Bicycle Gourmet’s French Casino Lemon Festival

French Casino Lemon Festival is indeed a cute title — n’est ce pas? but more than that it is also relevant.

Uh..OK..Why? Why is yer ‘ole pal DA BG — goo-ru of French Country Travel Life, ramblin’ on about Lemons?

Well, it’s like this. I rarely watch TV. And on those rare occasions, my choice of fare is almost always a documentary. Over the past month, there have been three docs pass my screen totally concerned with, or referencing, the lemons of Menton.

Now, as you will recall from “French Geography for Smarties” Menton (pro: “mon tawn”) is at the tail end of the French Riviera. Smack dab against the Italian border.

This factoid means that Menton is a “shopping portal.” The temporary destination of other Riveria-ites who pass through it to Italy. Where they shop ’til they drop at lower-than-French prices. And return. With no duty, no customs check. (That’s Europe, folks!)

Other than that singular point of distinction, Menton, is yet another fun- in- the- sun -on- the -cote- d’zur location. But, happily, without the faux glitz and nose in the air attitude of Cannes. Or the “jet set-we-bathe-in-$100-champagne” ambience of St. Tropez.

But in the hills above the city(what the locals who’ve never seen the Rockies would call “Mountains”) there grows the fabled Lemons of Menton.

Why all the fuss over these “citrons?” Well, first of all, the “LOM” is not as acidic as it’s non Menton Brothers. While it’s always a semantic minefield to attempt to “describe” a taste(unless you’re a nerdy wine snob) the lack of acidity gives the LOM a softer, more subtle flavor.

Very much favored by Gourmet restauranteurs. Most of whom, on the Riviera, have a “dedicated” supplier in them thar hills.

As you might expect, this revered Citron is Menton’s prinicpal claim to fame. And as such is celebrated with a yearly festival. Now in it’s 8Oth year. That’s the good news.

The bad is that owing to the fact there are only about 15 “Lemonists” left in Menton, the majority, if not all of the 145 tons of fruit needed is imported from……you guessed it……Morocco!

Menton’s Lemons are partially, if not totally responible for Monaco’s Casino culture. This is because “back in the day” Menton was a part of Monaco. The heavily-taxed-for-it’s-Lemons part.

Finally, “mad as hell and not going to take it anymore” the Menton-ites, taking a cue from Robespierre and his posse — revolted. Peacefully, I’m happy to report. The result left Monaco without the mountains o’ cash the lemon taxes had provided. Viola — enter the Casino!

As you would expect there is a “Hotel Lemon” in Menton. Certainly “Tarte du Citron”. And tho’ I haven’t checked, I’d be willing to bet a bottle of Chateau Pichon, Comtessee de la Lande 1984, that you could also find an organic juice bar offering “Lemon smoothies.”

Prove me wrong and get a great bottle of wine. Now, how cool is that?

More tales from my fabulously exciting life HERE.

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