Expat tales: Menton, France
Merryn Corcoran finds a village that blends medieval with modern an ideal place to live.
Why did you move to Menton?
We'd been in London for nearly 18 years and spending our holidays near Menton. So, when we decided to scale down our businesses, we thought it would be ideal to live in the warmth, by the sea.
What do you do there?
I've just completed writing my first novel.
What do you like or dislike about life in Menton?
My husband and I are both keen swimmers and swim daily at the beach across the road. We love the more leisurely pace of life but, if we fancy some action, it's only a 10-minute drive to Monaco and 35 minutes to Nice, a big bustling city.
How does the cost of living compare with New Zealand?
Food, clothes and eating out are much cheaper. With the strong NZ dollar, even holiday accommodation in France is competitive.
What do you do on weekends?
In the spring and autumn, as Menton is right on the border of France and Italy, we often drive about 40 minutes into Italy and visit one of several 14th-century perched villages which all have wonderful small family-run restaurants. Once it's summer, we have our favourite inexpensive beach restaurant just opposite our apartment, where we meet with friends, swap the English Sunday papers and enjoy the sea.
What do you think of the food?
We always buy our fresh produce at the local market and love to cook and entertain at home on our terrace. We eat seasonally and local, often cooking desserts such as fresh white peaches poached in rosewater. Duck is my favourite when eating out in France, cooked in any form. In Italy, a veal chop cooked in butter and sage. My husband loves offal and the French are very skilled at utilising most parts of the animal.
What's the best way to get around?
In Menton you can walk everywhere; half of the town is a 14th-century medieval village and the other half is modern. You can catch a bus anywhere on the Riviera for just € 1 (NZ$1.70) and the train, which travels up and down the coast, is around € 4. In the narrow old streets, a large car is useless so we have a small, zippy Renault.
What's the shopping like?
The local shopping area has all the big brands but there are still some cute smaller boutiques and wonderful gift shops.
What's the nightlife like?
In Menton it's all about eating out in the summer on the beach. We have one late-night bar. It's pretty quiet after about 11pm. For clubs you go through to Italy or to Nice.
What is your favourite part of Menton?
The ancient olive grove, where some trees date back 1000 years. They are knotted and gnarled like a group of old wise people. It's a public park now and all that history stimulates my imagination when I walk through, just after dawn in the cool of the morning.
What time of year is best to visit?
I would say May, June or September. Fewer tourists then and the weather's not too hot.
What's your must-do thing for visitors?
Visit the historic cemetery where the residents lie proudly looking out over the town and the sea with a view to Italy. Especially if you're a rugby fan, as William Webb Ellis who invented rugby is buried there. Near his grave is a plaque signed by all the Rugby World Cup captains of 2007, including Richie McCaw.
What are your top tips for tourists?
Before travelling, practise a few polite French words to introduce yourself, rather than your first sentence being, "Do you speak English?" The French protocol is vastly different to New Zealand's or England's and French people do so appreciate it when foreigners at least attempt to speak their language.
How easy is it for you to get back to New Zealand?
We regularly visit friends and family who are mainly in Christchurch and Emirates flies from Nice into Christchurch, which is wonderful.
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Sunday Star Times