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Visiting Menton-Garavan: A Vertical Extreme Point of France
This is a fine, detailed series of maps which I used for many years.
In France people speak of the extreme points (les points extrêmes). Such a term is often taken to mean the country's northernmost, southernmost (etc.) points.
In addition, the border areas of France might in some sense be regarded also as being on the country's extremity.
However, at Garavan-Menton, not only does French territory meet Italy; not only does the land meet the sea — the Mediterranean — but an extreme point exists in the fullest sense of the term, even though it is not the most extensive point from the perspective of the compass.
The fact is that dimensions here are measured vertically: here, the Alps run straight down into the sea.
The photo, above, gives something of the dramatic topography: one can almost sense the tension; it is as if one can almost hear the splash as Europe's most famous range of mountains — shared by a number of national jurisdictions — tumble straight down into the sea.
And so one can talk of Bray-Dunes being France's nothernmost resort, or about the westernmost point of Brittany, and so forth.
But Garavan-Mention — as a supremely extreme point — combines a land border with another country — Italy — and a juncture where high mountains perform a sheer drop into the sea. And so elsewhere one may speak of seaside villas and mointain villas. But at Menton-Garavan there are villas which represent both seaside and mountain simultaneously. At Menton-Garavan, international transition intersects topographical contrast.
And interestingly this area did not belong to France until 1860; previously it was part of the Principality of Monaco. A sense of the extreme as in small, as well as extreme as in grandiose, and so forth.
The extreme point of Menton-Garavan really needs to be experienced in person in order be appreciated psychologically; I know of nowhere else in the world quite like it.
May 18, 2017
Also worth seeing
In Menton itself, visitor attractions include the 17th century Archangel Michael Basilica (French: Basilique Saint-Michel-Archange), the Palais Carnolès , which used to be the property of the Prince of Monaco (the town's former ruler), the Jean Cocteau museum in the Bastion, and many others.
How to get there:
The nearest sizable international airport to Menton-Garavan is Nice, France (Aéroport Nice Côte d'Azur ). Delta Airlines flies direct from New York to Nice. The French railroad company SNCF serves stations between Nice and Menton-Garavan, within walking distance the Italian border. Enquire also at Nice Airport for bus links to Menton. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. You are advised to consult appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.
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