A fleeting two-hour stop-over in Menton convinced me that another, longer, visit was necessary in order to do justice to what looked a very pleasant resort town. So, in February 2002 I took advantage of an unbeatable offer from Easyjet to fly to Nice and from there, make the short trip along the coast to Menton.
"Is it Me?" as Terry Wogan would say! Once again I had chosen well and timed it just about perfect as far as the weather was concerned. OK, Menton is blessed with a micro-climate all of its own (due to the situation of the mountains which effectively protect the resort from any really bad weather), but I could not reasonably expect such a lovely few days in only the second month of the year.
Leaving the UK in the grip of winter to fly only a very short distance to greet temperatures in the high teens (C) is most rewarding. The "meteo" forecast for the Cote D'Azur on one day, however, warned that winds of 120kph were to be expected. Not in Menton! Just a light breeze fluttering the flags along the promenade, thanks to the mountainous protection.
Menton is a moderately large resort, a cross between Torquay and Brighton, (but much more French!) literally a few hundred metres from the Italian border. It is very Italian architecturally, but still undeniably French in every other repect. The restaurants are extremely varied in style (North African, Spanish, Italian and local French making up the greatest numbers), but it is not the culinary capital of the region by any means! Lots of restaurants, but very few of very top quality, you could say.
I ate at eight different establishments - had 2 really good meals, one pretty poor one and the rest were average. So, as far as recommendations are concerned, I can suggest you try "La Coupole" at 9, avenue de Verdun. Here, I had the best fixed price lunch which featured a tasty "lapin forestiere" - rabbit in a rich sauce - and a very acceptable pichet of house wine which was as good a red as I've paid five times as much for elsewhere! As I said, there were no memorable gastronomic experiences in Menton, but that "Coupole" lunch went down a treat.
I missed the "Lemon Festival" (deliberately) which takes place in the first two weeks of February. However, if you like crowds, carnivals, fireworks and general revelry then you can be guaranteed all that and more during this period (as well as hikes in hotel rates!). You see, Menton is a sort of citrus paradise. Their lemons are larger, sweeter and a source of immense local pride. Their oranges are good too! It's quite impressive to see dozens of fruit-laden lemon trees lining many of the main streets in the town centre. There are so many, people just don't pick 'em in any significant numbers!
I can recommend the climb up into the "old town" - a warren of little streets which ooze atmosphere. Every few metres you are afforded a glorious view across the bay to the Italian coast. There's a fine indoor market too, selling the typical fresh French produce so much admired by us British visitors.
So, that is Menton. At the end (or start) of the Cote D'Azur, it's not as grandios as Monte Carlo, or as large and of such importance as Nice, but it is a pleasant, unthreatening place, worthy of anyone's time. As my introduction to the euro and the French way of doing it, Menton was the perfect host.
By the way, the new currency proved no problem as far as I was concerned, with prices seemingly unchanged from when I was last in "La Republique". France is still very French despite price signs now displaying "€" instead of "fr". Take note, my fellow Brits, and realise that it takes more than a currency to confirm your nationality - and I bet Germany, Italy, Spain, Ireland et al have all still remained true to their cultures as well.
Click on above image for more information on Menton (on-line web page)
Click on above image for more information on Hotel Le Dauphin, Menton (on-line web page)
Anyway, that's not a problem as there are sandy and pebbly beach areas for sunbathing and swimming not too far away along the "promenade". The multi-lingual staff are polite, friendly and extremely helpful and obliging. The rooms are spotlessly clean and the views from most (the sea-facing ones) are wonderful. I was greeted every morning at 7-20am with a most wonderful golden sunrise over the Med. whilst lying in bed. So, I can recommend this hotel and as it's by no means expensive compared to some nearby establishments, will be making further visits there in the future.
The Hotel Le Dauphin is situated right on the beach - well, almost on the beach, as there is a busy road between the front door and the sea. The beach isn't a beach as such - you really should say the sea, as the tide doesn't receed more than a few metres and is always "in". This leaves the beach outside the hotel (and all the others along that part of the sea front) covered, most of the time, by sea water!
The Hotel Le Dauphin is a friendly, light and airy establishment. It is no doubt typical of many other hotels in the area, serving a standard Continental breakfast and a no frills, basic lunch and evening meal.
Traffic noise could be a problem if the large french windows were left open in hot weather, but there's the absolutely necessary air conditioning in each room during very hot summer nights to ensure the windows are left closed. This area of Menton is not quiet as the waves were constantly pounding the rocks along the promenade, but natural noise like that doesn't hinder sleep (and I'm a very light sleeper).
Anyway, that's not a problem as there are sandy and pebbly beach areas for sunbathing and swimming not too far away along the "promenade".
The multi-lingual staff are polite, friendly and extremely helpful and obliging. The rooms are spotlessly clean and the views from most (the sea-facing ones) are wonderful. I was greeted every morning at 7-20am with a most wonderful golden sunrise over the Med. whilst lying in bed.
So, I can recommend this hotel and as it's by no means expensive compared to some nearby establishments, will be making further visits there in the future.