Kathryn and Ken's European Vacation

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Day 44: Menton, France
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Day 44: Menton, France
Day 45: Menton, France
Day 46: Menton, France
Day 47: Vierzon, France
Day 48: Saint Suliac, France
Day 49: Saint Suliac, France



Hotel Napoleon


Mix of sun and cloud with a high of 20°C


Day 44: Wednesday, October 18    Menton, France

Arrivederci Italy - Bonjour France;
Happy Birthday Ken

We had a complementary breakfast at the hotel and set out for France.  The weather was a little overcast and cool in the morning but it cleared up later.  Our first stop, 30 km from Pisa, was the city of Lucca which was recommended by our Frommer's guide.

Lucca is a small walled town in central Tuscany. The walls date back to the 15th century and they enclose a place that can be wandered or pedaled with ease yet remains full of secrets. One of Italy's finest mediaeval treasures, the centre is relatively unspoiled and is sprinkled with palazzi, towers and almost countless splendid churches. The surrounding hills produce some excellent wines and arguably the finest olive oil anywhere, whilst the beaches and nightlife are but a small hop away.  A quiet town, it has still not crossed the boundary to crass rip-offs and over priced trinkets of other tourist towns around the world.  Lucca is a walking and bicycling town. Unless you live within the city walls you are not allowed to drive or park there.  As the photo from the Internet at left shows, the streets are incredibly narrow.  Kathryn was worried about leaving all our luggage

Streets of Lucca taken from a tower

in the car, so we found a parking garage and each took turns wandering around the old medieval town.  Kathryn purchased some Tuscany olive oil and balsamic vinegar in a local shop.

We then got on the A12 (and later A10) freeway and drove the 300 km along the coastline of northwestern Italy.  This was an amazing trip because almost the entire trip was made driving on bridges or through tunnels.  The terrain of the coastline consists of one huge ridge after another running perpendicular to the shore with deep valleys in between.  We had to drive on tunnels through the ridges and on bridges over the valleys.  We spent very little time on flat ground during the entire four-hour trip and we were constantly turning our headlights on and off. The tunnels ranged from 77 m to 2000 m (2 km) in length.  The bridges were 150 m to 250 m long and 50 to 80 m high (pretty scary if you are afraid of heights).  There were beautiful little village down in the valleys under the bridges but there was no place to pull over to take a photo.

The map at right is a Google satellite image of the coast near Genova.  If you click on it, you can see where the highways disappear into tunnels.  If you can see the road is almost always a bridge.  There were over 100 bridges and tunnels on this trip.

Map showing bridges and tunnels

Entrance to tunnel

Tall Italian bridge

Just a little way over the French border, the pleasant Cote d'Azur resort of Menton has been attracting tourists for years.  Menton (pop. 30,200), is located in the French Riviera, not far from Nice and Cannes, and lies in a tiny section of France uniquely bordered by both Italy and the Principality of Monaco.  Although the pretty town is nowadays inside France, Menton once belonged to Genoa, is still Italian to look at and is as warm in winter as Capri. The Cote d'Azur resort is used to tourists, and has had a resident English 'colony' since the 1890s. Among assorted European nobility in Menton's beautiful hilltop cemetery lie the inventor of Rugby football and Aubrey Beardsley, Oscar Wilde's friend and illustrator. Above the posh yachts and fishing boats, Menton's old town rises in a tangle of stepped lanes, pink/cream/ochre houses and tall Italianate churches.

When Kathryn was planning our trip, Ken said he wanted to stop and spend a few days on a warm beach somewhere to recharge our batteries.  We were originally looking at San Remo, Italy when Kathryn heard about Menton and the Hotel Napoleon from her bridge friend, Leoma.  She and her husband had stayed there for a week and they just loved it, so we decided to book in for three days.  As we entered the city and reached the waterfront, we turned right instead of left and drove to the western edge of this lovely city.  We then turned around and drove back to the eastern side of the city and found our

Kathryn on the balcony of our hotel room

Hotel Napoleon.  We had originally booked a mountain view room to save money but, as soon as we saw the hotel which was across the boulevard from the beach, we decided to pay the extra 15€ per day and got a sea view room with a balcony.  We normally don't spend a lot of time in the room but this turned out to be a good choice.
An online website for Menton states "
With over 300 cloudless days each year, Menton’s subtropical micro-climate guarantees that tourists will enjoy afternoons spent in the blue waters of the Mediterranean, basking on the picture-perfect beaches, and weekend visits to the lush mountains surrounding the town."  Unfortunately the next

The view looking east from our balcony.  The flat topped building is a supermarket.

two days were part of the other 65 days as our luck of beautiful warm days finally ran out.  We found out from the British tourists staying in the hotel that the previous week had been hot and sunny and we later heard that the week after we left was also very warm.  In spite of this, we loved our time in Menton and would love to go back there again.

By this time we badly needed to do laundry.  The front desk said that there was a coin laundry near the Hotel de Ville (City Hall) so we walked about a km to

The view looking west to downtown Menton

the old city center.  We never did find the laundromat but the old town, le Vieux Menton, has an active pedestrian area, with the long Rue St Michel running the length of it, full of shops of all sorts

and terrace cafés.  The real heart of le Vieux Menton is the Medieval style buildings grouped around the Eglise St Michel and the Chapel de Pénitents Blancs at the top of the hill. Viewed from the sea front at the east, this area has the appearance of a hilltop perched village. The streets are narrow, with long step-streets and many very colorful old buildings.

We found an Internet cafe on our way back to the hotel and sent out an update to family and friends.  There was a supermarket (U Marche) across the boulevard from the hotel.  We went and brought fresh fruit, produce, meat , cheese and buns and had a picnic style meal on our balcony at 8:00 pm to celebrate Kenny's birthday.

St. Michel Church taken from the boardwalk along the bay

Click here for a slide show of Day 44 photos.

Day 45

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