The morning started great, some high clouds, but the sun rose nicely onto our patio table and we had a leisurely breakfast. We decided it was almost impossible to see more than three villages, especially as we like to explore them and eat a slow lunch, so that was our limit.
The A8 was its usual parking lot but after Nice we moved at the posted limits.
Roquebrune is a medieval village with a 10C castle that is the oldest Carolingian one in France. The nice thing about this castle is that it was small, it was only used for defense, with a contingent of 7 men to man it. It was an austere life these soldiers led, no women or children were there and even fewer visitors. When you walked it, up the three different levels, read the posted explanations as well as a recorded guide (amazing how technology penetrates even the most remote places), looked out over the ramparts and between the crenellations, you could feel what it was like to live there so long ago.
There was also a memorial celebration going on in the small town square, perched basically on a cliff edge, in honor of the soldiers from the town who served and died in the Indochinese wars.
We walked as many of the streets as possible, there are tons of fabulous views, and then headed for Gorbio.
Gorbio is a small hill town, just north of Menton, another cute village. To get to it though does require driving roads that are a little more than one car width's wide and, in one point, there was an automated light that turned red to stop you while cars coming the other way had the green light. The sign by the light warned you that it could be as much as a 20 minute stop. Fortunately, we only had to wait about 5 min.
The impressive thing about visiting these coastal hill towns are the views to the sea, the edge drop-offs (many turns have no railings and even then the railings are only two feet high), and seeing the A8 as it crosses the valleys, or canyons, perched on stanchions, pillars, that shoot 100's of feet up from the valley floor to support the roadway.
Gorbio also had a pretty town square with two restaurants on it, as well as more than its share of friendly cats, one of which, as I knelt to pet him, climbed onto my knee, stretched up to my face, and looked like he wanted to lick me.
Gorbio has a very nice church in the middle of the village which we went to see. It turned out there was some restoration work going on in one of the side chapels and it was a woman who was doing the work. I asked her, in French, how long she had been working on it, among other things and as conversations do we got on the subject of languages. Turned out she was from Romania, spoke French, but not much English, but she did know Italian. So, once again problem solved as we were then able to discuss what she was doing, where she came from, etc, in Italian, even though mine is limited. She had started on the project a month or so ago and probably had at least six months or more to go. A lot of her work, stripping off old paint and encrusted dirt, was the difficult part, but then too was the painstaking work to bring it back to the way it was.
We decided to wait for Menton to get lunch, though it was already afternoon. But since we'll eat in tonight, we figured we'd just eat a later lunch.
The drive to Menton is all down hill, all on twisty roads, lots of hairpin turns and impressive views. We entered at the East end of Menton and drove West, towards Italy, as the signs all say, as it's a short drive to the border. We found great parking by the marina, a big marina, and began walking along the promenade that runs along the beach for the length of the town.
By the way, today there was no problem parking anywhere. Every village and town had multiple parking areas and all had plenty of room. We saw lots of "retired looking" people and we had read that it is the riveria's version of Ft. Lauderdale as many retired French and British flock to this town, as it is the warmest town on the Mediteranean.
In Menton, as other beach towns, the restaurants are across the street from the beach. So they set up their umbrellas and tables on the wide sidewalks across from them and the servers carry their trays stacked with various orders across the street where the traffic obligingly stops, or at least slows down.
The breeze comes off the sea continually and you do need to keep a knife or fork or glass on your napkin lest it blow away.
We had a nice table for two, shaded by a very large umbrella, with a great view of the sea, the beach and a continual display of waves and cresting white caps.
Our order took a bit longer than we expected and I asked the server if she could check on it. But my French is not that great, and she spoke no English, but, being that Menton has a lot of Italians that visit, she did speak Italian. Problem solved again.
Karen had a simple lunch of Spaghetti and tomato basil, preceeded by a salad that we both shared. I had another Fritto Misto, but this was more like the Italian ones I was used to, with calamari, and baby octopus, but then many large scampi in their shells and heads and a lot of small fish, whole, which require you to deftly fillet them to avoid chomping on bones, and a larger fish, also to be filleted. All of the fish still had their heads on. It was a beautiful sight and as usual I've included a picture. I also had some wine and bread.
So, we then got out the Michelin Guide to walk the main sites, as well as get our direction. Climbed some long staircases up the the main church, which was being decorated for a wedding tomorrow, traipsed through a flea market, some stores, and, as we did not have coffee or dessert after lunch, stopped and got them on a small square. The Tiramisu Karen had was divine, and the fruit tart for Mike, with three large balls of whipped cream, no less, and we finished them up.
Then a quick stop at a small patissierie for some incredible looking raisin cinnamon danish pastries for tomorrow's final breakfast at Domaine du Piol.
On both my main meals they looked so good I started to eat them and just in time remembered to get the picture first.
We walked some more, went through the marina, and finally called it quits about 5 pm.
The drive home took about an hour, with brief crawling points where there were accidents...my friend Antonio yesterday had told us how with the 'right' accident, the three hour drive from his house to Sanremo could easily take six or eight. Fortunately these delays were only about 15 minutes as our car has no toilet, nor does the A8 where we were.
We made a quick stop at the Casino Supermarket (that's its name, no slot machines) to pick up dinner and we're in at six.
At 7:30 we decided to make dinner, roast chicken, salad, the rest of that great chocolate cake, coffee, and then pack for tomorrow's drive to our Nice apartment.
This place was great and we hate to leave it, but our second apartment and week is calling.
View of Monte Carlo & Mediterranean from Roquebrune
Roquebrune Village from the Chateau
Lunch Break at Menton
Mike's Fritto Misto
Life is Grand
Just a Small Dessert
Menton Town View and Beach