30 April 2009

Rue Longue - Porte Saint-Julien

Rue Longue has two medieval portes, one at each end. Here we see Porte Saint-Julien at the eastern end of the street - ie nearest to Italy. The original name was Porta Julia. With both entrances closed, the town was protected from invaders.

Later, in 1687, a chain barred the entrance and a tax had to be paid to the Count of Ventimiglia by merchants who wanted to sell their wares in Menton. This import duty was known as the 'droit de chaîne.'

29 April 2009

Rue Longue - Number 56

Two signs, and three decidedly different periods in the history of this house in Rue Longue.

The red and white sign, and the most recent, is of a now defunct Halal grocery shop. Alongside, an inscription on the wall. This is the most interesting inscription in all of Rue Longue - even considering Gaspard de Bottini's house at no. 129.

There are three parts to this inscription: the first being the monogram of Christ which is in the centre. The second, the initials of the proprietor (B.T.) in 1542 and the third, the initials of another proprietor (M.M.) in 1855.

As you can see this building is in desperate need of some T.L.C.

For those of you interested in the history of Menton, do take a look at Eddy's blog, D'Hier a Aujourd'hui. Eddy is the husband of Catherine, who many know from her lovely Just the Five of Us blog. Eddy and Catherine have an apartment in Menton that they visit during most school holidays. Their absolute love of Menton shows in all their postings about the town. Eddy's blog features old postcards alongside a photograph of that same place today and commentary giving us the history. Fascinating it is. Do take a look.

28 April 2009

Wisteria in Place aux Herbes

The last day of this short 'wisteria in Menton' series. We're in Place aux Herbes looking at the signs above this charming little bar.

27 April 2009

Le Clos du Peyronnet - Wisteria 3

Another pergola at the beautiful Clos du Peyronnet. This glorious garden is in Garavan and just 200 metres from the Italian frontier.

A cup of tea with William, sitting at this table is heaven - looking (to the left of this photo) over beautiful pools (plus ducks) and beyond to the Mediterranean - it is absolutely my favourite Menton garden.

This wisteria - click to enlarge the smaller photo - is called 'Black Dragon.'

This is the last photo of the Clos for the moment but we will return for a series on this beautiful garden later in the year. Tomorrow, the last in the 'wisteria' series, and this time at Place des Herbes in the Old Town.

26 April 2009

Le Clos du Peyronnet - Wisteria 2

Here we see the enormous size of these wisteria plants, the trunks almost as wide as the columns. There is more than one variety planted along this pergola. Some years back one of the pillars was broken in two by the strength of the wisteria - but again, it was its very strength that prevented the pillar actually falling. Recently William had it replaced - an exceedingly delicate operation.

In the past, William has given 'wisteria parties' in April - a wonderful way to admire these ancient plants in bloom.

25 April 2009

Le Clos du Peyronnet - Wisteria

Indulge me! I know we are supposed to be continuing our visit to Rue Longue - and we will, we will, but I just wanted to show you some of Menton's wisteria before it disappears.

The Clos du Peyronnet is one of Menton's famous gardens, in this case, one of the very few private gardens in Menton that is open for garden tours and to the general public on certain days in June. It's owned by William Waterfield and I plan a series on the Clos - we have a treat ahead - but over the next few days, we'll just look at various wisterias. Then back to Rue Longue.

I took this yesterday afternoon. This particular wisteria is almost over - William said it was at its best two weeks ago. These few fronds tho, high up, still show their long, narrow form and beautiful delicacy.

24 April 2009

Easter Monday People - the Chefs

They were sitting on a bench in front of the sea, their restaurant, Coté Sud, behind them. Four guys, one girl. The girl didn't want to be photographed. Here are four smiling Italians. Need I say more. Che bello!

23 April 2009

Easter Monday People - Roller Bat and Ball

Don't kids wear the greatest gear? Pink for a little girl.

These two were playing, one on blades, one not, near to the old port of Menton.

Do take a look at Catherine's blog today to see a wonderfully ORANGE view of Menton.

22 April 2009

Easter Monday People - the Artisan

This is Noel, a ferronnier (craftsman in wrought iron) who has his workshop on Place du Petit Port in Menton. I was taking a photo of an empty wine bottle hanging on a wrought iron hook outside his door. Seemed to me strange - why a bottle and not a sign? Then he appeared and one hour later I left!

Noel is 83 years old and still works in fer forgé. He showed me inside his workshop. He proudly showed me a programme of a 1950 exhibition where his work was displayed alongside that of Pablo Picasso. And then he pulled out a fat bunch of photographs of all his work and that's why one hour later I left...

It's amazing the characters one meets just wandering around and all with a story to tell.

21 April 2009

Easter Monday People - Ice Cream

"I doubt whether the world holds for anyone a more soul-stirring surprise than the first adventure with ice cream."

~Heywood Broun

20 April 2009

Easter Monday People - the Dishy Italian

There I was, about to take a shot of the 'rampes,' the steps that lead up to Rue Longue, when I noticed this handsome young man. I loved the contrast of the colours of the building and he in black and white.

I thought if I was clever I'd sneak a shot of him, but he was too quick for me. He smiled. I smiled. I said, 'I'll take 'your' photograph then,' dragging my camera away from the rampes (so difficult!) and then he waved. I asked him if I could take another and later he gave me his email address to send him the photos, which I've done.

(P.S. I found it hard to choose which photo I preferred. I might yet change them around. What do you think?)

Italian men! Seems to me they are all gorgeous. Thanks, Giorgio!

19 April 2009

Easter Monday People - the Guitarist and her Dog

We've left our visit to Rue Longue - just for a few days (we'll be back, I promise).

I went to Rue Longue on Easter Monday to take more photographs of that ancient street but on the way there and back, I got to meet some interesting people - and wanted you to meet them too.

This is Virginie. She is often to be seen on the streets of Menton playing and singing - and she has a really beautiful voice. She lives in a van with her two dogs. The one you see is Tequila, her Yorkie who has recently been sterilized, because her other dog, a Jack Russell 'got at her' and she had five puppies. I suggested she castrate the Jack Russell but she didn't want to do that as he guards her and her van. Sleeping alone at night in her van, I understand.

Don't you love her footwear! Bells on her toes. A great sound with the guitar.

Notice the wisteria in the background of the photo below. It's a particular beautiful variety - pale, with much longer flower fronds than normal. I love it's delicacy. More pics of Virginie and Tequila and the wisteria on Riviera Dogs today.

18 April 2009

Rue Longue - Traverse des Diamants

This narrow vaulted passage allows us to walk from Rue Longue down to the sea. It was originally built for the Princes giving direct access to a landing stage.

Legend has it that the ladies of the Prince's Palace often lost their jewelry in this obscure traverse so the Mentonnais would quickly run to the passageway as soon as one of the grand ladies had passed by. Much more likely, is that the moon on the sea resembled the shine of a diamond.

There is much, much more to show you in Rue Longue - the Palais Princier, the Hôtel Pretti and so on - but tomorrow, for a day or two, I want to introduce you to a few people I met over the Easter break in Menton. But we'll be back to Rue Longue, I promise.

17 April 2009

Rue Longue - the Photographer's Assistant

The little girl is being filmed but it is she who is telling the photographer how to use the camera.

Before I zoomed in on this beautiful child, I was attempting to take a photograph of Rue Longue in relation to the old port and the beach. About half way down Rue Longue there is this gap in the houses. You see the steps that go down to the lower level and the sea. These steps - or 'rampes' - continue on the other side of Rue Longue - to our right - climbing ever higher and enabling us to reach the Parvis St. Michel and Basilica.

At the base of the steps that you see in this photo, you will find THIS.

16 April 2009

Rue Longue - the Old Lock

Here are details of the old lock and, in the smaller photograph, the doorknob - see yesterday's post.

The door knob wobbles but who cares?

Look at that old door, riddled with woodworm, yet still going strong after 466 years.

15 April 2009

Rue Longue - 129, Gaspard de Bottini's house

There are several fascinating stone lintels on Rue Longue. This is perhaps the most interesting in that the door and door fittings appear to be original too. It's just along from the Prince's Palace, which we'll see another day.

The smaller photo shows the lintel more clearly - click to enlarge. On the left you see the date: 1543. In the centre is Christ's monogram - you find this on several houses along the street. Either side of Christ's monogram are the letters B and G. These stand for the original owner Gaspard de Bottini. I don't know what the two symbols on the right signify.

As I was photographing this house, a lady opened the door. Naturally I apologised - then we chatted and she confirmed the door and door fittings are original - other than the door has been reinforced along its base with newer wood. She kindly left the door unlocked for me to go inside and photograph the hallway - there would seem to be two apartments. Tomorrow, we'll look in more detail at this beautiful ancient doorway.

Marta - this is for you! Marta left a comment the other day hoping I'd feature number 129.

14 April 2009

Rue Longue - le Petit Train de Menton

Yesterday I wrote that no cars go down Rue Longue. I was wrong! Here you see 'Le Petit Train' which takes visitors around the town.

So yes, cars - and Le Petit Train - can go down Rue Longue but it's obvious they can't park for long as they'd block the street.

Thanks to Karen, USA who left a comment that Le Petit Train used to come down this street even before the renovation. See her comment below. Thanks Karen!

13 April 2009

Rue Longue - Stairs

If you live on Rue Longue, you'll be used to steep stairs. These are actually quite smart compared to many that have no tiles. The smaller photograph shows the entry with old tiles so typical of this area.

There are five apartments in this building as you can see by the number of mailboxes.

Water, wine, milk, all your food, your household cleaners - everything - has to be carried up several flights of stairs and that's after you've already carried your shopping from the market to here. You'll find no cars in the tiny streets of the Old Town. (see next day's post - I was wrong!)

"Away from the world and its toils and its cares,
I've a snug little kingdom up four pairs of stairs."

- William Makepeace Thackeray (1811 - 1863)

12 April 2009

Rue Longue - the Message

An old door on Rue Longue. The anti-war poster is used as a message pad:

'Jean-Philippe, Me donner en urgence la clé de la cave. Merci. Ou je change la serrure,' - which roughly translates as -'Jean-Philippe, Give me the key to the cellar urgently. Thanks. Or I'll change the lock.'

I love this snippet of life. Maybe it's simply that things seem more interesting in a language other than your own.

If you enlarge the smaller photo, you'll see the poster says 'Tout pour l'armée, rien pour ta gueule.'

Thank you so much to Marie and Catherine and my neighbour, Agnès, for the correct translation, which isn't literal - the word gueule being slang in French. 'All for the army, nothing for yourself.' Read the first two comments for this explanation and information on Cabu, the famous cartoonist and caricaturist, who created this poster. Thanks, ladies!

11 April 2009

Rue Longue - Pegged

Did you notice these socks and rubber gloves in yesterday's photograph?

"I don't have a photograph, but you can have my footprints. They're upstairs in my socks."

Groucho Marx (1890 - 1977) - A Day at the Races

10 April 2009

Rue Longue - the Cable Layers

Along with the new road surface comes the possibility of cable television and that's what these guys are installing. They saw me taking a photograph so immediately went into 'pose mode.' Aren't they great!

09 April 2009

Rue Longue - the Letter Box

Whilst this ancient street has a new surface, happily nearly everything else is old.

08 April 2009

Rue Longue - Renovated

Some of you may remember the series on Rue Longue at the end of 2007, when it was under renovation. At the time it was almost impossible to walk down the street - take a look HERE to see how the road was excavated to a depth of several feet and residents had to squeeze past on narrow planks of wood.

Rue Longue, after two years of work, is almost finished. In the main photo we see the new surface on the road. The smaller photograph - left - shows how it used to be. Yes, perhaps the tiny pavements had to be removed, but I so wish they'd used paving that was more in keeping with the feel of these medieval houses. Of course, it's safe, it's non-slip and that's what councils think of these days. And yes, there is a sense of design in the light and darker tiles giving that long winding effect in the middle, but it's awfully modern. In 1908, Rue Longue was repaired with stone from La Spezia in Italy and it's this paving that has now been replaced. Progress?

Rue Longue was the original Roman Road - the only road leading into Italy. Called Via Aurelia, it became the Via Julia Augusta in the first century and it was around this road that Menton was built in 1250 AD.

The photo below shows this street how it was not long before the new paving was laid.

Tomorrow - we'll start to explore this beautiful old street and see what's new and what's old. Do come back.

07 April 2009

Buried Alive!

Do you remember being buried in sand when you were a child? I've a photograph somewhere - just my head shows and I recall to this day how clammy and uncomfortable it was. We dug a deep hole, in went the victim, and on went the sand...and it was so heavy you couldn't get out without help. Scary.

"Children's games are hardly games. Children are never more serious than when they play"

- Montaigne

This photograph was taken at the end of February on one of Menton's public beaches.

06 April 2009

The Road Less Travelled

Yesterday, we had steps to walk up. Today we have steps to walk down - although we could take the narrow traverse to the right and then we might be on the road less travelled...

The Old Town is a myriad of little streets, up, down, through tunnels, turn left, turn right. It's easy to get lost. Of course, that's the best thing to do: get lost. Wander - enjoy - and see where the road takes you.

05 April 2009


How could anyone be sad living amongst so many happy colours? We are at the base of the Old Town today.

"Why do two colours, put one next to the other, sing? Can one really explain this? No. Just as one can never learn how to paint."

- Pablo Picasso (1881 - 1973)

04 April 2009

The Pleasure of Reading

Beach, book, gently breaking waves.

"Real luxury is time and opportunity to read for pleasure."

- Jane Brody

In some ways I prefer the composition of the smaller photograph but the bigger one tells the whole story. Which do you prefer?

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