Video: Menton Lemon Festival
From February 13 to March 2, 2016, the famous Lemon Festival was held for the 83rd time in the small French town of Menton. For 3 weeks, the city turned into sunny citrus colors - yellow and orange.
The location of the festival was chosen very well from all points of view. Nowhere in France is such a rich harvest of lemons (and even with their own incomparable taste) harvested as here, on the Cote d'Azur, famous for its mild natural and climatic conditions. The streets and environs of the town itself are replete with citrus trees (lemons, tangerines, oranges, kumquats), on which during this period the most abundant harvest of the three harvested per year is ripening. The city has been known as one of the largest suppliers of citrus fruits in Europe since the 15th century, and in 1928 was the leading city on the continent.
Menton. Row of tourist buses
The large number of holidaymakers and the proximity of the tourist attractions of Nice and Monaco provide a full house for this event. This year it was visited by over 240,000 tourists from all over the world, and according to unofficial data, over a million. A significant part was made up of emotional Italians, well prepared for the holiday and noisily participating in it, the reason for this is the theme of the festival, which changes from year to year. The current one was dedicated to Italian cinema, in particular, filmed during the post-war years at the legendary Roman film studio Cinecitta. Many films released at the studio have become iconic and entered the treasury of world cinema.
This annual holiday is always preceded by lengthy preparation, but the main work begins 3 weeks before the start. This is exactly how much it takes to turn a mind-boggling amount of lemons and oranges (this time - 145 tons!) Into grandiose sculptures, and at the same time preserve the freshness of the fruit. By the way, imported lemons are used, since local lemons were recently included in the list of protected (Indication Géographique Protégée), they are left for true gourmets. The police strongly suppress any attempts to pick a lemon on the street.
The stationary exposition on the vast territory of Bioves gardens, in the immediate vicinity of the embankment, reproduced more than a dozen movie scenes with citrus fruits, others reaching 18 m in height! Each piece was assembled by hand using rubber bands holding the fruit on a wire frame. This work required 300 specially trained professionals. The figures were placed on flower beds completely covered with flowers, fruits, decorative pebbles and separated by paths for inspection. The impression of the man-made masterpieces was enhanced by the city alleys of citrus trees strewn with fruits that framing them.
The exposition was open during the day until 18:00, and in the evenings on Tuesdays and Fridays (from 20-30) it turned into a light show (Jardins de lumière). Thanks to the decorative lighting and music by Ennio Morricone and Nino Rota, the feeling of a mysterious twilight of a cinema was created, in which scenes from Italian films of different genres (epic, drama, comedy, western, spaghetti, science fiction in the style of neorealism) looked like in 3-D. The scene from the Cleopatra movie was accompanied by a modern laser show. The frames, embodied with the help of fruits, were brought to life by Italian musicians and actors and filled with soundtracks from films. Fragments of the films presented were shown on a large screen at the central entrance.
For a fee, you could buy a ticket to the street stand to watch a kind of lemon carnival, which was held twice a week: on Sundays in the afternoon - the Golden Fruit Parade, and on Thursday evenings - the Night Parade, which ended with fireworks.
Figures of lemons and oranges moved through the streets on platforms, accompanied by costumed performances of Italian orchestras and folklore groups, songs and dances, clouds of colorful confetti. Wide serpentine ribbons were unrolled over the stands and spectators standing along the road from special devices resembling reels of film.
The two-hour procession twice circled the embankment and one of the central streets of the city, and the number of spectators was comparable to the population of Menton itself - 25-30 thousand people. A huge train of buses from different European countries arrived at the beginning of each fashion show.
And all of this - not counting numerous concerts, theatrical performances, etc. The viewer did not remain disappointed, regardless of whether he came to the holiday on purpose or dropped by for a few hours.
In parallel with the lemon festival, two events were held at the Palais de l'Europe: an orchid festival and a craft exhibition. The Orchid Festival is organized by the French Association of Orchid and Epiphyte Lovers, and is also decorated with the theme of Italian cinema.
It would be more correct to call the craft exhibition after our fair. Here one could buy unique souvenirs and products for the region, taste local lemonade and orange wine, compare the original Limoncello liqueur from Italy and its analogue Liqueur de Mentona. Local souvenir products, first of all, were associated with citrus and olives (the region is also rich in olive plantations) - ceramics and decorative items, olive wood crafts (clocks, cutting boards, vases, dishes). Eco-friendly cosmetics and handcrafted perfumes reminded of the nearby Grasse. Not without gastronomy, of course - olive oil, citrus jams, candied fruit, honey, almond flour cookies traditional for the region with the addition of citrus fruits or coffee, etc.It is interesting that the Russian pavilion also appeared at the exhibition. Books, textiles and wood products of Russian folk crafts were offered under the big signboard "Menton-Sochi". Menton is one of the twin cities of Sochi.
Anyone could purchase local fruits, vegetables, citrus seedlings in containers in the garden. Trade was in full swing everywhere, not interrupting even for lunchtime, including Sunday, which is a legal holiday in France.
The day after the closing of the festival, all citrus fruits that had not lost their marketability and were suitable for human consumption (usually about 90% of them) were sold to the public at a price of 1.5 euros per 3 kg. Flowers from the exhibition - 4 euros. The cold snap and rains that caught the city during the festival, created certain inconveniences for the audience, but helped to preserve the freshness of the fruits.
Lemon from Menton
The visitors had not yet had time to deal with the festive trophies, as the theme of the next year's festival was announced - "Broadway". This means that the streets of Menton in 2017 will be dominated by popular American musicals.
If you wish to contemplate this action in reality, keep in mind that tickets for the events of the lemon festival should be purchased in advance, there is too much interest in it. Recently, an Internet service was created for this, which further (by 10%) spurred demand. During the festival, hotels and life in general in the city become much more expensive. This is understandable, because the initiators of its creation back in 1934 were the owners of hotels in Menton, who sought to revive the tourism business in the off-season. Since then, the goals have not changed. Therefore, in order to save money, it is more rational to stay in the suburbs. Unless, of course, you are not afraid of walking. This will allow you to enjoy the beauty of the old city and watch the enchanting bloom of mimosa, which is very abundant in the surrounding area.
Photo: Christian Frater (France)
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