Jun 26th, 2012 | By | Category: Senior Travel

Seniors Discover Menton, la Perle

As you drive all along the famed southern coast of France heading into Italy, you are bound to make your last French stop in a town called Menton. It is a coastal town and resort on the Cote d’Azur very close to the French border with Italy. The combination of the sea and port, the old town, and the magnificent gardens and villas make Menton one of the most popular and vibrant destinations on the riviera – and a personal favorites for many senior European travelers. With a group of secondary students we crossed into Italy looking for a nice beach.  Finding none, we doubled back to Menton and did we ever find a great beach.

Near Perfect Weather in Menton

Due to the mountains behind the town that protect it from the cold northerly weather, Menton has a fine climate even compared with the rest of the French Riviera, and this explains the many attractive gardens that you will see as you explore.  Menton is well known for its gardens, and that makes it a popular destination for senior travelers in winter and summer.

Let’s Explore Menton

Most visits to Menton will start on the coast, which has a beach, a pleasure port and a traditional harbor to enjoy. It is a perfect place for a promenade, with views out to sea and along the coast in both directions, and a picturesque view of the tall pastel painted houses of the town and the mountains behind. There is a park area on a small peninsula on the coast that is beautifully maintained and a lovely place to stop for a rest before you set off to explore the other highlights of the town. I discovered a dialect here called Mentonasc that is currently spoken by about 10% of the population in Menton, Roquebrune, and the surrounding villages. An inhabitant of Menton, un mentonnais or un mentonasque in French, would be O mentonasc in the local dialect.

Old Town Menton

The old town, le Vieux Menton, has an active pedestrian area, with the long Rue St Michel running the length of it and the Rue Piéta joining.  It is full of shops of all sorts and terrace cafés – although the rest of the town doesn’t really lack for these amenities either. The real heart of le Vieux Menton is the Medieval style buildings grouped around the Eglise St Michel and the Chapel de Pénitents Blancs at the top of the hill. Viewed from the sea front at the east, this area has the appearance of a hilltop perched village. The streets are narrow, with long step-streets and many very colorful old buildings. Here seniors can explore the narrow streets, in particular the lively and colorful main pedestrian favored street, the cafe-lined Place aux Herbes and the steep streets that climb towards the cathedral and cemetery, with their traditional Provencal townhouses lined with shops and restaurants.

As you climb the hill you reach the principal historic monuments – the Basilica Saint-Michel and the adjacent Chapel of the White Penitents – which both front onto a small square with views out across the harbor. This baroque ensemble creates one of the highlights of your Menton visit. The market in Menton is held each day in the old town in an indoor hall, built in the 19th century. There is a very extensive range of delicious local products such as cheese, meat, fruit and vegetables creating a colorful display and many things to tempt senior visitors.

Additional Things to See and Do in Menton

TripAdvisor recommends 16 attractions not to be missed in and around Menton. The newer part of the town is also pleasant to explore, with many belle epoque villas and newer apartment blocks, various 19th century government buildings and small chapels, various parks and a broad selection of shops and cafes. Menton has won several prizes for its parks and gardens and is also a ville fleurie that is a special award given to French towns that focus on the use of flowers everywhere. Menton is famous for its gardens, including the Jardin Serre de la Madone, the Jardin botanique exotique de Menton (“Le Val Rahmeh”), the Fontana Rosa, and the Maria Serena garden.

The Parc du Pian has several olive trees that are 1000 years old. Menton prides itself on the lemon and orange groves in the surrounding hills.  Each year there is a ‘lemon festival’ in the town at the end of each winter (mid february – early march) which is a major event for the region with music, dancing and street processions including spectacles using an extraordinary number of oranges and lemons. My…that’s a lot of lemons folks.  We’ve got the Rose Bowl Parade, Rio has Mardi Gras and Menton has its very own Lemon Festival ParadeThe next one will be held Feb. 17-Mar. 03, 2013, so put that on your senior travel calendar and incorporate it into your itinerary for France.

And of course… beaches

There are nearly a dozen private beaches in Menton, where you rent deck lounges and have bar service and a handy restaurant for lunch. In spite of the many private beach areas, there are many free beaches (such as the Plage des Sablettes), and the entire beach front along the water is open to public access. The warm Mediterranean is always inviting.  The azur-blue waters still remain in my mind as I recall the first time I ever saw the Sea, it looked as if someone had poured Carter’s Bright Blue Ink in it as it radiated a heavenly deep blue everywhere. Once you arrive you will soon see why Menton is nicknamed la perle de la France (“The Pearl of France”) and you will soon see why the town’s symbol is…”a lemon.” I think that you are going to just love Menton. We sure did. jeb

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