Last year we visited the Fete du Citron for the first time, 40 years after I’d first seen postcards of the incredible structures when I’d visited the town as a child. It was well worth the wait and the event exceeded my expectations and we had a fantastic time. Bollywood in France -Incredible Fête Du Citron at Menton
As ever though there were a few things we thought we needed to tweak, although the one thing we couldn’t have any influence over was the weather. Last year the skies were leaden, it was bitterly cold and on the afternoon of the parade, the heavens opened and we were well and truly drenched sitting in the stands – then to top it all, that evening for the first time in over 30 years, it snowed…..
….not exactly the sun-drenched Cote D’Azur we had imagined. I suppose though the fact that we left on a high, vowing to return this year was testament to the sheer scale, scope and simple fun that comes with the event come rain or shine.
This year was the 86th Fete and its theme was ‘Fantastic Worlds’ – perfect for allowing the designers and creators behind the event to allow their imaginations to run free – just what could be created in oranges and lemons this time?
Over 140 tonnes of oranges and lemons are used to create the huge structures in the Jardin De Bioves and the incredible floats that are seen in the parade – they take weeks to build by an army of people involved, with each piece of fruit being attached by hand to its metal frame using elastic bands. The scale of the structures is incredible and they tower above the temporary fencing that surrounds the garden offering tantalising glimpses of what to expect.
Once again we had booked tickets for the Exhibition Gardens and the Sunday afternoon parade – although we’d opted for standing tickets this time rather than the seating area as we wanted to wander the route if possible.
Happily this year the weather couldn’t have been more different, with clear blue skies and daytime temperatures more akin to an English summer’s day than February, perfect for exploring the old town and ambling slowly along the beaches.
We had taken our bikes this time and so spent the Sunday morning having a short cycle ride across the border into Italy for coffee at Ventimiglia – a stunning ride offering great views back across the bay towards Menton and beyond …..
….. Then after a quick sandwich on the beach we walked to the main access point along the beach road for the parade route. Even though there was still over an hour until the parade started the road was packed with people trying to get in, and after a few minutes of waiting we decided to change tack and take the opportunity to visit the Exhibition Gardens as we thought they may be quieter whilst everyone queuing, hoping that the majority of people would have gone through the gates by the time we returned.
Our hunch was right and the gardens were quiet, which meant we could really see the structures and take some time to just stand and take in the artistry and skill that goes into them.
From the spectacular Dragon protecting its nest…..
And another rising from a pool…..
The magic carpet…..
A very happy camel….
The Druid and his standing stones…..
And a stunning Phoenix
I just love the energy, creativity and sheer joy of these creations and against the backdrop of distant mountains and a perfect blue sky the looked even more incredible this year.
Having whiled away a good length of time exploring we found ourselves at the end of the gardens on the inside wall of the main entrance, designed this year as a magical castle, complete with a witch flying around its roof on a broomstick!
It was only then that we discovered we could simply show our parade tickets and walk straight out onto the route, where we immediately found a perfect spot to watch the Corso go by – so after all that, we didn’t have to go back to queue – rather an unexpected bonus…..
Once again the parade was a wonderfully vibrant mix of floats and performers – including a witch….
Neptune riding a sea dragon….
Acrobatic violinists suspended from an enormous automaton creature….
A very toothy dragon
And the truly beautiful Pegasus that towered above everything as it walked by, carefully turning its head to watch people as it passed….
The sky was filled with streamers and confetti…..
And the streets were filled with music and fun, with performers taking time to stop and have photos taken with wide-eyed children whenever they stopped.
Once the parade had ended the streets quickly cleared, leaving a carpet of confetti that was being immediately cleared by the town’s very efficient staff, even as we were walking towards the exit.
Again the day had exceeded all expectations, even after having already been once. The town makes huge efforts to put on this event, and what they have achieved isn’t a faceless show, but something with a real connection to the local community with all the structures created by local groups and villages and their direct involvement in running the event too.
It is bright, joyous, full of fun and above all family-friendly and I’m already looking forward to hearing what will be the theme for the Fete Du Citron 2020 – as it goes without saying that we will be back and again will be tweaking our stay a little to ensure we can go to one of the illuminated parades too.
The Fete is over for this year and all the fruit that is used has been sold off for juicing at the price of 1.50 euros for a 3kg bag so nothing goes to waste – even the flowers that form part of the displays are sold for 4 euros per box in a big sale that starts just after the Festival ends
If you want to find out more about the Festival take a look at the Fete du Citron website, which is also the place to go to book tickets for the events when they are announced – or follow them on Fete du Citron Facebook Page where there are lots of great photos too.
So time to think now about tweaks we may want to make for our visit next year – as we will certainly be back for our third year of February Fun
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