While we slice a lemon to squeeze some zest on our dinner dish, the French celebrate lemons by parading down the streets of Menton with 130 tonnes of the tangy fruit. The highlight of this quaint hill-side town isn’t so much it’s turquoise seaside views, crescent-shaped bay, exclusive coastal resorts or its citrus coloured houses dotted with blue windows. Instead, the Fête du citron (Lemon Festival) fruit show is an easy limelight stealer with it’s citrus carnivals spread over parks and overrun on streets throughout February to early March.
If you are swinging by the French Riviera during this time of the year, a visit to Menton or the “Pearl of France” will ensure you don’t leave with a sour taste in your mouth.
This 86 year old renowned festival attracts around 1,60,000 visitors to participate in a joie de vivre of dance and song as a salute to the citrus king of fruits. Sculptures made out of oranges and lemons wired together in the shape of mini Eiffel towers, elephants and Taj Mahals make their rounds while encouraging flamboyant cultural dance sequences, spearheaded by twirling acrobats, sky swooping stilt-walkers and fire-eating magicians.
If you’ve only ever made lemonade out of lemons, you are in for a surprise as to how artistically these bright yellow sparks of sunshine can be used. For those who don’t think the festival is fantastical enough, the theme for this year’s festival is “fantasy,” so look out for yellow flying dolphins, orange swimming dragons, and luminous mermaids. Now you know, the next time life gives you lemons, the zest way to deal with them would be to take them to Menton!
Restaurants too add a little local flavour to fresh catch of the day.
Curiosities : To further indulge in the rich culture of France take a walk around the Jardins Biovès (Biovès Gardens) and visit the Jean Cocteau Museum. A stroll on the seaside Promenade du Soleil while watching the sunset in the many citrus shades, will fill your heart with the deep sense of contentment you didn’t know you were longing.
Stores : Those lemons that were once a sparkle for your eyes, can later be satiated by your tummy through jars of marmalade and sips of limoncello. The Au Pays Du Citron and Jardin Botanique exotique du Val Rahmeh off Avenue St Jacques are two stores that will allow you to buy your favourites and hence savour the joy a little longer.