Flowers, dragons and enchanting Saluzzo

Our time in Menton, a beautiful little town right on the edge of the Côte d’Azur and very close to France’s border with Italy, wasn’t just about taking part in the famous Lemon Festival events.

A bird’s eye view of Menton
The town is famous for its lovely gardens

The town is also famous for its beautiful gardens – it has won the French competition for the best city of flowers at least five times – and we headed to the Val Rahmeh Botanical Garden with high expectations.

My sister and husband on the way to the Val Rahmeh Botanical Garden

We were definitely not disappointed. The lovely gardens, containing 700 different species, are perched on the hillside overlooking the town, marinas and beaches.

Tropical palms in the Val Rahmeh Botanical Garden

Originally planted in the grounds of a private house in 1875, the garden was added to and expanded by different owners and in 1966 was donated to the French nation and is now run by the French Museum of Natural History.

The villa attached to the gardens
A lovely sunny corner in the the Val Rahmeh Botanical Gardens

We had a lovely stroll round in the brilliant early spring sunshine. The house in the grounds was gorgeous- I could only imagine how wonderful it would have been to live there.

Inside the gardens

In true French style, a bell is rung to announce that the gardens are closing for lunch. A couple of hours later you can return to continue your walk round these glorious gardens which because of its warm microclimate, boasts many tropical plants that can’t be grown elsewhere in France.

The glorious villa in the Val Rahmeh Botanical Garden
A lovely spot in the gardens
Such gorgeous colours

The hilly medieval part of the town (created in the 13th century) was also very interesting to walk through. From the coast you climb up the hill through a maze of narrow winding streets and alleyways, with many tall thin buildings entered via steep steps.

Walking through the old part of Menton

On the last day in Menton we watched the highlight of the annual lemon festival- the Carnival grand parade.

The carnival floats at the Menton Lemon Festival

Brightly sparkling confetti was propelled into the crowd

We were fortunate to have bought tickets to sit in one of the stands – the streets were very crowded and there was quite a long wait for the parade to begin.

Lots of carnival colours

It was well worth the wait as there were some wonderful floats with fantasy figures made from oranges and lemons, mechanical dragons and other mythical animals, and live music provided by all kinds of acts including a rock group, drummers, a Japanese marching band and acrobats playing electric violins at the same time as propelling themselves upside down on wires.

Oranges and lemons

All too soon it was time to move on from Menton to make our way very slowly to Athens in Greece to look at a Catamaran that was up for sale.

On our way to Saluzzo

The first leg of the 2,000 plus kilometre journey took us back into Italy and our first stop of interest was Saluzzo, in the Piedmont region of north western Italy.

Saluzzo is right up in the north of Italy
In Saluzzo town

We were absolutely charmed by this delightful city, especially I think, because we weren’t really expecting anything very special.

In the Centro Storico

Built on a hill overlooking a vast, well-cultivated plain, Saluzzo has three main areas. The first is the well preserved and attractive medieval “Centro Storico”.

There were lots of steps
…and cobbles

With cobbled streets and steep staircases, it has a great atmosphere, is very peaceful and quiet, there are no tourist shops (or any commercial activity that we could see) and has wonderful views from the top of the old city walls.

Such beautiful views

There was even a 13th Century castle, now a museum which was unfortunately closed.

The castle at Saluzzo

Down the hill from the castle a little stands the civic bell tower built in 1462 as a symbol of the city community. The height was later raised and a spire placed on top where the emblem of Saluzzo, an eagle, was placed making it a total of 48 metres high.

The ancient bell tower

Further down the hill you have the more modern part of town, still with many beautiful ancient buildings but where modern life has a part to play, with plenty of shops, restaurants, and traffic.

The newer part of Saluzzo

Down in the valley the third part of Saluzzo consists of factories and light industry that I guess keeps the whole place going and helps provide the funds to keep the historical centre so wonderfully preserved.

Down in the valley where the industrial part of Saluzzo is found

We were very glad that we had called in at Saluzzo and had discovered what an enchanting place it is.

Enchanting medieval Saluzzo

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Salty tales from Bali Hai

In 2015, after a break from cruising of almost 30 years, my husband and I sailed off into the sunset - this time to the wonderful Islands of Indonesia and beyond. Three years passed and we swapped sails for wheels driving through Scandinavia and Europe in a motor home. Now we are on the brink of another adventure - buying a Lagoon 420 Catamaran in Athens. This is our story.

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