Posted by: Caroline | May 17, 2010

Sweets and Cartier by the Sea

We chose cheery Menton as our base for exploring the French Riviera. It’s a small city where palm trees rise in front of sunset-colored buildings…

… and miniature fruit trees adorn the terraces.

Menton’s streets offer you the chance to buy a Nutella-stuffed crepe…

… or to forget the crepe and buy the largest jar of Nutella known to man.

But Nutella in any form is a mere sweet. Macarons, on the other hand, are an art. I have tasted many other nations’ attempts at the crispy, airy cookie that softens into a rich icing center–but no one can craft it like the French.

Menton is gorgeously situated on the Mediterranean.

Typically the turquoise waves are gentle, but during our stay the water was ferocious, turning seaside cafes into sea-drenched ones.

Even the locals were awed!

Eventually it calmed down enough for us to get a closer look without getting soaked.

We used the Menton train station for day trips to Apricale, Nice, and Monaco.

The Monaco train station

Menton is only two train stops away from the kind-of-independent Principality of Monaco, famous for the Grand Prix race through its winding streets and its reputation as a tax haven for the world’s wealthiest. We arrived about a week before the race, expecting an atmosphere of excitement.

 Instead, we faced an unwelcoming gauntlet of scaffolding, making it almost impossible to cross the street or walk anywhere.

Before coming to Monaco, I imagined a classy, exclusive city full of Prada-clad millionaires driving through town in sleek sports cars on their way to the opera.

This is not the way it is. Monaco is a good example that to become wealthy does not require good taste. The city-state serves more as a stage than a playground for the rich. The prominently-parked Rolls Royces are only for tourists to swoon over (and swoon they do!), and the atrocious multicolored poncho I saw on a Ferrari owner prove that a designer label is all that it takes for a piece of clothing to be desirable here. Where is all the classy, understated Chanel?

Tourists ogling expensive cars:

The harbor…

… perfect for parking enormous cruise ships full of adoring fans.

If I, a mere mortal, had deigned to enter this establishment, I’m sure I would have promptly been escorted outside.

Although the display of wealth was a bit too ostentatious, Monaco’s buildings–including the famous casino–are still regal.

The Hollywood actress Grace Kelly, from films like Rear Window and To Catch a Thief, was the dearly loved Princess of Monaco until her 1982 death. Her name is found all over Monaco.


  1. to become wealthy does not require good taste.

    so true. Once saw a Lamborghini in New York that had HappyFace floormats and the recessed headlights were covered with a piece of Plexi-glass that had been screwed into the car with Robertson screws. Broke my heart

  2. I had my first ever Macaron with you, Caroline. And my first Nutella filled crepe!

    The only reason I know anything about Monaco is because I just saw Iron Man II and part of it takes place at the Grand Prix. Hope you got to see Robert Downey Jr. while you were there!

  3. […] we’re junkies for a good old border crossing. Whether it’s stopping off in Monaco for a couple frustrating hours or crossing into Kosovo just because, border crossing excursions–even rather pointless […]

  4. […] For example, that’s how he found these fairy tale Italian villages and palm-tree laden Menton, France. […]

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