29 February 2008


Across the road from the Fête du Citron is the Palais de l'Europe, which at the moment is hosting an exhibition of orchids. The exhibtion is free and is held each year at the same time as the Lemon Festival. There are hundreds and hundreds of different orchid displays - quite extraordinary and so beautiful. Here's just one variety.

28 February 2008

Fête du Citron - shopping!

And so, we've visited the Fête du Citron - so what can we buy to take home? Well, unsurprisingly, all thing citrus - orange and lemon trees, mimosa trees, fridge magnets, postcards, conserves, lemon olive oil, citrus liqueurs - in particular, the delicious Limoncello - and of course - lemons and oranges. Thanks for visiting the festival with me. Come back again next year and we'll do it all over again but with a different theme.

Tomorrow, we'll pop across the road to the Palais de l'Europe where we'll pay a quick visit to the exhibition of orchids.

27 February 2008

Fête du Citron - Adelaide

This little charmer is called Adelaide. She posed for her parents and just as they were done, I came along and wanted to take a photograph. It took three before she'd smile and even then she wouldn't look at the camera. Cute eh?

As you can see, we've sunshine but it's chilly - everyone wrapped up as if it's winter - which I suppose it is.

25 February 2008

Fête du Citron - the visitors

Children being lined up by their teacher before walking around the exhibits. Note the trees: oranges don't just grow on the displays. Menton is not known as the City of Lemons (and oranges) for nothing.

In the photo above, you can perhaps see, amidst the light and shadow on the yellow hut, a poster. (Reproduced on the left) Presumably the number of oranges or lemons mentioned is the reward for finding the big bad pirate! These posters are everywhere at the Festival.

Fête du Citron - the Pirates' Boat

Where's Johnny Depp? Each of the designs at the festival is constructed, not only by the metal workers and gardeners but in the final states, the oranges and lemons are fixed by volunteers from various local towns and villages - in this case, the pirate ship was created by one of the local schools.

24 February 2008

Fête du Citron - Replacing rotten citrus

Each day - and all day - of the festival, gardeners walk around the displays replacing any rotten fruit. You can see how fruit that has been removed has taken the impression of the rubber band used to fix it to the display. The lower right hand photo, by the way, represents a seashell from a tropical island.

When the event is over, the Department of Parks and Gardens is left with the daunting task of removing everything in 5 days, including redoing the lawn in the Biovès gardens and replacing the plants.

The citrus fruits which are still in good condition are sold off at token prices in front of the Palais de l'Europe for the pleasure of those who like to make jam, syrup, orange wine, etc.

Several varieties of lemons are grown in the Menton region: Santa Theresa, Villafranca, Eureka. The shape is more elliptical than round with a bright yellow colour. It's also characterised by very fructiferous branches bearing up to fifteen fruits, while there are less than five to a branch on most lemon trees. Research reveals that the lemon grown in the Menton region is rich in acid and essence, with a high essential oil content in the peel.

Tomorrow - pirates!

There is a new series starting today on Monte Carlo Daily Photo which features, each day, one of 35 works of art currently showing in the Casino Gardens on the subject of ecology and art. Today - the Octopus made of turf and rubber gloves. Do click on the link.

23 February 2008

Fête du Citron - The Isle of the Lost - 2

Here's the same display we saw yesterday but taken from the top of the steps that dissect the Jardins Biovès. This perhaps shows even better the size of the dragon - seen in relation to people. As you can see, everyone is well wrapped up. Blue skies but still rather chilly for February in Menton although it's warmed up a little since I took this batch of photos.

Fénix asked how many Lemon Festivals I've visited and which one I've liked best. So time for a confession: I've lived in Menton for 17 years and last year was the first time I visited and even then, I only went so I could take photos for Menton Daily Photo! I'd seen photos each year in Nice-Matin - crowds of people in the streets watching the floats go by. Also photos of the permanent displays in these gardens. Somehow I didn't think I'd like it, didn't think I'd like massive crowds, thought it might all be rather trite. How wrong I was! I was surprised how fabulous it all is, how beautifully made the displays are and yes, the wonderful smells. Many people - probably the majority - come to Menton specially for the Festival and so there is a marvellous holiday atmosphere and I find I can pretend I'm not really taking a few hours off work but am on holiday too. It has that effect.

Last year's Theme was India and you can see photos of that by clicking on the Fête du Citron link on the right hand side of this blog. I wish, now, I'd seen the festival the year it featured Tintin and his dog, Milou.

Tomorrow - we'll see the rotten fruit being replaced and talk a little about the 'true' Menton lemon.

22 February 2008

Fête du Citron - The Isle of the Lost

Here be dragons - well one dragon, to be precise, with a tail over 30 metres long. There's a damaged raft in his mouth, not to mention a frantic sailor. And this dragon roars - every minute or so - a massive great booming roar. I fell about with laughter and one of the guys who work all day replacing any damaged fruit, asked if I liked this year's display. 'Absolutely,' I said. And we stood together and looked at the dragon and listened to his roar and laughed more. You'll meet him one day when we'll see how he replaces the rotten fruit.

The City's Department of Parks and Gardens collects boxwood from the mountains and hinterland of Menton prior to the Festival. This is used for the contours of the decorations once the metal work has been built.

The statues and floats are covered with wire netting and 70 square metres of boxwood is braided into garlands. Then the lemons and oranges are attached to the netting with elastic bands - yellow and orange bands so they don't show too much. They used to use wire, until one of the gardeners had the idea of elastic bands, which doesn't damage the fruit as much.

Covering 1 square metre of wire netting requires 30 kilos of fruit, nearly 200 lemon and oranges. All the fruit -145 metric tons in all, is imported from Spain. It's delivered to Menton at the end of January and the work begins in early February. Menton cannot produce enough citrus for the festival. The elastic bands are imported from Taiwan and 500,000 of them are needed.

During the two or so weeks of the Lemon Festival, 80 people are involved. On the day before the inauguration, any damaged fruit is replaced. During the festival the rotten fruit is changed every day.

On the moveable floats, the fruit is covered by very fine wire so that spectators don't remove it as the float goes by!

21 February 2008

Fête du Citron - Easter Island & Madagascar

Symbols from both Easter Island and Madagascar are represented in the same area. The tortoise moves his head back and forth, by the way. Or is he a turtle?

From models to metal 'skeletons' - how is it done? Once the models are selected, the construction of the metal structures is entrusted to specialised metalworkers. The challenge is to realise steel structures that are both sturdy enough to support the weight of the fruit (three to four metric tons per float) and flexible enough to bend with the movement. That's the reason why a total of nearly 15 metric tons of steel is needed. The Lemon Festival keeps three to four metal workers busy for five months.

In December, the Municipal Technical Centre starts building the stands for the parades and with the help of the Fire Department, erects the footbridge that joins the two areas of the Biovès gardens. (We'll be climbing that footbridge)

Tomorrow, we'll learn how they 'fruit' the decorations and floats.

20 February 2008

Fête du Citron - Corsica

Today's float represents Corsica. Note the sanglier (wild boar) in the foreground. When you drive around the centre of Corsica you see families of wild boar wandering across the road.

In 1929, Menton, with its micro-climate, was the number one lemon-growing region in Europe. An hotelier had the excellent idea of organising an exhibition of flowers and citrus fruit in the gardens of the Hôtel Riviera. It was so successful that the following year, the event moved into the streets, with carts covered with orange and lemon trees along with beautiful local girls. Wishing to develop tourism, the municipality sought to give its Carnival a typically local colour - and so the Lemon festival was born in 1934. Two years later, the first exhibition of citrus fruit and flowers was launched in the Biovès gardens. Floats were designed and decorated with lemons and oranges. This has continued to this day and each year with a different theme.

If you look at the second photo, you can see how the lemons and oranges are fixed - with rubber bands. Tomorrow - another island - and we'll learn how the floats are constructed.

19 February 2008

Fête du Citron - Tahiti

The Fete du Citron is held in February/March for nearly three weeks, each year with a different theme - this year Islands of the World. Today: Tahiti. Here we see the floats on permanent display in the Jardin Biovès but as well as this, there are 4 evenings when the gardens are open for a Jardins de Lumières display. I imagine these floats, lit at night, must be quite magical.

The biggest events tho are the corsos - which take place on specified nights and sometimes during the day. These are processions of moveable floats with bands, folklorique groups, drum majorettes and marching bands, not to mention pretty girls everywhere. Banked seating areas have already been erected throughout the town and have to be booked in advance. The Fête du Citron draws thousands and thousands of visitors from all over the world - and many more come into Menton for the parades.

Tomorrow - another island and we'll learn how the lemon entered the scene.

18 February 2008

Fête du Citron - the entrance

Above: the entrance to the festival - Islands of the World. In the small photo you can see how it looked a few days ago - more like a scene from 'Company' than a Lemon Festival.

The Fete du Citron draws visitors from all over the world but it actually started in 1895 when a group of hoteliers, seeking a way of providing winter entertainment for the city, suggested to the municipality that there be a Carnival parade through the city. By 1896, the Carnival of Menton was as popular with the local population as with the rich winter visitors. At the time, it was fashionable to spend the winter months in the mild climate of the French Riviera. Kings, Queens, Princes, artist and performers stayed in the palaces of Menton, or had splendid villas built. The Carnival of 1882 was a memorable occasion, attended by Queen Victoria in person, and ending in a grandiose fireworks display on the Bay of Garavan.

Tomorrow, we enter - wonders await us - there be dragons and pirates...

To see Bully, the Pyrenean Shepherd Dog, who'll do a trick for you, click on the link.

17 February 2008

Fête du Citron - preparation

Welcome to the 75th Fête du Citron in Menton. The theme of this year's festival is The World's Islands. Here you see work in progress on a part of the design over the entrance to the Jardin Biovès. Every single lemon or orange is fixed in place with its own rubber band.

A team of 300 are involved: citrus fruit growers, gardeners, artists, metal workers but they are helped by an enormous band of volunteers from various villages and towns along the coast. 500,000 elastic bands are used and 145 metric tons of citrus are required for the titanic task of creating the giant chars (floats) which we'll see over the next days. The number of hours worked: 20,000.

More tomorrow...

16 February 2008

Château of Roquebrune - the castle cat

The castle cat usually sits on the windowsill of this small building which is where we came in and bought our tickets. I thank everyone who has taken this tour and stuck with me. You have stamina! Now, we are about to leave and I invite you to join me for a pizza and a pichet of wine at La Grotte in the village.

On the left a final look at this 10th century Château, which as you see rises up, as if produced from the rock itself. La Grotte is at the base of this rock, so we are not going far - just down to the main square.

And my second invitation - why it's the Fête du Citron in Menton. Tomorrow it's Oranges and Lemons time - come back and we'll have some fun.

15 February 2008

Château of Roquebrune - view from the Donjon

We've climbed the ladder you saw yesterday to the top of the donjon where I'm standing in this photograph. You can see the shadow of the donjon's crenelations on the wall. Please click on THIS LINK which shows just how high we are and perhaps clarifies the distance between donjon and flag. Trust me! - it makes it clearer...

Tomorrow will be the last day of our visit - just time to say goodbye to the cat. I'll have an invitation for you - in fact, two invitations. So please come back.

14 February 2008

Château of Roquebrune - the Fort - 2

Take a quick glance through the bars at the view - we are about the enter the Fort, where the only light is through the slits used by the Archers. Now, we'll climb that ladder to the top. Hold on tight, those steps are steep and not ideal with a camera in your hand. Believe me!

Happy Valentine's Day! A glass of champagne awaits you on Monte Carlo Daily Photo.

13 February 2008

Château of Roquebrune - the Fort

This area, with a curved ceiling, is the lower part of the fort. (see the diagram posted yesterday). You can see part of the Round Walk, where we were yesterday, on the top left hand of the photograph.

From the end of the XVth century the Grimaldis attempted to increase the donjon's military power by digging out large, wide artillery loopholes in the thick walls. however, they soon had to face reality: the battery of cannon that could be placed in a semi-circle on the rock face dominating the north side of the fortress, deprived it of its ancent invulnerability. You can these loopholes, from the outside, in THIS PHOTOGRAPH.

Below you see one of the channels cut into the walls. Cannon was rolled down these channels onto the invaders below. You can see one of these (not the one I photographed) on the extreme right and in the part of the photo flooded with sunlight.

Tomorrow, we'll enter the donjon.

12 February 2008

Château of Roquebrune - the Round Walk - 2 + diagram of castle

Today we are standing above the Terrace. The Mediterranean is to our left. Here we get a longer shot of the Round Walk. As you see, it goes through the donjon (the Keep) and out the other side. From the Terrace we can see the panoramic view (see yesterday's photograph too) that the castle's sentinels kept watch over for a thousand years: from the Rock of Monaco to Cap Martin, from Mont Agel to the bay of Cabbé. On the west side, the main tower of the castle seems miraculously intact. In fact it was rebuilt at the beginning of the 20th century.

Below, you can see a diagram of the castle which is built over four levels. Tomorrow, we'll explore the donjon.

11 February 2008

Château of Roquebrune - the Round Walk - 1

We've entered the Round Walk from the Common Room. The Round Walk goes all the way round the Donjon (the Keep) For a long time all fortresses had a circular walkway which allowed a rapid intervention when attacked.

10 February 2008

Château of Roquebrune - the Kitchen - 2

Here we see the bread oven, which is to the right of the entrance we saw yesterday.

Apart from a few visits by Augustin Grimaldi, Lord of Monaco, Roquebrune and Menton, the castle only ever housed soldiers. It was therefore soldiers' fare that was prepared in this kitchen. Supplies were kept in the cellar - water was brought up from the well.

In the photo below, we can see the storage area in the kitchen. Shelves rested on the carved stone brackets within the space.

Note the graffiti. When I first visited this castle there were no iron doors, such as we saw yesterday - one could walk anywhere - and I suppose, over the years, visitors have felt the need to scratch their names in the stonework...

So, this is the last room to be seen. Tomorrow we'll walk through the far end of the Common Room to The Round Walk - which goes all the way around the donjon (the keep).

09 February 2008

Château of Roquebrune - the Kitchen - 1

All the rooms in the castle have an iron door to prevent vicitor access. After all, we all walk around alone - no guide as such - merely the audio commentary we listen to. In previous photographs I've pushed the camera through the bars as I did for the one below.

In this small space, meals were prepared for the soldiers from the Middle Ages onwards. It was actually restored in the 16th century. The mantlepiece in the photo below is made of olive wood.

Tomorrow, we see the bread oven. And also a storage area. After that - fresh air again!

If you'd like to see the Château dog, please click on the link.

08 February 2008

Château of Roquebrune - Nobleman's Dwelling: the Common Room

This second room in the Nobleman's Dwelling was used as a communal room and dining room. The doorway in the far corner is the lavatory - see below - which emptied directly outside the castle walls.

In the Middle Ages, tables didn't exist. Planks of wood were laid on trestles, hence the phrase: 'to lay the table.' When the word 'table' was used, it meant the 'food', not the furniture. The soldiers normally sat on wooden chests that were used for storage and were dragged over at meal times. What furniture they did have has disappeared over time and the furniture shown is not correct for the period.

This room and the previous one - the Armoury - were transformed into barracks in the middle of the XVIIIth century.

Tomorrow, we'll take a look at the kitchen. You can see the entrance on the right-hand wall.

07 February 2008

Château of Roquebrune - View from the Medieval Window

After so many days of bleak rooms in the castle, let get some fresh air! Especially as it's Menton Daily Photo and Monte Carlo Daily Photo's One Year Anniversary (please read message below)

So let's look out of a window - in fact, let's look out of the Medieval Window in the Great Room. Do click on the blue link above to see this extraordinary room, the window and window seats.

We are looking down, over some of the village roofs, past the XIIIth century Eglise Sainte Marguerite, to Cap Martin which juts out into the Mediterranean. Below you see a painting of Augustin Grimaldi, Bishop of Grasse, receiving a visitor. It was Grimaldi who installed this window during the 1528 restoration of the castle, which he used as his summer residence.


Menton Daily Photo and Monte Carlo Daily Photo - FIRST BIRTHDAY!

Thank you to the City Daily Photo family for your encouragement, generous comments, fantastic help from talented photographers and most of all, friendship. Working on Menton Daily Photo and Monte Carlo Daily Photo has changed my life. I now see - really see - my beautiful part of the world. I only looked before...

And of course, a massive thankyou to Eric of Paris Daily Photo, whose brilliant vision this was and to Demosthenes and Igor, who put in endless time working on the technical issues in keeping us all up and running.

06 February 2008

Château of Roquebrune - Nobleman's Dwelling: the Armoury

This is the Armoury which was also used as a living room and bedroom for the Genoese Castellan who was first and foremost a soldier. In the XIIIth century furniture was rudimentary. In the main it consisted of iron banded trunks containing precious objects, materials and clothes, and which also served as seats. When the Lord visited the castle he slept in this room in a four poster bed.

Below, you see a painting of this room in the XIIIth century, with the Castellan administering justice.

Note: I've added a painting of the prison so click on link if you'd like to see the poor souls languishing there.

05 February 2008

Château of Roquebrune - Guardhouse: the Archers' Room

The Archers' Room was dug out entirely from the puddingstone rock and remains in its original condition. At the entrance to the room there used to be a trapdoor and ladder which led to the upper floor of the castle. This doesn't exist any more.

In the 14th century the Castellan (a non-commissioned officer) was in charge of the fortress for the Lord - with just 6 crossbow men. It was a hard life, no women or children, just soldiers living in bleak conditions.

When the Lord visited the castle, the Castellan would sleep in this room. Tomorrow we'll see the Armoury which is where the Nobleman slept in a four-poster bed when he visited the castle.

If you want to read about the night the Monaco Royal family and others (including my friend Candy and me) nearly went up in flames please look at today's Monte Carlo Daily Photo.

04 February 2008

Château of Roquebrune - Guardhouse: the Prison

We've walked up the five steps you saw in yesterday's photograph and here you see the prison. In the XVIIth century the Princes of Monaco installed this prison in the south room of the former guardhouse. Prisoners were attached to chains fixed to a ball. They were usually thieves, even fellow soldiers and they were kept here till their trial at La Turbie or Nice. Others were keep here under a private arrest warrant of the Princes of Monaco.

The last people to occupy this prison appear to be the 'Barbets' (see painting below) who fought against the French revolutionary troops after the latter had occupied and then annexed (decree dated 15th February 1793) the Principality of Monaco which at that time included Menton and Roquebrune-cap-Martin.

You'll see the entry to the prison in the photograph below. Tomorrow? The Archers' Room which was dug out of the puddingstone mass. Here you'll see where the soldiers slept.

03 February 2008

Château of Roquebrune - the Great Room - 3

We are still in The Great Room, but this time looking towards the Guardhouse and Cellar - the 15th century window is off to our right, the well is in front of us. You can see a doorway, somewhat below the level of the floor - this is where the food was stored. Fruit and vegetables were dried, fish and meat preserved in salt. Cereals were kept in the cellar as well as olive oil and wine.

The entrance to the Guardhouse is up five steops to the left of that doorway. This is where we'll find the Prison and the Archers Room. Come back tomorrow to see the Prison. You wouldn't want to have been a prisoner!

02 February 2008

Château of Roquebrune - the Great Room - 2

We are still in The Great Room. The original vaulted ceiling collapsed after fire in 1506 and was replaced in 1528 when Augustin Grimaldi installed a panelled ceiling. He attempted to make the castle less austere and more comfortable. At that time, the mullioned window you see with the benched seats was also made. Before that the only natural light came from small 20 cm. openings. In 1597 cannonballs fired by the Duke of Guise's Provencals set fire to this wooden ceiling and it has never been built again.

Notice the well in the centre of the room? This went down to an 80 cubic metre tank built in the very beginning. There is a round structure nearby - on the ground - with a raised edge. I asked the guide about this and it was obvious she's been asked many times but doesn't know its use. Perhaps it was used to hold the bucket used to haul the water out of the well?

Tomorrow? We'll see where the food was stored and we'll start to explore the Guardhouse.

01 February 2008

Theme Day: When people think of my city...

If I were to choose what I find iconic about Menton it would be the view in the banner along the top of this page - the beautiful Old Town and the sea. But the one thing you can't get away from and what Menton is famous for is simply the lemon. Visitors come from all over the world for Menton's celebrated Lemon Festival - La Fête du Citron - click on the link to find out why.

Today is Theme Day with 136 participants from all over the world taking part. Do take time to visit them and see what other bloggers think is considered iconic about their cities.

Portland (OR), USA - Menton, France - Monte Carlo, Monaco - Memphis (Tennessee), USA - Manila, Philippines - San Diego (CA), USA - Anderson (SC), USA - New York City (NY), USA - San Diego (CA), USA - Mexico City, Mexico - San Francisco (CA), USA - Mumbai (Maharashtra), India - Mainz, Germany - Weston (FL), USA - Minneapolis (MN), USA - Turin, Italy - Las Vegas (NV), USA - Hobart (Tasmania), Australia - Bicheno, Australia - Durban, South Africa - Joplin (MO), USA - Nashville (TN), USA - Stockholm, Sweden - Kyoto, Japan - Tokyo, Japan - Brussels, Belgium - Chicago (IL), USA - Montpellier, France - Seattle (WA), USA - Mazatlan, Mexico - Saint Paul (MN), USA - Sharon (CT), USA - Sesimbra, Portugal - Toulouse, France - Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina - Susanville (CA), USA - Maple Ridge (BC), Canada - Saint Louis (MO), USA - Prague, Czech Republic - Helsinki, Finland - Pilisvörösvár, Hungary - Lisbon, Portugal - Mexico (DF), Mexico - Trujillo, Peru - Dunedin (FL), USA - Albuquerque (NM), USA - Port Angeles (WA), USA - Cottage Grove (MN), USA - Saint-Petersburg, Russian Federation - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - London, UK - Baziège, France - Jefferson City (MO), USA - Greenville (SC), USA - Selma (AL), USA - Mumbai, India - Naples (FL), USA - Norwich (Norfolk), UK - Silver Spring (MD), USA - Setúbal, Portugal - Stayton (OR), USA - Bellefonte (PA), USA - Sofia, Bulgaria - Arradon, France - Montego Bay, Jamaica - Athens, Greece - Austin (TX), USA - Singapore, Singapore - West Sacramento (CA), USA - Jackson (MS), USA - Wassenaar (ZH), Netherlands - Budapest, Hungary - Rotterdam, Netherlands - St Malo, France - Chandler (AZ), USA - Melbourne, Australia - Port Vila, Vanuatu - Cleveland (OH), USA - Nottingham, UK - Kansas City (MO), USA - The Hague, Netherlands - Crystal Lake (IL), USA - Wrocław, Poland - Chateaubriant, France - Cheltenham, UK - Moscow, Russia - Monrovia (CA), USA - Saigon, Vietnam - Toruń, Poland - Grenoble, France - Lisbon, Portugal - New Orleans (LA), USA - Sydney, Australia - Boston (MA), USA - American Fork (UT), USA - Boston (MA), USA - Montréal (QC), Canada - Wichita (KS), USA - Radonvilliers, France - Buenos Aires, Argentina - Christchurch, New Zealand - Rabaul, Papua New Guinea - Wailea (HI), USA - Aliso Viejo (CA), USA - St Francis, South Africa - Port Elizabeth, South Africa - Seattle (WA), USA - Pasadena (CA), USA - Vienna, Austria - Orlando (FL), USA - Torun, Poland - Delta (CO), USA - Santa Fe (NM), USA - Minneapolis (MN), USA - Haninge, Sweden - Paris, France - Stavanger, Norway - Niamey, Niger - Le Guilvinec, France - Bogor, Indonesia - Saarbrücken, Germany - Auckland, New Zealand - Wellington, New Zealand - Budapest, Hungary - Juneau (AK), USA - Bucaramanga (Santander), Colombia - Glasgow, Scotland - Chicago (IL), USA - Jakarta, Indonesia - Adelaide (SA), Australia - Sydney, Australia - Riga, Latvia - Subang Jaya (Selangor), Malaysia - Terrell (TX), USA - Terrell (TX), USA - Inverness (IL), USA

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