I had never heard of Menton, France before this trip, but that’s where we stayed the whole time. It was a great home base. Quieter than Nice, but still offering plenty of interesting shops, good restaurants, and attractive architecture, especially in its Old Town. Our hotel fronted right on the beach, though our view was of the other side, the mountain. Still not too shabby.
I can’t say we did anything particularly notable in Menton, however. We kept intending to visit the nearby Jean Cocteau museum, but never made it past the gift shop. So I could see going back and giving the place a bit more focus sometime. I would recommend it as a place to stay when visiting that area.
Monaco wasn’t far from Menton at all. It is theoretically its own country, though one very much dependent on France, that doesn’t require a passport to visit.
We had thought of spending part of our “free” day here, but ended up deciding against it. So we really spent only about a half hour, 45 minutes here, before one of the walks. It was enough time to climb up the central square and get a little bit of a sense of the place…
… which is that it is very crowded, very dense, and completely paved over. There is no room left here to build anything else. Many people who work here have to live elsewhere.
(And I guess some might be interested to know that when we took the bus to the airport, it did drive on the famous race car track.)
Nice is where we did spend our free day, and where we finally visited a museum, one devoted to artist Marc Chagall. I enjoyed that more than Jean did. I like Chagall’s whimsical style and use of primary colors. I had no idea he’d done so many works based on the Old Testament, and was amused how many of those had a touch of eroticism. “That’s Jacob fighting the angel,” I told Jean. “I don’t think fighting is what they’re doing.” Unsurprisingly, I guess, Chagall did a whole series based on the Song of Songs (i.e. the “dirty book” of the Bible).
Other than that, we just walked around in Nice, down to the beach, and through its old section. It was more crowded and not quite as charming as Menton, but somewhat more appealing than Monaco.
Rothschild Gardens near Villefranche-sur-Mer
Villefranche-sur-Mer seemed a lovely little town:
But we spent our time after our Thursday walk at Ephrussi de Rothschild Villa and Gardens, one of those huge private homes that is now a heritage site that tourists can visit. Béatrice Ephrussi de Rothschild had ample time and money for decorating, and also pretty good taste:
But most special and impressive were the extensive outdoor gardens, featuring many imported plants. Much of the house was designed to provide excellent views of these gardens.
Every 20 minutes, you had a chance to view the “musical fountain”, which means the water from various fountains gyrating in time to broadcast music. I’m not sure if that’s authentic to the time of the Rothschild’s, but it was interesting to watch.