Bollywood in France -Incredible Fête Du Citron at Menton

Thinking back now, the end of February wasn’t really the best choice for our wedding – it was a cold, wet and ultimately snowy day (although wonderful of course) – and for the last 28 years we haven’t really had a long list of ways to celebrate – until now that is!

Weather like this doesn’t give us many options for anniversary celebrations!

Having the opportunity to spend so much time in France has meant that this year we’ve discovered our anniversary falls at the same time as both the Menton Fête du Citron and the Nice Carnaval. So (we thought) what better way to celebrate 29 years together than to pack ourselves off to the Cote d’Azur for a couple of nights for a much needed injection of colour and fun.


A perfect weekend away planned

To be honest I’ve wanted to go to the Fête du Citron since I was 11, seeing postcards of the incredible citrus constructions when I visited the town with my parents. The images have stayed with me since and so I leapt at the chance of finally having the chance to experience it first hand, after a long & very patient 40 year wait!

The Fête du Citron is an incredible event that takes place each February in the beautiful town of Menton, nestled on the Mediterranean Coast, a stone’s throw from the Italian border.


The pretty & colourful old town of Menton

Back in 1928, when Menton was the main European lemon producing area, a local hotelier had the idea of organising an exhibition of flowers and citrus fruits in the gardens of the Hotel Riviera. This proved to be a great success and the following year the exhibition was extended, with displays of oranges and lemons in carts placed around the town.

The town recognised the popularity of the event and its potential to increase tourism at an otherwise quiet time of year, taking control of the Festival and 1935 saw the first official ‘Fête du Citron taking place. The following year saw the first exhibits being built in the Jardins Biovès, which has been home to the event since.


Carpets of fruit and incredible displays in the Jardine Biovès

Now in its 85th year, I’m sure the Fête bears little resemblance to the original events. Hosting approximately 250,000 visitors over the 2 weeks it is in place, it certainly is a major event and brings amazing colour and life to the town in the depths of Winter.


Sunshine colours on a grey day

Each year it takes a different theme and this year’s was ‘Bollywood’, a great opportunity to inject even more vibrant colour into what is already a wonderfully mad, bright event.


The Bollywood theme gives such great scope for design

The Fête sees a number of incredible displays being built in the Jardins Biovès around the year’s theme. The sheer size and scale of these works of art are a sight to be seen and I am in awe of the team that design and then build them.

These sculptures are built in wire, before being covered completely in nearly 150 tonnes of oranges & lemons that are individually attached to the structure with elastic bands and tightly wired olive leaves to create the finished pieces.

To be honest the effect is jaw-dropping and I found myself just marvelling at what has been achieved.

time-lapse showing the construction of one of the big displays

From Ganesh…….

To a Sitar player…….

A model of the Taj Mahal……

And a dancing couple, flanked by two enormous lions…….

Amongst many others.

Access to the Jardins is by ticket only and these can be bought online or from Kiosks just outside. Looking at the queues I would suggest buying online if possible to save more queueing than is necessary, although you will need to be able to physically print the ticket as mobile phone options weren’t available. https://www.fete-du-citron.com

Inside the Jardins there are also a number of stalls set up around the edge, selling memorabilia and also locally made citrus products, including Liqueurs, Sirops and soaps…..


Wonderful lemon scented soap on a rope

You can even buy your own Lemon, Orange or Mimosa tree – Needless to say I walked past these as I don’t hold out much chance they would thrive back on Dartmoor!

The displays in the gardens are just one aspect of the Fête, the other being the parades that take place (2 Thursday night ‘light’ parades and 3 Sunday afternoon ‘golden fruit’ parades) .

Happily this year our anniversary fell on a Sunday so we were able to watch the Corso (parade), which was taking place in the afternoon.


An inflatable elephant in the afternoon parade

Again a ticket is needed to access the area set aside for the Corso, which runs on a secured circular route based on the beachfront. You have the option to stand on the route or buy a seat in one of the stands that are built for the occasion, but you need a ticket to gain entrance for either as the route is secured with block fencing so the parade can’t be seen any other way.

The Corso is again based on the year’s theme, with floats built from the citrus fruits, including this year a ‘Tuk Tuk’……

A cow…….

A Cobra……

And the Goddess Vishnu…..

Amongst others including an incredible articulated elephant…..

All the floats are interspersed with dancers and bands bringing great colour & noise to the whole event.

The Parade lasts about an hour and is just good fun from start to finish, eventhough the day we went it was unseasonably cold and very wet indeed.

Early arrivals in the stands looked more like they were preparing to watch a Rugby Match from the terraces of a ground in England, than to enjoy a Carnival parade on the French Riviera


Yes this is the Cote D’Azur, not an open terrace at an English sports’ ground

That said, the weather didn’t dampen the spirits of either the crowds or the participants, who kept performing for the duration of the Parade with great energy and a permanent smile!

Although we had a seat in one of the stands this time, I think when we go again we’ll actually just stand at the side of the route as there was plenty of space and you feel much closer to what is going on.

The whole day was full of noise & colour and the citrus theme continued into the evening when many of the restaurants included a dish flavoured with the local sweet lemons.

Weather wise the day was very similar to our wedding day – cold, wet and ultimately snowy – with Menton seeing its first snow in 33 years……..

However the colour, scent and vibrancy of the Fête was a real boost to the system and Menton is a beautiful place to visit.

To be honest I absolutely loved every moment of it and it was certainly worth the long wait!

It goes without saying that we’re already planning our return next year and I can only look forward to enjoying the Festival for many anniversaries to come!

Shared via #citytripping via wandermum.co.uk

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52 Comments Add yours

  1. Jacqui says:

    Happy anniversary and thanks for sharing. The Menton Fete du Citron has been on my list for a few years too.

    1. Thanks & all I can say is just go if you can – we had appalling weather, but it was such a great fun day & everything I had hoped it would be!

  2. Phoebe says:

    You really did have the worst weather I can remember (sorry!) Come back and stay at Lou Messugo and I’ll personally see that the sun shines for you…I’m truly the hostess with the mostess!!!! Now surely that’s an offer you can’t refuse! I’m so glad you enjoyed your weekend nevertheless.

    1. Thanks we had a great time & to be honest the weather was so bizarre we were fascinated by the reactions of the locals more than anything else. Thanks for the offer we’ll certainly be back 😊

  3. Carolyne says:

    Congratulations on your wedding anniversary AND making it to the Fête du Citron!

    1. Thanks it was such a great weekend 😊

  4. Happy Anniversary! These structures are impressive! I saw pictures of them covered in snow this year. That must have been quite the sight. I always have to have 3 things in my kitchen: olives, lemons, and garlic…oh, and wine of course!

    1. Thanks – they were absolutely incredible and I’m so pleased we actually made it there even though the weather was a bit un-Provençal!

  5. Phoebe says:

    Thanks for linking this to #AllAboutFrance and of course I should have said happy anniversary in my last comment. I know all about foul weather weddings, we got married on 30 December in -8° and sheet ice! All the more memorable, who’d want sun and blue skies anyway!!!

  6. This is incredible! The time the decoration must take is mind-blowing, and I bet there’s a wonderful scent of lemons for weeks after. Thanks for sharing. #AllAboutFrance

    1. It really was fantastic & I was just blown away by the creativity – who would have thought citrus fruits could be so diverse? The whole experience is one of sunshine in the depths of winter & a great excuse to visit a beautiful town too! #AllAboutFrance

  7. Happy Anniversary. You look very sweet together! This is France all over. Where there is a festival, an all-out effort is put in by so many volunteers and mostly with incredible results. Living in our village of Menthon-St-Bernard, I often confused people unintentionally by stating our address simply as Menthon (not Menton!) and then talking about skiing. #allaboutfrance

    1. Thanks – still not sure where the last 29 years have gone! I do love a French Festival – they have such a wonderful identity & the efforts that go into them are incredible – I can imagine Menton & Menthon causes confusion when talking about skiing, but to be honest it may have been possible even on The Riviera with the snow on Monday! #AllAboutFrance

  8. nessafrance says:

    Happy anniversary! Fab way to spend it by going to the lemon fair. I love some of the models, especially the Taj Mahal! Over here, there are a couple of garlic fairs in the summer and they have competitions for making works of art out of garlic. #AllAboutFrance

    1. Thanks & it really was – I think it is actually the first time we’ve done anything to celebrate an anniversary & it was fantastic. The thought of garlic art is wonderful – I’m a real sucker for the French festivals – they’re always such fun!

  9. annette @afrenchcollection says:

    I love all the close up photos of the floats. It looks like the fruits are held in place with strips of elastic worked around chicken wire. What a clever idea. #AllAboutFrance

    1. Thanks – it is incredible and I can’t start to think how many orange & yellow elastic bands are used each year. The structures are vast and I take my hat off to the people who make them #AllAboutFrance

  10. wowsers! You know, all this post needs for perfection is a ‘then’ photo to go with the ‘now’ 😉. congrats. x

    1. Dream on!!! 1989 with a perm – I’ll leave the rest to your ever-vivid imagination 😉

  11. Carolyne says:

    Your photos of the gorgeous citrus make me want to book a trip there next year. It’s the Chelsea garden show, but with citrus! Happy Anniversary #AllAboutFrance

    1. Thanks, it really is worth the trip (even in the snow!!) such a good fun event in the depths of winter

  12. Richard says:

    Wow! We also got married in late February and that’s led to some pretty cold, drippy anniversary trips in our 37 years. I’d heard of Menton, but never seen photos like these – what an extraordinary event, and you’ve captured it in a way that makes me want to plan our next big anniversary trip to see it for ourselves! Thanks for sharing on #AllAboutFrance!

    1. Thanks February is really the worst month to find a fun way to celebrate – having had the day before at Nice for their Carnaval it proved to be the perfect way to spend an anniversary weekend. We’ve still got a few years until our 37, but I have a feeling we’ll be spending them there! I hope you get there – I’m sure you won’t regret it. #AllAboutFrance

  13. sensetheplace says:

    Wow, I can’t imagine how many oranges and lemons must be collected for use for all these decorations. It looks amazing!
    #MondayEscapes

    1. It is incredible – I have to take my hat off to everyone involved in designing & building the displays – just amazing #MondayEscapes

  14. travelingchristie says:

    omg this has totally blown my mind the skill involved in these floats is incredible who would have thought you could built all of those incredible structures out of citrus fruit, I just love this post thanks so much for linking up #MondayEscapes

    1. Thanks that’s lovely – it was certainly worth waiting 40 years to get there – it could so easily have fallen short of my expectations, but it just blew me away! #MondayEscapes

  15. What an amazing thing to see I’ve never seen anything quite like it! Thanks for linking up to #MondayEscapes

    1. It is amazing & I can’t wait to go back next year now – looking forward to seeing what next year’s theme will be #MondayEscapes

  16. I bet the smell was amazing! I’d never heard of this, but now I have it’s on my must-do list for off-season France. #MondayEscapes

    1. It is lovely & yes the smell is great, as are the lemon-based products you can buy (especially the liqueur) – I hope you manage to get there #MondayEscapes

  17. I heard about this event for the first time last year and it sounds so cool – what amazing creations, I bet it was so fun to explore! #Mondayescapes

    1. It really was fun to see it first hand – it’s quite an incredible sight & the Bollywood theme this year just worked really well. Looking forward to next year now #MondayEscapes

  18. I had never heard of this festival but wow it looks so fun! I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Menton but would love to make it back for this! 🙂 What a fun way to add some color to an otherwise largely grey month! #mondayescapes

    1. It really is fun and as you say a great way to add some colour to a generally grey month – it certainly brings Menton to life for 3 weeks. #MondayEscapes

  19. Annabel Kirk says:

    Looks like great fun, but what do they do with all that fruit afterwards?! #Mondayescapes

    1. Funnily enough I had wondered until today – on Wednesday they have an event to sell off the fruit and flowers from the displays – according to our French Teacher (&friend) the damaged fruits are discarded but much of it goes off to be juiced – so it isn’t just destroyed, which is nice to know. #MondayEscapes

  20. What an incredible spectacle. I’m so glad you loved it after so many years of waiting! #MondayEscapes

    1. Thanks – we really did & are looking forward to enjoying it for many years to come #MondayEscapes

  21. ushasita says:

    Beautiful photos and I had great fun reading the post. I have not heard of Fete du citron. Thank you very much for this inspirational post. Happy Travelling #mondayescapes.

    1. Thanks – it’s a wonderful event & I just can’t wait to go next year now! #MondayEscapes

  22. I discovered this a few years ago and have been dying to visit!! Although I hope I don’t have to wait as long as you did to visit! The Bollywood theme is awesome! #CityTripping

    1. Thanks – it is worth the effort & was certainly worth the wait. I haven’t seen an announcement about the theme for next year, but I have no doubt we’ll be there again! #citytripping

  23. Sara says:

    What a fun festival!! The contrast between the citrus fruits and the snow is a stark one as well! I love the Bollywood theme – it goes with the bright citrus colors so well. I’ve in awe of the exhibits that people created. I don’t have that vision at all, so I’m amazed by people who do. What a great reason to visit Menton (which is definitely underrated!). #citytripping

    1. Thanks – it was great fun & I’m already looking forward to hearing what next year’s theme will be. The displays are amazing & like you I’m in awe of the creative talent begins it all – and any ex use to visit Menton is always great. #citytripping

  24. WanderMum says:

    What a delightful festival! I’m amazed by the colours and intricacies of the structures and floats. I’d love to go, what a way to brighten up a February day and a way to celebrate a special event. A very happy anniversary!! Thanks for linking #citytripping

    1. Thanks – it is delightful & was certainly worth the long wait to go. The structures and floats are creative genius and I can’t think of a better way to spend our anniversary in the future. #CityTripping

    1. I’m so pleased you loved the post – the Fête du Citron is incredible & was worth the 40 year wait – the creativity & skill of the team involved in building the structures blew my mind too. Just looking forward to heading back next year – I have a feeling this will be an annual trip for us now! #MondayEscapes

  25. I have read much about this festival over the years and your post adds even more credence to the fact I must get and see it for real sometime! #AllAboutFrance

    1. You really must – it is just as incredibly bright, noisy & fun as you imagine – it doesn’t disappoint! #AllAboutFrance

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