Picture Perfect: Menton, France’s Best Kept Secret

Mention the French Riviera, and most people will think of glitzy towns like Nice, Monte-Carlo and Cannes. Away from the buzz of these hot-spots, however, is a place closer to my heart – Menton, a lovely small city that has the best of everything: a warm climate year-round, resplendent gardens, excellent French and Italian food, sandy beaches at the foot of the shimmering Mediterranean sea, and a colorful and historic old town to boot.

A special micro-climate separates Menton from the other villages of the Cote d’Azure dotting the Mediterranean, endowing it with more sunny days in a year than any other place in France. Smaller than Nice and Monte Carlo, Menton is a city with a village feel to it, and very walkable. In fact, the best way to explore this little town is on foot, by strolling around its colorful streets. Walking from the base near the seaside, you will find narrow lanes and passageways lined with large pebbles that will take you past quaint buildings washed in pastel yellow, pink, green, and blue. Foliage sprouts from many of the buildings along with window boxes filled with seasonal flowers. It’s that kind of place.

It would be remiss if I didn’t mention that due to its proximity to Italy, Menton can sometimes feel more Italian than French, from the culture and buildings to the delicious food, including some of the freshest seafood in the country.

The old quarter.
A Monet-esque view of the Serre de la Madone garden.
The sumptuous villa and garden built by Lawrence Johnston, an American who was born in Paris in 1871. The property is situated on the heights of Menton and the garden is planted with lemon and olive trees.
The village of Sainte-Agnes seen from the Biovès gardens, a beautiful flowery promenade 800 meters long. Sainte-Agnes is a perched medieval village situated 10 kilometers inland from Menton. This rocky outcrop gracefully dangles at an altitude of 800 meters above the sea, and is the highest coastal village in all of Europe.
Reaching Sainte-Agnès is an exhilarating feat, driving up the steeply winding, precarious mountain road, where at every turn, you are greeted with incredible views of this Provençal hilltop village. The village itself has several atelier shops, arched pathways, and cobblestone streets and a few terraced restaurants and vantage points to soak in the incredible view of the French Riviera coastline below and across the azure sea.
Remains of a 9th century castle in the village of Sainte-Agnès.
A cosy little gift shop at the top of village.

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