Basking in the Riviera sun in Menton
The French Riviera evokes certain images. This is where Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Stein sunned themselves and sought inspiration in wine. After the war it became the playground of the rich and famous, as Prince Aly Khan bought Chateau l'Horizon, Fiat Padrino Gianni Agnelli sailed yachts and stars of stage and screen from Frank Sinatra to Rita Hayworth soaked in the luxuries.
Today, according to those fine folks at The Rake magazine, the barbarians have come as the filthy rich have turned this sun-drenched stretch of coastline into their personal playground.
Well, this October, with the rain buffeting London and winter refusing to make a proper arrival, S and I headed down to catch the last of summer in the playground of the wealthy.
Foregoing to traditional spots of Cannes and Moncao - we're not made of money - we headed out to Menton. Situated just up the coast from Nice, towards the Italian border, this sunny town is offers all the provincial French glamour without the try-hard madness of its more famous cousins.
We stayed in an AirBnB atop the hill overlooking the town (you can find it here), the terrace afforded us this stunning view and on our first night we watched the storm roll in off the ocean and lightning play on the neighbouring mountian tops. Be warned though, it is a 275-step climb to and from the town.
For the most delightful week, we explored alleys of shops and dranks wine on the seafront.
One of the true discoveries of Menton was Le Comptoir de Mathilde. In this rustically decorated store, the shelves are packed to the brim with treats and delicacies. From locally-sourced honey and jars of Rhon Baba (essentially small pieces of cake soaked in booze) to mouth-watering chocolates and sweets, this shop is a treasure trove you could peruse for hours.
We also took a trip across the border to visit Pasta & Basta, billed as "the best pasta restaurant in the world", and headed to visit the high-rollers in neighbouring Monaco.
For the latter trip, we eschewed the door-to-door service which Moncao might imply and took the three-hour walk round the headland from Menton into the heart of Monaco.
Walking in the autumn sun along cliff-tops as the waves crash on the rocks below and a yacht drifts acros the horizon is simutaneously one of the most relaxing things I have done and the best workout I have had in ages.
The day trips were wonderful, but Menton really came into its own as the perfect place to recharge and soak up the last of the sun before winter sets in. If you want the Riviera but without the barbarians, then Menton is the haven you are looking for.
Menton at a glance
Nearest airport: Nice
How to get there: Fly to Nice, tram to Nice St Augustin Station and catch the train direct to Menton (takes about 90 minutes)
Where to eat & drink: The Loving Hut (vegan restaurant)
Ce La Vie (bar and cafe on the boardwalk)
La Pergola (perfect beachfront spot for a glass of wine)
What to see: Le Comptoir de Mathile (beautiful shop)
Old Town (wander the winding streets, see the church and cememtery atop the hill)
Monaco (walk round the headland (3 hours), people-watch at Cafe de Paris and get the train back (15 minutes))
Ventimiglia (get the train to Italy for pasta and a fresh-food market)
Relax at the beach