Did you know Menton (near Nice in south east France) claims to have 316 cloudless days a year? Now that is a lot of sunshine.
I’ve been here three days now, most of which I have spent staring at the sky in the hope of seeing at least something small and fluffy to prove them wrong but no luck so far.
As part of my search for clouds yesterday I visited a small village nearby called Sainte-Agnes, which claims the distinction of being the highest coastal village in Europe (about 750 metres above sea level).
On the barren hilltop even higher above the village (and up a steep hot path) are the ruins of a 12th century castle – apparently the Saracens enjoyed sailing into Menton port and slaughtering the villagers for no particular reason but weren’t keen on climbing a mountain first, so at the first sign of attack the villagers rushed up here for safety.
In the castle ruins there is also a water cistern dating from Roman times (long since dry, I don’t know if it rained more often 2000 years ago) and a ‘medieval’ garden.
Frequent France visitors will know that Medieval gardens are quite a popular attraction in historic towns in France, but usually in places where water is close to hand. Trying to create one on a baking hot and dry hilltop seems rather challenging.
I was talking to the gardener. There is just one, and he told me he is a volunteer. I can’t help wondering why!
The villagers have recognised since the middle ages that the valley below is more welcoming, with access to water for example, and he was the first to agree it wasn’t easy – apparently there is no natural soil either so he has to carry it up the hill from the village below.
But if a ‘medieval garden’ wasn’t practical in the castle grounds 700 years ago why try now?! Anyway he is doing a splendid job of the garden (be sure to stop by if you are passing) and giving the village an extra tourist attraction at the same time, so congratulations are in order.
All the same, I think he is looking out for clouds on the horizon even more enthusiastically than me!