Travel Dates April 2003Before we move on to Pisa and Florence, it seems an appropriate moment for another flashback to 2003, our first time in Menton. We spent a week there, in a flat we rented via the net.
We didn't expect a lot from the flat at €26 per night. The most important thing was that the bed was comfy - but we learnt a little about different perceptions. The washing machine was brand new - with a broken spin cycle; we met our neighbour below when we hung our dripping laundry unknowingly over his front door - providing very damp entry and a rather cool reception.
The ad said "easy parking out the front". This is a two-way street - Riviera-style - and that was our official parking spot:-) We met that guy in the photo at 7 am the first morning when he banged on the door to ask us to shift the car - because a huge crane wanted to go up the road.
So I moved the car about a km and walked back.
But the picture was taken later that day when the crane was coming back down the hill - in reverse. This time he neglected to ask - so we watched this quite convinced that we were going to need the insurance on our second day in the car. I shouldn't have worried; the driver got that machine down that narrow road without scraping anything; something many of the local drivers didn't achieve, judging by the state of the body panels.
We also discovered that the French and Italians of this district seem to prefer building vertically instead of horizontally. These are views from the windows of the flat.
The third one, from just over the border in Italy, gives a new dimension to "come up and see me sometime".
We spent a couple of days just wandering around Menton, sipping in cafes, eating in beachfront restaurants or cosy pizzerias, but mostly we used it as a base for day trips.
Driving could be interesting, particularly on the Italian side.
On one drive we went up the river from Nice and spent some time seeing the small hilltop villages.
I'd see one perched on a hill in the distance, then try and find out how to get to it, then drive slowly up the twisty narrow roads and celebrate with a glass of wine in the local tavern on arrival.
Towards the end of the week we drove inland to Sospel - the picture with the bridge - and then cut across into Italy through the narrow hilly country, then had a pasta lunch in a tiny village cafe and lazily drove back via San Remo and the coast.
That's the way we prefer - no particular place to go, different sights, different people.
This was also our first experience of "closed beaches"; private beaches with associated restaurants or hotels; not something I'd like to see in Australia. The European high-density towns were also a surprise to us; we see flats like this in our inner cities like Sydney and Melbourne, but not in country towns and cities.
On the way back, this guy caught our eye. He was the most patient surfer I've ever seen (and the only one I saw in Europe). He waited, and waited, and waited. We must have been there for thirty minutes having a glass of wine by the roadside when - success!