The small sleepy town of Menton is overshadowed by its famous neighbours on the Côte d'Azur such as Saint-Tropez, Cannes, Nice. Located on the eastern edge of the French Riviera, just before the Italian border, the town has a stunning old town with medieval architecture, beautiful beaches, excellent restaurants and boasts 316 sunny days a year.
For many centuries Menton was one of the most important European centre of citrus fruit production. However, with time, the citrus orchards were abandoned and slowly disappeared. Very few farmers still grow the famous Menton lemon that has a very distinctive flavour. To celebrate its past, every February, Menton hosts the Lemon Festival (La Fête du Citron). Celebrated since the end of 19th century, the event attracts more than 200,000 people and is the second most important event on the Riviera after Nice Carnival. For three weeks, Menton fills up with the beautiful fragrance of oranges and lemons that are used to create spectacular decorations and sculptures. 145 tons of citrus fruits turned into the most spectacular designs by 300 professionals working for the festival.
Every year the festival organizers choose a different theme: Disney, Music of the World, China, Spain. This year’s theme is Cinecittà the Italian cinema of the 50s and 60s.
The town’s gardens Jardins Biovès become an open air gallery filled with citrus sculpture, some of them up to 10 metres tall. At night time, the garden illuminates with light shows and fireworks. One of the most exciting event of the festival is the Golden Fruit Parade with giant citrus floats carried along the town’s streets accompanied by music, dances and cheering of thousands of excited spectators.
There is also an arts and crafts show where local artisans exhibit their work: wooden sculptures, glass engraving, ceramics, pottery and food stands sell delicacies such as citrus liqueurs, lemon infused olive oil and many other. During the Lemon Festival local restaurants try to outdo each other with special selections of citrus-based exquisite dishes.
Photos by: Ian Britton/Flickr, Fête du Citron/Facebook.