Sunday, March 4, 2012

Orchids in Menton, Aloevera flowers in Antibes, and the Sun, well... everywhere :)

For his latest trip to visit C and S on the Cote d'Azur, Q arrived as a perfect French gentleman on Valentine's day. He stayed a week, and the aims for those few days were to (1) find an apartment to move into for April 1st, and (2) check out the carnaval de Nice (a >100 year old tradition) and the 79th edition of the Lemon festival in Menton (to celebrate the historical Menton lemon).

Since early February, we called about 15 apartments, visited 6, had a close tie between two, and eventually decided to stay in a 75 m2 apartment close to the tram line, our favorite boulangerie, and the largest (and daily) open air market, in a relatively tourist-free part of Nice. Both of us really liked the apartment, its feel, and the fact that we'd be the only folks on our floor, in a 4-story house filled with quiet families. We've already met the downstairs neighbor, her two cats and her cute and friendly dog. We're definitely looking forward to being reunited under the same roof again!

Stay tuned for more pictures of the new place, and in the meantime, here's one of the living room in our current apartment in Denmark...

So mission 1 accomplished! Now regarding the leisure activities by the Mediterranean... Well, actually, to much of our dismay—yet not too unexpectedly in that part of France—the festivals in Nice and Menton turned out to be mostly commercial, geared toward tourists and kids. In Nice, we were at the opening night of the carnaval and it was just a lot of hot air. And the Queen of the carnaval was half the size of the King, of course dressed in pink and not at all sporty (sport was the theme for 2012)...

"We just love Americans - check out where we placed their flag!"

A very dancing fairy Queen...

In Menton, the focus was to a large extent on a gigantic exhibit, much amusement park-oriented, with tall structures made out of lemons. Although the festival claims to promote "nature and culture", all the lemons displayed here (145 tons) were actually shipped from Spain (see official source - in French). That's not much of a way to promote sustainability! Needless to say that took the fun out of it for us...

Spanish lemons and oranges in Menton

The only events that were organized to actually promote the local culture of lemons were unfortunately very limited. A visit of a traditional "citronneraie" (orchard where lemons grow) happened on certain days only, through a guided tour exclusively at 10am, for which we showed up too late in Menton to be able to join. We did visit a cute orchard with a large variety of citrus fruits surrounding a museum, but no informations, explanations or products derived from the fruits were available.

Most traditional lemon orchards have actually disappeared in Menton due to the booming of real estate, but a few farmers are bringing the old tradition back and the town is aiming to get its famous lemon recognized and protected. 15 producers are actually growing lemons now, and the town has planted over 5000 lemon trees in the 1990s (resource in French). We really looked for ways we could support that movement, but it was hard to find how.

While in Menton we still enjoyed walking around this cute town we both like, and we saw a very fine orchid exhibit, a few photos of which are displayed here.
Orchid exhibit in Menton

On the Sunday we decided to take the train and go West from Nice instead of East (Villefranche, Saint Jean, Menton, Monaco, Italy, etc.) where we usually go. We aimed for the quaint town of Antibes, a mere 20 minute train ride from the main train station in Nice. We loved the winding picturesque streets and the overlook on the Mediterranean and the Cap d'Antibes from the old castle Grimaldi which is now a Picasso museum. What's very particular about that museum is that most of Picasso's artwork on display was actually created by the master himself in the room where it is now on exhibit, back in 1946 (click on a flag for translation).

The French Riviera just ain't bad...
Not tan yet in 2012 but working on it!

Some fine dining again that evening, and another quick visit to Villefranche the next day before flying back North and wondering why on Earth was "North" ever invented... Perhaps for the contrasting beauty of pine forests mooring into a frozen sea and sunsets that can last a whole hour...

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