I come to this easy conclusion after yesterday's trip to Menton (in a bus crowded to the gills due to holiday in France and transportation strike just across in Italy), and today's hike up to the panoramic lookout between Villefranche and Nice. Breathtakingly beautiful!
After traveling down the coast through Cap Ferrat, Beaulieu, Eze, Cap d'Ail, Monaco, past bays and beaches, old villages, cafés, towns with clear Italian influences - a symphony of colors, people enjoying themselves - I arrive in Menton, a smaller version of Nice, with a long beachfront promenade, unfiltered and ever-present sunshine. In the Jean Cocteau Museum and sister chapel, I discover I can get in free with my press pass! And take photos (forbidden others)...so ENJOY!
The light and lifestyle of this coast lured friends Picasso, Matisse, Cocteau, and others, who often collaborated to celebrate the human spirit.
I land for lunch in a charming square, complete with classical guitar player who brings tears with his rendition of Malegueña. The Flamenco dancer passes the hat. I enjoy mussels and frites, un petit café.
I shoot a few photos, hiking up the old town to the churches (all closed for holiday) then back along the seaside. I find a water fountain just when I need it. How can the French make delicious tap water (without a hint of chlorine) when we can't? hmmmm...
The train takes me home. It's starts from Menton with three people, and by the time I get off in Villefranche, it's 7 pm and standing room only!
Yesterday I meet a Scandinavian girl with her mother, waiting for the bus, who tells me about Mt. Boron, so I decide to go this morning and take a bus to the top corniche. "Just turn left after two stop signs; it's only dix minutes," he tells me. Everyone here uses the term "dix minutes" (ten minutes) to suggest it's a quick walk. Usually it's twenty; this time it's an hour. Uphill. But eucalyptus and jasmine walk with me, and it is enough to breathe the air. Did I mention the killer views of Nice? The fort was built on this hill to proffer strategic views of both Nice and Villefranche, so the French could be on the lookout for Italian armies. Near the parking lot (yes, most arrive by car), I watch a handful of old men playing boules. They tell me, when I ask directions to the fort, "pas loin, madame, dix minutes."
At last, the fort. And now the panoramic views of Villefranche and the coast to the East.
I finally make my way down towards town - two hours, a few dead-end roads, some helpful workers, a welcome water fountain. Tired and hungry, I stop for salmon grilléé et panna cotta at Les Garçons, on rue Poilu. The salmon melts in my mouth. The rice is jasmine. The olives are the best ever! I realize the food is better because they use less sugar and salt. Lemon gelatos taste like lemon. Berries on the panna cotta, like berries, not sugar. Everything creates taste explosions in the mouth. The food also grows here, in this sunny paradise. How could it not be delicious?