Cote D’azure has been an imaginary place for me. Something I have seen on TV with celebrities at Festivals for music, movies and the arts and for the famous car race through the tight streets . It sits looking at a very blue azure Mediterranean, steep roads hug the hill and there are many beautiful villas and elegant people.
As with all of this coastline its very stressful to drive, especially the more populated places like Monaco. There are plenty of parking spaces underground with hundreds of parks – remarkable considering the lack of space – but the key is how do you find them and then make an instant decision to turn into one!!
Menton was our base for 2 nights . It is just inside the French border from Italy. It has a very warm climate and famous for growing oranges and lemons and even hosts a very large festival in their honour. The beaches are very popular and it was like the retirement village at the beach . We have never seen so many elderly in Bikinis and speedos already on their deck chairs 9.00 in the morning and some still there in groups just chatting until its dark . Menton is ringed by mountains and high up we visited the medieval town of Gorbio – so quant and worth the 20 minute drive up some very narrow windy roads – sadly we ran out of time to visit an equally lovely medieval village called Saint Agnes. Mainly because we visited the garden called ………..
It was created by an Englishman called Lawrence Johnston and we visited his garden with our 3 small children called Hidcote in 1995. The garden is on a steep hill and is set out on terraces built from impressive stone walls which sit above and below the house. There were quite a few New Zealand plants and even my favourite ‘arthropodium’ – NZ Reinga Reinga lily, but I must say they were not growing nearly as well as in my garden.
Monaco is only 30 minutes from Menton and it was a ‘must’ visit . i grew up in the world of Princess Grace and it has always had a fairy tale story appeal to me.
I think we would have walked thousands of steps . This very small tax free country rises up on the hills either side of it’s extensive harbour which is full of luxury yachts and stretches well up with only the hill behind. The high rises are built right in front of each other and some people must never see the sun and certainly don’t get a view.
The hill with the palaces of the monarchy was hideously crowded with tourists and lines of people from cruise ships mindlessly followed and listened to guides. We walked down past the waterfront which was spoilt by huge marquees being set up for the boat show in a couple of weeks and up the other side to the huge Casino and massive hotels . I must say i have never seen so many Maseratis, Jaguars, Rolls Royce and Ferraris in one town before.
I am glad I have seen the towns that cling to the hillside and all run into each other. However, I was more thrilled Phil was driving and at the end of the day it was a joy to get back to the quieter Menton and have a swim in the ‘Med’ and sit outside in the warm evening air for a great meal of my favourite Fritto Misto ( Fried little fish )