menton, france

Menton was our second stop of the day on our (self-guided) train tour from Nice to Ventimiglia, Italy and back again and it's also the last stop for cars and trains before they cross the border from France to Italy.  When reading about Menton online, I noticed that some big statements were made about it - "the pearl of France" is apparently its nickname and it's also home to the fourth best restaurant in the world (see proof here).  Menton supposedly gives a glimpse into what life was like on the French Riviera before developers moved into places like Nice and Monte Carlo, both of which are much larger and a far cry from what we found while in Menton.  

It is true that while walking around it certainly felt different than Nice or Monte Carlo (smaller, for one), but it also didn't feel nearly as touristy, and more like a town that actual people lived in vs. a place that's just catering to loads of tourists with just some locals hanging on for dear life.  We spent about an hour and a half walking along the boardwalk by the sea, climbing up to the cemetery with grand graves and sweeping views, and making our way through narrow streets which felt more like pathways - many of them were pedestrianized.  We also checked out a few churches, one of which, the Basilique St-Michel Archange, is southern France's grandest baroque church.  A massive chandelier hangs low in the center aisle while others line the sides of the pews.  The basilica is small, but the glitz factor is definitely high - there's no mistaking that it belongs somewhere fancy like the French Riviera.  

While we definitely didn't need to devote the kind of time that we did to Monaco or Nice, there are more things to do in Menton than in some of the nearby small towns, such as a few small art museums and a garden that is supposed to be well worth a visit (we'd just visited Monaco's and were going to hit up Eze's later on, so we passed on this one).  The brightly colored buildings, views from the cemetery, and ornate church all made Menton worth a stop for us - plus if we were around in the summer I think we'd have definitely enjoyed it's long stretch of beach as well!

D - One of my highlights of Menton was the old people playing tennis pictured below.  I love watching old people play sports.  Especially when they are pretty good like these guys.  I felt as though their play was a perfect encapsulation of the relaxing and uber-enjoyable lifestyle of the French Riviera.  Like so many of the other towns we visited on this day, while visiting I thought, "I could definitely live here."

See more from our road trip around southern France: our day in Toulouse here, and all of our stops on our first day: Cahors, Saint-Cirq-Lapopie, Bouzies, Rocamadour, Padirac CaveLoubressac, and Figeac.  We began our second day in Marcillac-Vallon and Belcastel, made a stop at the Viaduc de Millau before heading into the Gorges du Tarn, and finally checked out the lovely Sainte-Enimie.  That night, we stayed in Le-Pont-de-Montvert.  

We started our third day in Labeaume before driving through the Gorges de l'Ardeche and stopping afterwards in Aiguèze and then spending some time checking out Roman remains in Orange and staying the night in Vaison-la-Romaine.  The next morning we explored Vaison-la-Romaine, drove on to Sisteron and Moustiers-Sainte-Marie and through the Gorges du Verdon and stayed the night in Castellane.

The morning of the fifth day of our road trip, we drove to Grasse, onto Saint-Paul-de-Vence, and then to Antibes and finally onto Nice for the night.  On our first morning in Nice we took the train to Monaco and then started explored Nice in the afternoon.  

We started our second day in Nice by taking the train along the coast and visiting different towns, the first being Villefrance-sur-Mer and the second being Menton.