Menton: The French Riviera's Best Kept Secret
Six years ago, on my first trip to the South of France, I didn’t know that I would stumble across a place that would captivate my heart in the way that it did. Already impressed by the natural glamour of the French Riviera, from the elegant, cobbled alleyways of St. Tropez to the grand glitz of Monaco at night, only somewhere very special could rouse any further excitement. Menton really is just that special, and I have returned time and time again.
Sat right at the French-Italian border, the slow town of Menton is a pastel-dipped sight for the eyes. It may not be obvious when you first leave the train station - whilst there is a long stretch of promenade, which is aptly named the Promenade du Soleil and lined with neatly arranged tangerine coloured parasols, it looks like any other small town on the Côte d'Azur. The harbour is where it all becomes apparent. This is the prettiest town in the South of France, if not in France itself. Kissed by the sun for most of the day, the charming, panoramic bay is overlooked by dozens of colourful houses perched above one another like carefully assembled baroque Lego. The best view is met out on the quay by the vieux port.
My first thought when I walked out onto the quay and turned around was ‘wow, I need to show everyone this place’, followed shortly by next thought, ‘wow, I can never tell anybody about this place!’ I wanted to keep this treasure to myself, especially as it was the height of summer and the main beaches, Les Plages de Menton-Garavan, were almost empty. Clearly, this little town wasn’t making it onto the average French Riviera bucket list, and I felt a sense of duty to keep it that way.
Heading into the town and exploring the narrow avenues, I was instantly hit with the distinctive scent of citrus, namely lemons. I asked a local shop owner where this fragrant smell was coming from, thinking there must be a limoncello bar since we are so close to the Italian border. He looked at me and chuckled ‘Everywhere! This is the citrus town!’. I then researched to find that Menton was indeed known for its uniquely rich lemons, with a carnival in celebration of its citrus legacy, the Fête du Citron, taking place almost every year since 1933, boasting sculptures made from oranges and lemons! If you aren’t there for the festival, you can still take your blue Solana Polo Slippers on a walk in the glorious gardens of Val Rahmeh or even the Serre de la Madonne, tucked away in the hills above Menton.
So there we have it, I have reluctantly unlocked my secret place of colourful respite. Here’s hoping that you won’t tell a soul.
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