Menton is one of the Riviera's little gems that far from other more media flared locations, specially within Southern France, is often obliviated as an in between destination or even just a passing by place; having most travellers attired to reach the nearby Italy as soon as possible. However, the last French town before Italy has much more pep to it as it may look like, mostly in Summer and specially during the Carnival period!
Probably a bit influenced by it's neighbouring and popular Nice Carnival, the Fête du Citron grows from an idea of the local hoteliers back in 1895, uniting the region's celebrations, mild climate and the main local produce: lemons! If not a World reference, at least at national level, the most yellow and acid fruit has in Menton it's biggest representation in both production, quality and proud locals. To such an extent, that in 1928 Menton had the biggest production of lemons in all Europe, and a local hotelier had the idea of celebrating this by creating an exposition of flowers, oranges and lemons in Hotel Riviera's gardens. This had such a success that the local government extended this to a yearly event, up to our modern days without interruption (except during the World War).
This allegory for the most yellow fruit has its epitome in the parading protagonists that fill Menton's streets with joy, party and colourful mood during the 2 weeks event. Similar to its Niçois sibling, the Carnival of Menton inveils itself with a yearly theme that couldn't be more linked to its cultural origin and geographical proximity... the Italian Cinecittà, honoring the legendary Roman studios that gave us cinematic works of art such as La Dolce Vita, Fellini Satyricon or some more recent productions like Scorsese's Gangs of New York or The Passion of the Christ.
With this diverse cultural universe, yet again, Menton's Fête du Citron was bond to delight even the most culturally nourished palates and cinema lovers. Nevertheless, focusing on the celebratory side, there are two main protagonist that make for its uniqueness: the day & night parades and the most citric garden exposition in the World!
Menton's day & night parades
Similar to Nice’s Carnival, in Menton's case, the Kings and Queens take the shape of lemons and oranges, the main protagonists of this 2 week celebration. Apart of the obvious daytime difference, the Day Parade has a longer parcour, but keeps the colourfulness and energy of its nightly counterpart. The latter bears only a small change in the parade’s parcour, being it shorter. In addition, on the last Night parade once and the only fireworks of this carnival, enlighten Menton’s Bay to everyone's delight.
Menton’s Exposition of citric fruits
Extending in front of the Casino Barrière, Menton's Agrumes Exposition takes over the town’s public garden to create the greatest oranges and lemons constructions in the World. Not a bad time to order a lemonade or some sweet limoncello from the few market stalls that are available there. If the colder temperatures of the Winter seduce you to a warmer option, they also serve lemon made teas and crepes.
You may visit the gardens almost any day, although if you wish a more cosier, cheerful and unique visit, the Gardens of Lights event during selected evenings, will bring you both a unique visual and musical experience that might even bring back magic childhood dreams.
Well, this fellar is grabbing some delicious Menton lemons and making himself one very tasty lemonade, meanwhile you can enjoy a few more photos of the Festival with the most pep; you may grab yourself a lemonade too and make sure to put on some tunes of Nino Rota.