Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Menton's Chinese Fête du Citron

Pic of dragon made out of oranges and lemons

Menton's Lemon Festival takes place annually between mid-February and early March every year. I was lucky to visit the 82nd Fête du Citron during the February half-term of 2015.

According to legend the first lemon tree took root in Menton after Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden. Lemons thrive in the mild climate and soil in this Southern French coastal town. The locals boast about the rich yellow colour and acidity of their fruit.

The 2015 Lemon Festival had a Chinese theme. It was also inspired by the French movie director Philippe de Broca and novelist Jules Verne.

Despite the drizzle and chill air, we enjoyed watching the carnival parade through the streets on the first full day of our holiday.

Brightly dressed dancers in the carnival parade

It takes more than a little drizzle and a nip in the air to keep hardy Brits away. We were surprised to get covered in confetti too as the floats and walking participants went by.

Pic of dancers holding dragon above their heads with sticks in carnival
Dancers circling round in Menton's carnival parade

The floats looked amazingly colourful despite the lack of sunshine. As we soon discovered, the Lemon Festival includes a lot of oranges too. I particularly liked the goat float. A huge goat made out of lemons and oranges represented 2015 as the Chinese Year of the Goat.

Pic of carnival float - small white train in front with goat out of lemons and oranges behind

The floats and dancers largely had a Chinese theme. However, we also noted participants from various other countries like neighbouring Italy and Switzerland. There were lots of Italians in the crowd too.

The Hong Kong Youth Marching Band were brilliant. We saw the very cheerful young group again a few days later in the local supermarket.

Our intended visit to the Garden of Lights in the Biovès Garden was cancelled due to heavy rain. No fuss was made about a refund. We still managed to take a peak at the amazing head of the dragon raised high above the boundaries of the garden. The amazing dragon picture from the entrance appears on my Google+ account profile to this day (see top photo).

Pic of dragon's head made out of oranges and lemons

The highlight of our stay was our daytime visit to the Biovès Garden. We were able to see the enormous dragon at close quarters. Even his claws on the ground were huge. We marvelled at the skill and time that it must have taken to make all the wonderful orange and lemon figures.

On closer inspection we could see that a staggering number of elastic bands held the fruit in place. The patterns and details were fantastic. You can see and example below.

Pic of patterns of oranges and lemons with a Chinese theme and figures

This year's Fête du Citron finishes on 2nd March. It has an Italian cinema theme.  I wonder what next year's theme will be? Well worth another visit.

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