Menton

A holiday home has been both a blessing and handicap; I relish home-from-home comforts that include no date or time planning and easily slip into a slow pace of life but, the downside has been that our adventures have been largely limited to one particular region. The ease and speed of sale of our home in Bouisse was an unexpected surprise but now the children are grown-up, it is the right time to pack a treasure chest of memories and embrace change. We haven't visited the south east of France for many years so it has been nostalgic to re-trace steps but exciting to discover new places, so beginning at the farthest south-eastern town that is also famous for it's annual lemon festival, Menton seemed the obvious choice.

Enticingly sandwiched between Italy and Monaco, the border at the eastern edge of the town, so it was no surprise to hear the song of Italian voices enjoying late evening promenades with countless pizza restaurants and gelato bars to choose from. But, the attraction is more than the inherent ease of passage into Italy, Menton exists in a micro-climate, a few degrees warmer than other costal towns and so with the advent of the railway it became one of the first areas on the Cote d'Azur to attract wealthy Victorian visitors. This near-tropical climate and almost year around sunshine nurtures exotic gardens and the citrus trees that hang heavy with fruit during the winter months and are the star attractions at the spring time Fete du Citron.


The maze of narrow streets and passages, the terracotta roofed, yellow-ocher houses of old town are a perfect anecdote to blazing midday sunshine and likewise the beaches - some sandy and some the typical pebbles of the region though the best view vantage point was the cemetery. The bell tower of the Basilique St-Michel dominates the Menton skyline and high above on the terraced plateau is the Cimetiere du Vieus-Chateau where there are many British and American graves dating from Victorian times, offers stunning, panoramic views.


Day's quickly found their own pattern; my husband and sons' early morning cycle rides to Monaco (the train was by far easier), lazy times on the beach and day trips over the Italian border, searching in colourful markets for suppertime delicacies and of course, for fruity olive oil.


It's been many years since I visited Monaco. Then, it was as a student weighed down by a back-pack but little had changed; expensive cars and yachts remain and people watching whiles away many minutes though the Musee Oceanographique is definitely worth a visit.


However, it was the peaceful, early morning sunrise view from my bedroom window that was so very captivating.