Nice is extremely well situated to visit other cities and towns of the Côte d’Azur. With limited time in the area, I chose to visit the coast east of Nice, and created a morning visit to the microstate of Monaco, followed by lunch at Mirazur and early afternoon in Menton. I actually built the visit around Menton, primarily sprung from having a gift card to Relais & Chateaux valid at hotels and restaurants, and following the publication of the The World’s 50 Best Restaurants, where Mirazur had been ranked #11.
The rocky coastline and high rise buildings of Monaco, with yachts moored offshore
I began in Monaco for no other reason than the train stopped there first. What I did not anticipate that Saturday was that the train would be overrun with young Niçois football fans, predominantly male, drunk, and in great spirits, singing at the top of their lungs the various fight songs of OGC Nice. They were to play a match at Monaco, so I was treated to limited space and their musical stylings on board, and an impromptu display of fireworks upon arrival.
Then it was time to explore the city and port. I had unknowingly timed my visit with the 2014 edition of the Monaco Yacht Show, which offered some wonderful opportunities to photograph some truly beautiful boats and made for a very festive looking Port Hercules.
The largest exhibition in its history, the 2014 Monaco Yacht Show was a visual treat for non-attendees like me
Monaco certainly had things in common with other areas of the Côte d’Azur – the bold skies hitting blue waters of the Mediterranean, the sun kissed stone that formed the backbone of much architecture – but had fewer charms instantly discoverable as in Cannes or Nice. While it was a nice detour to a micro country, unless I am one day initiated into the yacht owning club, it was the only place I visited that I’m unlikely to return to.
A quick train and subsequent taxi ride, and I’m in Menton for my much anticipated lunch at Mirazur. On vacation, I tend to seek street food, casual dining, and local fare, and occasionally go for a splurge meal. Mirazur’s two Michelin stars seemed to validate its ranking at #11 in Best Restaurants in the World, and the location in Menton, an Italian-French hybrid city famous for its palm and lemon trees, ensured that the views would complement the dining.
My table at Mirazur overlooked the Mediterranean, and the ochre colored roofs of Menton shimmered in the distance
I’m not necessarily looking to branch out into food blogging, but of course experiencing culture via food can be an immensely satisfying and satiating way to travel. Suffice it to say, as someone who has dined at quite a number of top restaurants on that World’s Best list, my three hour experience at Mirazur was exemplary. Service was attentive, informative, and extraordinarily friendly. To begin, there were various amuse bouches, followed by a most warm, hearty bread that was paired with Pablo Neruda’s “Ode to Bread”, words completely justified for the occasion. Oyster’s Gillardeau followed next, in a beautiful scalloped edge plate. Squid, monkfish, fig, jerusalem artichoke, almond foam all made appearances, but the San Remo Gamberoni Salad was amazingly fresh, beautifully colored and plated, and had the most succulent pieces of lobster artfully hidden inside.
Bread and Pablo Neruda; the standout dish for me was the San Remo Gamberoni Salad, a work of art on the plate
With a full belly and heart from a meal with a view, I wandered down from the hillsides and into the town of Menton, the promenade carrying past the beaches into the little alley ways and market squares I had become so fond of in the Riviera. The colorful buildings of the city could not quiet rival nice for their beauty, but the curve of old town against the beach and sky made for an extremely arresting view.
The wide promenade spans the beach of Menton, and the colorful homes and clocktowers of the old town shadow the sea
I spent another hour wandering the streets of Menton, a city that certainly had a charm of its own but was also in good company with the other towns of the Côte d’Azur. And while I wouldn’t rush back to Monaco, Menton I would heartily recommend as a day trip, and Mirazur as a fantastic dining experience for gastronomes.