invited me to lunch in the village at the Beau Sejour. I love this place. It has a wonderfully delicious menu. We had a Brouilly red wine, a Farandole, which consists of a small salad surrounded by deep fried eggplant and courgette flower, Barbajuan, dried ham, and melon. For the main course I had a lovely sliced breast of duck in green pepper sauce. After came cheeses and dessert. I was obviously very very stuff by the end. If I fell down I might have rolled down the road all the way to Menton.

From the Beau Sejour dinning room, you have a beautiful view of the valley and the front terrace opens onto the village square, where you find a fountain and 300 year old oak tree. From the square you have access to the old village where can be found rustic residences and a couple of artistic stores and galleries.

Gorbio is also the part time home of Sayed Haider Raza, a contemporary Indian artist. He lives in the village half the year and the other half in Paris. His wife (buried in Gorbio) was an artist too and the work of both of them is shown at the village chateau. I hope to write about their work another time.

All in all, my time in Gorbio yesterday was glorious relaxing and pleasurable, even though I was working supposedly 🙂 I recommend it to anyone looking to get away for a day’s outing be them local to the Riviera or tourist.