The small town of Menton situated just a few kilometres from the Italian border is always worth a visit. It is quiet, but it has a wonderful long promenade that looks out onto the Mediterranean. The town is also wedged into a tiny strip between the base of the Alps and the sea, which means there are some fantastic views to be had in either direction – north or south. On some days, when the cloud is low, the mountains that tower above the town look as though they have faint haloes.
The natural scenery and wonderful promenade are good reasons to visit Menton at any time of year. However, at the end of February you also have the Menton Citrus Festival. I realise this may sound like a bizarre attraction, but surprisingly it does a fantastic job in bringing tourists to the town. Every year, there is a small carnival with floats decorated in oranges and lemons and a park that is full of sculptures made from oranges and lemons.
My girlfriend and I visited the Citrus festival in 2012, and were suitably impressed. We took the train and perused a series of sculptures that represented the different regions of France, the highlights of which were an Alsatian Chateau and a Parisian Metro station. Therefore, when we set off in 2013, we were expecting some big things. Sadly, the second coming of the lemons was something of a let-down.
The first problem was that we travelled by car. In itself, this was actually great as we got there in a brisk twenty minutes without having to fight for seats on the train. However, the problems began to arise when we tried to park. This is always a challenge anywhere in the Cote d'Azur. The region loves its tourists but does not like building car parks to accommodate them. Parking in Nice, Cannes and Menton is a trying affair even at the best of times. Therefore when the festival is in town, it is a pure nightmare. It took almost an hour to locate a parking space and even that was so far from the festival that it would have been almost as easy to walk directly from Nice.
After a thirty minute walk from the car to the festival, I was ready to be wowed by the sculptures. However, I was disappointed. Whereas in the previous year the sculptures had been detailed and full of imagination, this year they were really rather bland. The theme was Ju8les Verne's 80 Days Around the World and featured cities and scenes from the journey. Sadly, these were not well executed. The Statue of Liberty from New York was embarrassingly bad and Big Ben from London did not really live up to the name. There was also a bizarre display representing India with a large plastic lemon riding an elephant – which did not look much like an elephant – made of lemons.
The Menton Citrus Festival takes place every year and is certainly an interesting event. In some years, though, it is better than others. I would always advise going by train as the parking is horrid.