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Colmars-les-Alpes: Les Transhumances

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Reviewed by: Kaydee from TN, review #914

When: February 2005

Small B&B on a hilltop farm outside the village of Colmars-les-Alpes in Les Alpes de Haut-Provence. Great experience-- especially the optional evening meal.

Les Transhumances is a rustic chambre d’hôtes (B&B) perched on a hilltop outside the walled village of Colmars-les-Alpes in Les Alpes de Haute-Provence. Our family of three stayed for four nights when we came to ski at the nearby Val d’Allos.

Madame and Monsieur Barbaroux have a small mountain farm and offer three B&B rooms and also two gîtes ruraux (rural self-catering apartments) in their large 19th century home. They are an extremely helpful couple who speak a little English. Monsieur Barbaroux grew up in this house, though he moved away for many years. His brother is a sheep farmer who brings his sheep up every summer to graze in the fields above the property.

The name “Les Transhumances” relates to the practice of bringing sheep between southern Provence and the mountains each year with the change of seasons. Sheep herders once drove the sheep on foot through the various villages along the way. Now the sheep are transported by truck. The Barbarouxs had a friendly dog that our daughter enjoyed.

The rooms are clean and simple — quite rustic. Our room was “Le Laupon,” which had a double bed and a single bed. The room was quite large with an en-suite bath and a good shower. We had a beautiful view of the mountains from our window. The village of Colmars—with its two castles—is very visible from the hill-top farm, though not from our room. The morning we left Monsieur showed us the other two rooms. I especially liked “Les Tours du Lac,” which was also very large with an antique double bed and a separate single bed. Best of all, this other room was in a corner with windows on two sides—lots of light and a fabulous view. I definitely recommend that future visitors try to get the corner room, though the other two were certainly adequate. We paid €77 a night for our family of three, including breakfast.

Breakfast is served family-style in the Barbarouxs’ big dining room (formerly the stable for farm animals!) and is a traditional and very simple French breakfast: a hot drink, bread and homemade jams. The Barbarouxs also offer an evening meal (le table d’hôtes) for their B&B visitors; this must be reserved 24 hours in advance. We stayed for dinner two nights and ate with the Barbarouxs and another family. The conversation was 95% in French, and we were proud of our ability to participate on a limited basis. Madame served a delicious and substantial four-course meal: apertif, entrée, main course, cheese, dessert, coffee. Wine was included. One night the main course was a cod stew and the other night it was lamb. Much of the food is grown on the Barbarouxs’ farm. The meal was €18 per person and the entire process lasted about three hours. This was a wonderful experience that I absolutely recommend to others.

Colmars is apparently more of a summer destination than a winter destination, though the ski areas at Val d’Allos were only about a 20-minute drive. My husband didn’t ski and enjoyed several hikes on trails that passed near the house. In the summer the area offers exceptional hiking, watersports, cycling, fishing, rock climbing etc. in the Haute Vallée du Verdon and in the Mercantour National Park.

There are a few restaurants in Colmars-les-Alpes and several more up the valley in Allos. Colmars also has a boulangerie, a grocery store, and a butcher shop, and there is a market two mornings a week. The village was very quiet in winter and according to Monsieur Barbaroux is much more active in the summer. In the summer a drive over the Col d’Allos to Barcelonette (a narrow, twisty road with spectacular views) would be a highlight. This road was closed for our winter visit, but we did make the drive over the pass in late October. It is not a drive for the faint of heart!

Les Transhumances is located about five minutes by car (ten minutes on foot) from Colmars-les-Alpes. However, it is up a very steep hill from the village -- 60 meters above the village at an altitude of 1300 meters. The road to the house is narrow and steep. If there is snow or ice, you must park near the bottom of the hill and walk up or ride in Monsieur’s utility vehicle. Although we were sorry not to have new snow for our skiing activities, we were glad that we had no problems with the road during our stay.

I want to emphasize that this is a very simple place run by good people. It’s not at all fancy. But if you want an economical accommodation and an authentic experience in a beautiful setting in the French Alps, I give this place a strong recommendation.

This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.

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