‘A Jacques Tati square,’ our walking mate Peter calls it. We know exactly what he means.
We sit outside the boulangerie in St Martin sur Vesubie with our early morning cafe and pain au chocolat and watch as the village comes to life, its characters coming and going like figures in a mechanical clock.
Nobody seems in a hurry, including us. We have several hours to kill before the bus will take us back to Nice.
It hasn’t been easy to get here. It required a knee-testing descent of over a thousand metres from Refuge de Longon to St Sauveur sur Tinee, a wait of two hours for the bus to Plan de Var, then a very uneasy wait for a second bus which arrived an hour late. ‘The French Alps run on third world timetables,’ observed someone, with a wry smile.
But eventually we made it to the popular mountain village, spent the night in the Gite d’Etape Rougiere, and now have a morning to fill in with cafe, pastry and souvenir shops.
Outside Hotel des Alpes the waiter sweeps the terrace and straightens the wicker chairs. Stallholders set up folding tables and arrange pots of honey and boxes of raspberries ready for the market. Women walk dogs. A toddler in a red baseball cap plays with the water running down the gutter in the centre of a steep cobbled street.
Fortified with the double espresso, I set off with the camera. It’s not hard to fill in a few hours.