As a child, my parents used to take my siblings and I to the South of France almost every summer. There, we’d amble along La Croissette, drinking in the sunshine and scent of coconut suncream mingled with cigarette smoke, warm croissants and coffee to a backdrop of an azure coastline dotted with neon lilos, multicoloured umbrellas and bejewelled women sipping cocktails. I know: that sounds like a cliche, but is it as true to my 80s memories as Kylie singing I Should Be So Lucky, and it imprinted a sepia-toned, idyllic image of the balmiest part of France in my memory.
Fast forward to today, and La Croisette is a dive – somewhere between a show track for speedy cars and trophy women, last time I went I lamented the loss of my childhood playground. It felt tarnished, seedy.
I was slightly (read: really quite) reluctant to spend the final yawning days of summer in the area despite fond memories, but a cousin visiting from Australia convinced me that she’d found a beautiful town on the riviera that was neither pretentious nor overly shabby, so my sister and I hopped on a plane to Nice last week and took a bus along the coastline to Menton. (The bus, at 20 euros for a single ride, is far cheaper than a taxi in that corner of the world and runs every twenty minutes or so).
Arriving late at night, we stumbled along the dark promenade gladly gulping in the salty air while on the hunt for something a little more satisfying than air. Here, we encountered the first downside of visiting an area that’s not a playground for the yacht club – nowhere was serving food aside from the Casino, where we joylessly ate some extortionate microwaved sandwiches.
The next day, everything looked quite literally sunnier – the sea and streets and sand winked at us in the sun from the balcony of the Prince de Galles hotel (which I’d highly recommend – great location, inexpensive, clean, charming, good food) , and we enjoyed a little dip and some food at one of the cafes flanking the beachfront, all of which serve simple, and delicious, French fare. I’m ashamed to say we also indulged in an inauthentic food bearing the French prefix: fries. With French mustard. Sinfully delicious.
The city centre offers more life than the beachfront, though the all-pervading sense throughout Menton is that it is on the most part a town that is frequented by locals, holidaying French couples and retirees.
On our third day, we drove to Monaco for a little taste of the high life by way of yacht watching. I’m afraid I make for a poor writer on the subject: while I’d be immensely interested in seeing the owners of the yachts embark or disembark, looking at a big, flashy metal shell – however ‘luxe’ – holds little interest for me, though I duly took pictures for those of you who are curious…
MENTON PROMENADE DU SOLEIL //
LES PARASOLS CAFE ON PROMENADE DU SOLEIL //
MENTON TOWN CENTRE //
PORT HERCULE, MONACO //
MONACO TOWN CENTRE //