Menton is located on the Franco-Italian border, within the confines of the Côte d’Azur and the Ligurian Alps. It boasts a warm micro-climate favorable to lemon, tangerine, and orange groves.
The fishing industry was devastated in the 1980s and 1990s when the “killer algae” Caulerpa taxifolia spread throughout the coastal sea floor, greatly reducing local fish populations.
Menton’s February carnival festival of lemons, annually since the end of the 19th century and still exciting and fun, with a 2009 theme of Music of the World. The 3-week event has a daily Citrus Exposition, parades on Sundays, Corsos Nocturnes with fireworks on Thursday nights, and Jardins de lumières on Fridays.
The idea is citrus, the colors are yellow and orange, and the mood is festive. Menton, tucked along the coast next to Italy, becomes more animated than usual the second half of every February with the Fête du Citron.
Every day of the festival period the Jardin Biovès in the center of town hosts the Expositions d’agrumes (Citrus Expositions). The normally open Jardin Biovès is walled off for the festival and an entrance fee (€9 in 2009) is required. The long, narrow garden is full of large, intricate creations, somewhat like static parade floats built mainly from citrus fruits.
Beyond was there for opening day in 2009, with the annual theme Musiques du Monde (Music of the World). Separate displays depicted classical, African, Polka and Tango. The appropriate music plays in the vicinity of each display, and some types of music enticed the slowly wandering visitors to spontaniously dance along with the music.
The French Can-Can being played by the large yellow Moulin Rouge was popular, and a favorite place for having one’s photos taken in front of. In our casual analysis, the Rock and Roll exhibit of a large jukebox wasn’t that great, but the music was the most popular for spontaneous dancing along.
Not quite static, the artistic creations of lemons and oranges included rotating windmill blades for the Moulin Rouge and a turning paddle wheel in real water for the Dixieland steamboat.
The Expositions d’agrumes had a few stands selling local citrus-based products and refreshments.
The Corsos des fruits d’or (the Parade of Golden Fruits) are held on a route through the town every Sunday, early afternoon. Tribunes, both along the seaside and on the inside streets, are available, or you can stand with the crowds and try to get a look.
Corsos nocturnes (Night parades) are held on two of the Thursday nights, including the parade, dancers and terminating with fireworks.
Jardins de lumières (Gardens of Light). On the Thursday nights of the festival, the expostion inside the Jardin Biovès is lighted and animated with dancers.
All of the events have their price, including the Expositions d’Agrumes in the Jardin Biovès. Tickets are available for entry into the Jardin at the garden. Tickets for all the events are available at the Office de Tourisme, located a couple of blocks up Ave Boyer, along the eastern side of the Jardin Biovès.