Menton is a city of flowers - and due to its mild mediterranean climate, perfumed flowers are all over - alonf the seafront promenade, in the old town, and in the several garden that can be found, either in town or in the proximity.
Some of these garden can be visited. They are: al Rahmeh Garden, Maria Serena Garden, Serre de la Madone Garden and Fontana Rosa Garden. A smaller but very central garden is the jardin du Palais Carnolès.
Les Colombières Garden and Le Clos du Peyronnet Garden are private gardens and can only be visited at some particular dates - usually in summer.
At the end of the 19th century, a few english people who were very keen on botany decided to create this garden.
From 1925 on Lord Radcliff, the governor of Malte, added plants that he had carried back from the two hemispheres to it.
In 1967, this garden became the Mediterranean Center of the
National Museum of Natural History.
This garden is more specifically enriched in the Solanaceae family plants.
It also displays exotic fruit trees.
Thanks to the exceptional climate of the Garavan area, you can find citrus fruits, Central America avocados, Topical American annonas and so many others.
Most popular and famous is the "Jardin du Val Rameh", a garden that is easily reached from the centre and offers a dazzling collection of plants and flowers. Over 700 species are collected from all over the world and growing here in a beautiful garden surrounding an old Englis mansion. In the pond the Indian Lotus flower grows and also special attention to the citrus fruite trees, such as avocado, white sapotille, guave and passionfruite.
Some other interesting gardens are:
"Jardin des Colombieres", writer and landscape architect Ferdinand Bac created this small park, which is now privat property. Tours can be made by appointment.
"Jardin des Romanciers" is around the Villa Fontana Rosa and is especially known for it's small pavillions and pergola's in a Spanish influenced place.
"Jardin de Maria Serena" offers you many palmtrees and the climatological "softest" place in France.
"Oliveraie du Pian" is actually originally a large olive tree yard with more then 500 olive trees of 100 years and older.
"Serre de la Madone en Clos du Peyronnet" is for the lover of true seldom exotic plants. Privat property, so first request entrance.
For those who do not have the time to go to one of the exquisit gardens in Menton, maybe the central park of Menton will do? "Jardin Bioves" stretches out between the Casino and along the hall of congress. In it several orange and lemon trees, as well as fountains and colourful flowerbeds everywhere. Remarkable is the statue of Volti: "Goddess with the golden fruites". the view towards the mountains is here quite spectacular.
From the beach side of Menton (or the yaught harbour) the houses rise up high and steep, as if the town is made by large colourful blocks pressed against a rocky mountain. In between the blocks stairs lead up and eventually you standon the "Parvis St-Michel" or Saint Michael's square. The square itself is a mozaik that represents still the Grimaldi-weapon (Monaco royal family). Rising high above the square are the facades of the two main churches of Menton: the "Chapelle de la Conception" and the "Basilica St-Michel-Archange" (Archangel Saint Michael). This square is magnificent and the true centre of Menton. The style surrounding you is baroque and with a lot of Italian influence.
The largest baroque church in the wide surroundings of Menton arises in front of you, when you stand in front of the Basilica of Archangel Saint Michael. To the left of the yellow-green facade stands the oldest part, dating back to the 15th century. The rest is made in the 17th and 18th century and has many Genuan styles in the baroque (such as the "Campanille" tower). The interior of the church is truely a wonder of art, or should I say "arts". Paintings, retables, sculptures and a dazzling display of colours, silver, gold and marble everywhere. The roof is painted in a wonderful way too. One can stay for hours here and discover something new every minute.
Menton streets have a very nice and cosy atmosphere. the colours of the houses, the small and various shops, the mixed Italian-French styles and people ... all add to this specific wonder for visitors. Very nice are the markets, such as the large food market near where the Promenade du Soleil meets the Quay de Monleon. Here many exotic fruits, dishes and vegetables are sold. Outside there often is a art and antique market, that only improves this warm and wonderful atmosphere.
The labyrinth that one finds in the old part of Menton is a true criss-cross of streets, alleys, going steep up and down with many stairs and pressed in between high building. The streets are shadowy and sometimes little chaotic with laundry hanging from the windows and stairs being half maintained. Still, the streets breath a very speific style and the pastel teints bring colour here and there. Sometimes a palmtree or like in the picture a huge cactus, brings nature back in the street scenery.
At the harbour stands the old bastion (fortress) that watched over the ships that anchored at Menton. It was built in the 17th century by order of the Grimaldi's (Monaco royal family). Now-a-days however it ha a complete different function as being the museum of Jean Cocteau that also worked here several years after 1957. This architect that is well known for his delicate works that decorate his remarkable buildings, has many chapels, houses and constructions along the Cote d'Azur on his name. The museum shows mozaik- and fence work, sculpturing, paintings, even a gobelin that he made himself. Quite interesting if you like his work.
Along the Boulevard du Soleil Menton has a long stretched beach, the Plages des Sablettes near the old town offer the best views. The "Sablettes" however should not be taken litteraly as sand is not available here. The gravle is fine, but still no sand. The water however clear and also for children the place is quite good, as the depth is only gradually going down.
The Marina of Menton is not like many other Cote d'Azur harbours a massive construction to house as many as possible boats in it. The Menton harbour is not that large and lays directly next to the old town that offers great restaurants, culture, history and entertainment in various ways for the sailors. Menton harbour is also a joy to walk around and dream to one day also come here by boat.
Steep the road climbs up from the outskirts of Menton. The narrow road makes it impossible for cars to pass one another so we pray that no-one is coming down at this moment. The raod leads to the monastry of " l'Annonciade" high above the town on a rock. The place was built in the 17th century and is very popular in Maria pelgrimages. From a hight of 225 meters one can enjoy the panorama, as well as the msytique of the chapel and the monastry. The gardens surrounding it are equally worth the detour.
Elegant ebble mosaics can be seen in and around Parvis Saint-Michel - St.Michel square. This square - the most impressive of all (see photo) - is paved with mosaic cobblestones in the shape of the Grimaldi coat of arms. The Grimaldi were the former ruling family of Menton and this square was created in the 17th century by Prince Honoré II; try to spot his signature (the letter H) mingled into the design.
Heading down towards the sea, following the sets of old stone staircases, you can see other simpler examples of decorative mosaic cobblestones. Each time you reach a lower level (there are three), the little squares or landings that you find there, aredecorated in a different way. To see them, click on the small photos.
Palais Carnolès, Carnoles Palace in English - is the former summer residence of the Grimaldi family of Monace-Montecarlo. It is now a museum with an interesting collection of European paintings from the Renaissance to the present day. The halls of the palace are quite impressive, too.
What I liked best about this palce is its gardens, which houses the largest collection of citrus trees in Europe... though I think that this fact is debatable. What it not debatable is the "bigarade", a strange and rare fruit known as the bitter orange, which is more or less a fruit that is a combination of a lemon and a sour orange. Statues are scattered all around the palace gardens.
One of the most unusual specimens in the garden is the variety ' Bizzaria'. In Menton this is labelled as a 'bigarade' - sour or bitter orange - although the information booklet suggests it is the variety described by Risso in 1818. If so, it would actually be a chimera of a citron and sour orange. However, on my visit in August 2002, I could see no signs of the irregular stripes shown in drawings by Risso and others.
The palace is open Wednesday to Monday, between 10 AM and midday, and 2 PM to 6 PM.