Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Wednesdays in France

Salon de Provence and Menton
Goodbye Saint Chinian

We left Saint Chinian at 10.30 am to hit the motorway but it was a little sad leaving Saint Chinian. It had been our home for the past week and I would recommend the villa for anyone staying in this region.
Little did we know at the time that we would return in less than two years time and say hello to Andreas and Anthony.
Although the motorway has a speed limit of 130 kph, we were continually passed by faster cars. We were even passed by a Fiat Panda going flat chat at its maximum speed – how embarrassing.

We actually left a day earlier as we thought we would need an overnight stay between Saint Chinian and Menton, close to the Italian border. Somewhere in the middle was Salon de Provence. It was a wise decision of Sue's as it added experiences that we would surely have missed.

Salon de Provence
Salon de Provence was just an overnight stay but on arrival, we became aware that there was more interest to the city than we would be able to appreciate in a short stay. As I was becoming more comfortable driving a car from where the passenger usually sits, Salon de Provence was a comfortable size to drive in and around. It was also a lovely city to walk, not too large or crowded - very relaxing.

Salon de Provence, our overnight stop between Saint Chinian and Menton - home to Nostradamus

On arrival it was time for lunch so after locating the Hotel du Midi, we strolled down the street to find an interesting wood fired pizza restaurant. The waitress spoke English and took delight in practicing on us. So delightful was the restaurant’s menu and the waitress that we returned for dinner – I had grilled duck breast and mushrooms, Sue had Rouget fillets.
Our waitress found it astounding that we could come from so far away (Australia) and take six weeks to travel. I must admit that we are fortunate in Australia with our work benefits. After 10 years working with my employer, I had accumulated eight weeks fully paid long service leave. I had also accumulated several weeks of holiday leave from my annual four weeks owing. Some years, I would just take two weeks so the accumulated leave just kept adding up.
Salon de Provence shares some of its history with Nostradamus. There was a museum dedicated to him but time did not allow us to visit.
Early the next morning we were back on the motorway to Menton on the French/Italian border.


Menton Beach, France.
 Menton was a place we wanted to visit overnight on our way to Italy for no other reason than our home suburb in Melbourne took its name from this city on the French/Italian border.

Mentone beach Australia,
painted by Charles Condor in the 1880s. Condor was one of Australia's impressionists whom along with others painted along Port Phillip Bay in the Mentone area before forming the Heidelberg School of Impressionists. Maybe I'll post a future blog on this piece of history soon.

When our suburb (probably then a beach side holiday village in the 1880s) was being subdivided, the developers gave the streets, names such as the Corso, Venice, Antibes, Naples and Florence, which gave it a real European feel. Looking along the sandy bay beaches of Mentone, you can see why the developer was influenced by its French cousin Menton.

From the Diary,
“It’s impossible to get town maps beforehand so you find yourself going round and round - mad traffic – high blood pressure and Leon in melt-down.”

As we drove into Menton from the motorway, we were enthralled by the winding roads that descended to the coast of the Mediterranean. Finding our hotel was the usual hit and miss procedure of the last two weeks. This first trip we didn’t have a GPS. Sue had printed out pages and pages of Mappy maps which are fine for the simple stuff. To find where your hotel is requires more detail instructions. Most of the time, without realising it, we were usually no more than metres from our destination and sometimes just opposite.

The first thing we did on finding our hotel was to order a bottle of Rose and two glasses and admire the coast line from our third floor balcony. Then it was time for a walk to discover Menton.

The highlight was stumbling upon the Anna Chromy exhibition in the gardens of the Musee des Beaux-Arts.
I’d not been aware of her work previously but was amazed with her talent and extraordinary visual concepts.
If you would like to look at more of her work follow this link

Menton being just around the corner to Monte Carlo and the centre of the rich and famous, we found Menton not as friendly as the smaller cities and villages. Unlike our waitress in Salon de Provence, the few people we encountered in the tourist precincts were not anxious to exchange pleasantries. I guess it can be a chore putting up with endless non-French speaking tourists like ourselves.

Another hidden treasure of Menton - At the end of a leafy driveway I spied a Citroen DS.

We decided on buying some bits and pieces and a bottle of wine instead of going out for dinner. This we enjoyed on our balcony overlooking the Mediterranean on a full moon balmy night. Our entertainment was watching the passing promenade of cars and people along the esplanade.

The sun begins to set on our day at Menton - tomorrow we arrive in Italy.

As the sun sets, we raise our glasses and say goodnight to Menton,
and France for the next 2 weeks.

From Menton, our next overnight stop to Rome would be Viareggio, another seaside city set in the region of Tuscany.


  1. This is just lovely! I so wish you'd let me know you were in Menton. We could have met up. After all, Menton in Australia and Menton France - we are sort of twinned. Lovely photos and glad you had a good time.

  2. What an interesting post. I know what you mean about maps. It seems you have to be there to get one! Diane

  3. I've never been to the South of France, but seeing those photos, I really should consider it!

  4. Thanks for taking the interests in our rambling. Maps, yes we have now collected quite a few from our travels now and they are useful for bringing back memories.
    Martine - South of France has many attracactions for us, but then we haven't visited any further north of Paris than Senlis and Chantilly and we found these citie remarkable in there special way.
    Here in Australia we find buildings built in 1850 as old.

  5. Hi Leon & Sue,

    What a lovely post - brought back so many happy memories of our own holidays in Menton with my parents (when we were young!!!)

    Carol & Michael

  6. You are both still young (at heart)
    Keep rockin'


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