Menton, France: A haven on the French Riviera

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There’s something about Menton. From the moment we drove in, via Monaco and Monte Carlo, I knew I was going to love it. Still considered to be one of the best kept secrets on the French Riviera, Menton is the last stop on the French coast before Italy and as a result is a beautiful mix of the two cultures. The old town, with its winding streets and impressive Basilica is filled with pasta and pizza restaurants, plus French bistros serving up bouillabaisse and simple moules-frites. Of course, you find the usual tourist parts, mainly along the main beach where the Promenade de la Mer boasts a variety of good restaurants in front of a small beach covered in sun loungers and parasols, but there is still an air of European sophistication, long gone in other parts of the Côte d’Azur.

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Where we stayed
After reading a million reviews (I always think that doing your homework really pays off), I concluded that Hotel Napoleon would be the best choice. However, with nothing booked two days before, all they could offer was a 400€-a-night suite, which was a little out of our budget. However, one hotel that kept coming up on my radar was Hotel Prince de Galles on the seafront. I had originally discounted it due to its Best Western label, but after rereading the reviews (no6 on TripAdvisor), and noticing a last minute sea view room pop up online, I took the plunge and I am so glad that I did. We somehow snagged the best room in the hotel! With a corner balcony and breathtaking views of the Baie du Soleil, stretching over to Italy, I squealed as we opened the hotel door. I later noticed the sign outside the door that the room had won the ‘Best view from a hotel room‘ award. What luck! The room was clean and comfortable, the reception staff were very helpful and we managed to score free parking right outside the hotel for the entire weekend. My main tip would be to pay the surcharge and order breakfast to your room. Eating croissants and drinking coffee with a view like that was to die for (even is the coffee itself was a bit of a let down.)

Where we ate
Upon arrival on the Friday afternoon, like any good tourist, we drove around, spent an age trying to find a parking spot and then walked down the the beach and into a restaurant, Le Festival Plage. The food was ok, the service was ok, but the scenery was stunning and when all you want is a salad and a glass of rose on a hot summer’s day, it hit the spot.

For dinner, we did a little bit more research and went for Le Cirke, one of Menton’s best seafood restaurants. It wasn’t cheap, but it was a very good meal. We enjoyed a simple crustacean salad with asparagus, followed by their famous Grand Friture for 2, a plate of fried calamare, shrimp, fish, scallops and squid, all washed down with a lovely crisp bottle of Sancerre and a couple of espressos. Delicious. If I went back, I’d probably have to try a lighter, grilled fish however, as I didn’t eat a lot of the fried plate, as good as it was. For lunches, we found ourselves in the boulangerie grabbing a baguette to add to cheese and ham and a bottle of rose from the supermarket before heading down to the beach. There were two particular restaurants that we loved: Creperie Fleur du Sel and Little Italy. I thoroughly recommend Italian restaurants in Menton – Italy is literally next door!

What we did
You don’t need to do a whole lot in Menton to enjoy it. The atmosphere and climate are enough. However, a walk round the old town was fantastic, people watching on the promenade was also a favourite pastime – sometimes from our balcony, sometimes from a cafe – and an evening jog to the Italian border and back with the stunning scenery was amazing.

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What we read
With a looming half marathon, I read various running tips for the area, as well as a recent copy of Runner’s World magazine, plus a whole host of travel blogs and articles on the area.

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What we missed
We didn’t make it into the Museum Jean Cocteau, which I would have liked to have wandered around, but the weather was far too good to be stuck inside! We also umm’d and ahhh’d about Mirazur, a fabulous Michelin starred restaurant in Menton, but decided against it in the end.

What we thought
We loved it! I’d like to go back and visit the museum and hit a few more restaurants! It’s such a fabulous option for a weekend away, at only 20min drive from Nice Airport.

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