Menton, the Pearl of France
In the far corner of the French Riviera, just past Monaco and at the Italian border sits the quaint and colorful town of Menton.
Menton is known affectionately as the ‘Pearl of France’, and unlike other parts of the French Riviera, you won’t find all the flashy nightclubs and full on designer shopping here. What you will find in Menton is another type of luxury…peace.
Situated exactly halfway between Paris and Rome, the town of Menton runs at its own pace, and frankly that can be rare and satisfying thing to experience these days.
Having evolved over centuries, at one time the Menton area was part of Monaco until in 1848 when it seceded from the principality along with its neighbor Roquebrune Cap Martin.
Wondering through Menton you can definitely sense the history, which can also be seen in the various types of surrounding architecture.
It’s not unusual to one minute be walking by a modern condominium complex to then pass by a stream of grand belle époque buildings which then gently meld with the colorful homes and assorted other structures marked with the neighboring Italian influences in Old Town Menton (Vieux Menton).
Much of modern day Menton still seems to bare a British tone that you will notice in some of its architecture and monuments, and no wonder. Queen Victoria loved the area and with that at the time came plenty of others from the United Kingdom who then decided to make the town their home, proclaiming the endless sunshine was a benefit to a long and healthy life.
The people of Menton are who I think bring this town’s special appeal. I’ve always found them to be content and happy with their lives, calm and very friendly. Just step into most any shop and you will always be greeted with a smile.
Another thing Menton is known for is their tropical gardens. One doesn’t have to walk far through town to easily stumble upon a garden or park in every shape and size. In this area of France, oranges and lemons grow year round; they even have a Lemon Festival (Fête du Citron) in the streets every February honoring the fruit.
One area well worth exploring is Old Town Menton, the colors of the buildings are strong and vibrant yet would seemingly look out of place almost anywhere else in the world, the way the sun shines on the clustered homes in this part of the French Riviera really gets your imagination going.
And in between all those closely knit buildings are the winding, cobbled pedestrian paths, on first visit you might feel like you will get lost but you likely won`t and it felt like a bit of an adventure.
Another area not to miss, and although it sounds morbid, is this very intriguing and beautiful cemetery on rue du Vieux Chateau at the very top of Old Town Menton, close to the baroque basilica of Saint-Michel-Archange.
The cemetery is teaming with history and gives some of the most expansive 360 degree views towards Italy, the mountainside, and over Menton itself. You won’t believe how much time you can spend up there just taking in all the picturesque scenery.
Make your way back down the hill in the direction of Italy to the port at Quai Bonaparte. It was built by the famous emperor on 16 giant arches, it has plenty of seaside restaurants and is also an ideal area for swimming and other outdoor activities and was just completely revamped just in time for summer or a stroll any day of the year.
For those up for a brisk walk, make your way from the Italian border at the foot of Menton, keeping along the sea at the promenade towards Cap Martin where you can then walk the trail around the peninsula and into Monte-Carlo. It`s a pleasant way to get some exercise and take in the surroundings on a sunny afternoon.
What’s nice about Menton is it doesn’t have to be pre-planned. Just go. Everything one would possibly need is available for not only a day trip but also a holiday.