SEP 16,2015 - SEP 16,2015 (1 DAYS)
Main Attractions: Jardins Biovès, Palais de l'Europe, Prom. du Soleil, Musée Jean Cocteau - Collection Severin Wunderman, Menton Old Market, Quai Napoléon III, the Bastion Museum, Quai Gordon Bennett, Quai Bonaparte, Basilique Saint-Michel, Chapelle des Pénitents-Blancs, Cimetière du vieux Château, Menton Hotel de Ville, Hotel L'Orient.
Introduction: Menton, the little-known last stop on France's famous coast before you cross into Italy. First of all, its extraordinary setting between mountains and sea. Second, the beaches – a mix of stony and sandy, public and private – are packed in high summer, but, almost deserted - out of season. Third, its micro-climate – said to be warmer than the rest of France. Fourth, its wealth of citrus trees and exotic gardens. Menton is proud of its lemons everywhere. Shops are crammed with lemon products. Menton may not have Saint-Tropez's party people, Cannes' film stars or Monte Carlo's high rollers, but that's what makes the town so appealing. It has buckets of old-fashioned charm.
Short history: The first primitive habitation was grouped around a chateau on the hill of Pépin, west of the current town. In the 13th century the family of Puypin (Podium Pinum) bought the domain from the Genoise family of Vento and built a chateau – that gave birth to the town of Menton. Menton was acquired in 1346 by Grimaldi of Monaco, and remained in their possession until 1848, when it proclaimed itself a Ville Libre and was put under the protection of the King of Sardinia. In 1860, the town voted to become part of France.
Festivals and Events: FEB - MAR - FETE DU CITRON - Lemons Festival, parades, fireworks, fantastic experience in the middle of the winter. MAY (Each SAT) - May Musical Concerts - "Jeunes Artistes Musiciens". AUG - Festival International de Musique de Menton - Chambre Music. DEC - New Year Festival. Brocante - Flea Market: Every FRI, every second SUN - Mail du Bastion. Market days: Daily: Marché du Carei, Promenade du Maréchal Leclerc. SAT: Marché du Bastion, Quai Napoléon III.
Duration: There's enough to see and do in Menton, even for casual touring during non-festival time, that you should plan a couple of days or more. With easy access to several picturesque mountain villages, as well as the easy train connections along the coast, this would be an excellent base for a long stay. We spent, there, ONLY half a day. Our best bet - spend a SPLENDID full day in this charming town.
Orientation: in case you opt spending just half-a-day in Menton - try to choose the second half of the day. It is cooler and the sights (to the east) from the Basilica and Old Castle Cemetery to the sea are gorgeous - when the sun is on your back (west).
Start and End: Gare de Menton
Transportaion: Half-hourly trains connect the whole Riviera from Menton’s two stations; ideal for excursions to Monaco or Nice or for lunch in San-Remo, Italy. Buses run frequently between the Nice airport and Monaco and Menton. Separate bus routes connect Menton with these nearby interior towns and villages: Gorbio; Saint Agnes; Les Cabrolles; Castillon - Sospel; Castellar; Roquebrune-Cap-Martin - Beausoleil - Monaco. The Tourist / Petit Train de Menton has a 30 minute, 7 km tour of the town. Price: 6 euros; kids 3 euros.
The trains from Nice and Monaco bring us to the Gare de Menton, Avenue de la Gare opposite rue Albert 1 er. Head northeast along Avenue de la Gare, 65 m. Continue onto Avenue de la Gare
120 m, turn right onto Avenue de Verdun for 350 m and you face the Jardins Biovès, 7 Avenue de Verdun. It is a a pretty park in the middle of Avenue Boyer with a variety of flowers, shrubs, statues, and shaded benches. Located in the heart of the city opposite the Tourist Office of Menton. These gardens are named after Emile Biovès, mayor of Menton in the late nineteenth century. The night illuminations here is quite magnificent and definitely deserves a visit.
DO NOT MISS THE LEMONS FESTIVAL, every year in February. At Christmas and during the Lemon Festival , the gardens have a special decoration - wherein figurines and decorations are all constructed out of tonnes of lemons. Every year the festival is centered around another theme. In 2016 the main theme was China, Budhaa and the Far East cultures. No use coming to see these gardens between Christmas and mid February. They're all boarded up and full of workmen preparing for the Lemons Festival. The entrance, then, is under admission fee of several euros (around 10 euros !):
Palais de l'Europe, 8 Avenue Boyer is in the opposite (northern bank of the Boyer Avenue. Here resides the Office de Tourisme de Menton. A magnificent building dating back to the beginning of the century, houses an art gallery on the ground floor which is home to the best of contemporary art in this town. Open all year: Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday (10.00 - 12.00, 14.00 - 18.00). Prices:
We continue walking south-east until the end of Avenue Boyer with our face to the Casino Barrière Menton. Cross the Prom. du Soleil and approach the seashore - turning LEFT (north-east) along the Promenade du Soleil. One can wander for hours without tiring, always along this wonderful avenue decorated with sumptuous flower beds.
Walking along the promenade - this building is on your left (north):
280 m. north-east from the Casino, still on your left, is Le Royal Westminster Hotel, 28-30 Avenue Félix Faure. It is an old-fashioned hotel, but, with moderate prices and fantastic views of the sea (and sunrises or sunsets):
Here and there - Moorish-style houses along the promenade:
We walk 350 m. further north-east along the promenade du Soleil (and it changes its name to Quai de Monleon) and we see on our left the Musée Jean Cocteau - Collection Severin Wunderman, 2 Quai de Monleon. THERE ARE TWO MUSEUMS OF JEAN COCTEAU in Menton. This is the newer one (the second and the older is the Bastion Museum - see below). A terrific building. Beautiful building with extraordinary architecture. Writer (Les Enfants Terribles,1929), artist, poet, painter, designer,producer, actor, publicist and film director (drew inspiration from filmmaker René Clair) Jean Cocteau was one of the most influential creative figures in the Parisian avant-garde between the two World Wars. Jean Cocteau was born on July 5, 1889, in Maisons-Laffitte, France. He spent most of his life in Paris, where he became part of the artistic avant-garde and was known for his variety of accomplishments. Over a 50-year career, he wrote poetry, novels and plays; created illustrations, paintings and other art objects; and directed influential films, including: Le Sang d'un Poète (The Blood of a Poet), The Beauty and the Beast, Les Parents Terribles and Orpheus. He died on October 11, 1963. THe museum collection illustrates the many varied, and often extraordinary, facets of Jean Cocteau and how he used his range of artistic talents to create and design over his lifetime. OPen everyday (except of Tuesdays) 10.00 - 18.00. The ticket price of 8 euros covers entry to both museums (also entrance to the nearby older museum/branch of Cocteau):
A few steps further east along Quai de Monleon (behind the Jean Cocteau - Collection Severin Wunderman courtyard) - you find the
Menton Old Market (Marche'). A covered (disused) market. A stunning complex. A gloriously dilapidated Belle Epoque structure built in 1898 by famed local architect Adrien Rey.
We return to Jean Cocteau - Collection Severin Wunderman and continue walking eastward along Quai de Monleon. Its continuation is the Quai Napoléon III. Here is, actually, the Old Port of Menton. From the Quai Napoléon III - you can see the harbour of Menton, with the Basilica of Saint-Michel beyond:
Quai de Monleon meets Quai Napoléon III in a square and, here, stands the Bastion Museum - the second (and the older) branch of Cocteau Museum. Open everyday (except Tuesdays) 10.00 - 12.00, 14.00 - 18.00. PRice: 3 euros. The Bastion, a small 17th-c for was converted by Jean Cocteau into an exhibition place for his work, including drawings, paintings and tapestries. The building of the museum is a part of Menton walls and faces the Old Port (Bastion du Vieux Port). The Bastion is illuminated at night. The Bastion was built in the 17th century by Honoré II, Prince of Monaco. Jean Cocteau restored the bastion himself, decorating the alcoves, reception hall and outer walls with mosaics made from pebbles. The Bastion Museum opened in 1966, three years after Cocteau's death. A new exhibition of Cocteau's work is installed in the Bastion every year.
We change our direction of walking and turn northward along Quai Gordon Bennett (which continues further north as Promenade de la Mer). Both of these routes start at the Bastion Square (south) and end at the Victoria Square (north) (between the beaches of Sablettes and the Bastion). Both of these ways are under construction (summer 2015) and it is a new traffic scheme. The views to your right (east and north-east) are stunning: marvelous port/marina and the Maritime-Alps mountains in the background:
We turn left to the Menton Old Town in Quai Bonaparte, pass a small park on our left and we head westward along the elongated Place du Cap. On our right and left small shops and splendid shopping (pedestrian only) centre. Try to taste the ice-cream in Le Cafe du Vieux Port:
Turn and climb RIGHT (north) to Rue de Logettes. On your left a beautiful pottery and flowers shop:
Follow the signs of "Basilique St. Michel". On our way we pass the Place des Logettes:
Turn right and walk under the ancient arch to Rampe St.Michel - very narrow and quaint street. Here, you start a scenic ascending staircase:
From here you get a nice view to the port (Menton Vieux Port) and the Garavan beach. You can see, even, far across to Italy:
Further up (now very close to the Cathedral) - a stunning view of the shore strip with the old, persimmon and orange-colored houses in this ancient part of the town:
The ascent through the series of flights of stairs to the “Basilique Saint-Michel” is a wonderful experience. A rare jewel of Baroque art. It's a landmark on the Menton skyline and it is illuminated every night. More than 100,000 tourists come to see the site every year. Even before you see and enter the magnificent Basilica - the extensive courtyard ("parvis") which is in front of it is a unique sight. The more you ascend and approach the church - the more grandiose are the sights. There is also (on your left) a welcome fountain with drinkable water just outside the church, which you will need before continuing the climb up to the old monastery and cemetery (see below):
The "Festival de Musique de Menton" existing since 66 years, is one of the major cultural events in South of France and it takes palce on the square in front of St. Michel's Basilica. During two weeks, every August, the square becomes the main stage of the musical festival. The illumination of the church, which you can see all year, is fantastic. The view on the sea is stunning. In case of bad weather the concerts take place in the church interiors. Additionally, St Michel, Menton's own saint, is celebrated on the last Sunday of September every year:
The construction of the Basilica begun in 1640 under the reign of Honoré II, but took several centuries to be completed. The first stone was, even, laid on May 27, 1619. But because of financial difficulties it wasn't completed until year 1653. The façade was then renovated in the 19th Century adding typical decor of the period such as smooth columns with ionic and Corinthian capitals.
The church interior is beautiful in a rustic way. Inside the decoration is impressive with a vaulted painted ceiling. The numerous side chapels are also worth examination. Brochures in a variety of languages explain some about the Basilica's treasures. Absolutely amazing with special religious, serene spirit inside. Note: there is no signage giving days or times of when the church is open. You can be sure that on Sundays' mornings it is open...:
A little further on in the Place de la Conception, La Chapelle des Pénitents-Blancs (White Penitents Chapel), from the 17th century, is even more extraordinary and offers a more ornate façade : pinnacles, friezes, garlands of flowers. It was built between 1680 and 1687 in the neighborhood of the "Capitol" on land outside the walls of the medieval city and offered by the Prince Louis the 1st and the local family Monléon. It was completely renovated and transformed in year 1987:
With our face to the two churches - we turn right (without stairs) in a steep climb to the Montee du Souvenir. During our climb - turn your head backward to see the tops of our two churches (just visited):
After climbing 300 m. we see, on our right, the entrance to the Cimetière du vieux Château. The Cemetery of the old castle is just above the Basilica Saint Michel and its impressive square. There are spectacular views of Menton, the Roqueburne range of mountains, the Italian seashore and the sea from this cemetery. Opening hours: 7.00 - 20.00 MAY-SEP, 7.00 - 18.00 OCT-APR. Until the 19th century - the deads were buried in the Saint Michel Basilica and its adjacent church (or in a special site west to the Basilica square). from 1807 the land around a neglected castle on top of the hill, overlooking Menton, was acquired for the burial place of the town citizens.
From the cemetery - we take the western path/road of Traverse Montee du Souvenir:
We connect with the Rue de la Conception and descend down through several flights of stairs (passing the La Chapelle des Pénitents-Blancs on our left):
We continue in the same direction (west) along Rue de la République and on our left we see the Menton Hotel de Ville (Town Hall) (Mairie):
In the end of Rue de la Republique - Hotel L'Orient (or Grand Hotel d'Orient). If you have the chance to enter these premises - you'll see unbelievable sights of a spectacular site and complex of the Belle Epoque:
Head west on Rue de la République toward Rue Max Barel, 200 m. Slight right onto Rue Partouneaux, 280 m. Turn right onto Avenue de Verdun,
150 m. Slight left to stay on Avenue de Verdun, 25 m. Turn left onto Avenue de la Gare, 120 m. Slight right, 70 m. and we end our short visit in Menton in the GARE DE MENTON.