In our quest to get into the Christmas spirit, we recently spent a day in Lucéram, a pretty medieval hill village north of Nice and less than an hour from Lou Messugo. Why? Because it comes alive in December with its “Circuit des Crèches”. Literally every tiny alley, every balcony, every doorway and every nook and cranny is decorated with pine branches, red and gold ribbons, and nativity scenes in every conceivable shape and size. These scenes (the creches) are made out of wood, paper, glass, pinecones, traditional santons (earthenware figurines), clothes pegs, matches, wool, twigs and even bread. They come in every size from minute tucked into holes in the wall to a 10m long replica of the village and everything in between. Even the village’s numerous fountains and old wash-houses are all decked out with their own floating creches.
Once again we were treated to a gloriously sunny day, one of the best things about living on the Riviera, and one of the reasons why it’s sometimes hard to feel christmassy; the weather’s just too damn good! And thank goodness for this bright blue sky for Lucéram is reasonably low in the valley, surrounded by high hills and in the height of winter the sun doesn’t get into the narrow streets for long. Wandering around these winding steep alleyways as usual it struck me and JF just how amazing (and wonderful) it is that people still live in these ancient villages. With little natural light (OK, lovely and cool in the summer, but dark and damp in the winter) often no shops at all and no car access they are not easy places to live.
At times the lanes are only a metre or so wide and doors lower than me (I’m not tall!) We’re always amazed at the thought of furniture deliveries and once we heard the sound of a piano being played and marvelled at just how such a bulky yet delicate item could fit through the tiny doorway and up the narrow staircase. (Of course it wasn’t a digital keyboard, that just wouldn’t have been right under the circumstances!) Exploring these villages we’re constantly reminded of Vietnam, particularly Hanoi old town, where we used to live, rather than Europe. But it is this feeling of being in another place and another era, being taken back in time, that makes visiting “villages perchés” so fascinating. Children usually love discovering them, with their secret passageways, tunnels and spooky doorways, and with no traffic they make perfect places to run around and play hide and seek.
So, getting back to Lucéram, all decorated for Christmas in what was almost uniformly good taste, we explored the hundreds of different creches, climbed up high onto the ramparts, snacked on hot nutella crepes and local homemade quince jelly and really started to feel festive. To top it all off, we bought the most delicious Panetone from the boulangerie, which when we asked the baker why we should buy her Panetone (Lucéram is pretty close to Italy) she said “because it’s the best” and she wasn’t wrong.
The “Circuit des Crèches” takes place every day throughout December until 6th January.
Have you been to Lucéram? Would you like to go?