You can drive from Menton to Ventimiglia in about ten minutes. Each town is about five minutes from the border between France and Italy. Crossing the border, despite what the “state of emergency” in France, was as simple as waving to the Border guards as we drove from the one country into the other. It was as easy both ways. I suppose this is what the “Schengen” agreement really means….the ability to travel from one European country to another without even having to stop and show a passport. I love the diversity of Europe, and the ease of movement from one country to another. What a shame all that seems to be at risk now, with some countries building barbed wire fences along their borders and anti-European rhetoric ramping up in the UK as the referendum approaches.
I think you’ll agree from my two photos here that these two towns have clear similarities, but for me, a Scot who speaks some French, to travel from Menton where everything felt quite…..well, distinctly French with an Italian twist, to Ventimiglia which is distinctly Italian, without a French twist, it was, as Forrest Gump said, like going to “a whole other country”.
I’m in the habit now of saying “Bonjour” when I walk into shops or cafes, so my first encounter with difference in Ventimiglia was the response “Buon giorno”, to my “Bonjour”. In a cafe, I was surprised that when I gave my order in French (I know, why did I do that??), the Italian waitress responded in English. Not only did she pick up I wasn’t Italian of course, but she picked up I was an English-speaker speaking French. Well I suppose I speak French with a strong Scottish accent. I’ve since been told by a French person that it’s common to find Italians prefer to speak English rather than French. Is that true? Well, I reckon if I lived in or near Menton and could pop back and forward between France and Italy so easily, I’d be learning Italian as well as French – and speaking them both with a Scottish accent!