Menton on the French Riviera

Round the bay from Monaco and the last town on the French Côte d'Azur before the Italian frontier, with streets lined with lemon trees or palm trees, Menton has a charm as enticing as its climate.


entrance of the gladiators at the Fréjus Roman amphitheatre

The entrance of the gladiators at the Fréjus Roman amphitheatre. The arena is still in use for contemporary events although Fréjus town has famously outlawed fiestas featuring live bullfights since 2010. The Roman remains have been cloaked in modern seating and fittings and there is a memorial garden outside to the disaster in 1959 when a dam burst with a flood wave which resulted in the loss of 400 lives.
The twentieth century historian of the region Alphonse Donnadieu proclaimed Fréjus the “Pompeii of France” but was rather overstating the case, Fréjus had a fine Roman water system and aqueducts and a Roman theatre but few of the Roman sites have escaped the rapid expansion and development of the town in the past forty years.

Dawn at Port Grimaud

Dawn on one of the architect-designed waterfronts of Port Grimaud. The architect, François Spoerry, faced much criticism for creating this development of privileged dwellings in a manicured setting as being only a pale caricature of a Provence fishing village. But now, fifty years on, the intense supervision of the site no longer seems unusual, indeed it’s expected and maybe reassuring in shopping centres and airports. The watchful gardiens of each isthmus neighbourhood live on site in a way reminiscent of Portmeiron as seen in The Prisoner. But fifty years on, the concrete realisation of Sperry’s vision for Port Grimaud has matured and maybe softened its impression and has become its own thing, a place of refuge, respite and recreation.

Read more: Port Grimaud dawn

Maeslant Storm Barrier, Rotterdam

Visiting the Maeslantkering storm barrier across the river Maas, one of the tributaries of the Rhine delta. It’s difficult to comprehend the size of the huge construction, whose purpose is similar to the Thames Barrier but also allows shipping to pass upstream to the port of Rotterdam. Each of the two gates is the same length as the height of the Eiffel Tower; when swung across the channel and filled and sunk with water, they can stop an incoming storm surge from the North Sea from overtopping the dykes in South Holland. This protection wasn’t available in 1953 with the result of more than 1700 deaths and many, many homes flooded. The Maeslantkering is tested annually but has only been required to be closed once so far for real protection, in November 2007. Rising sea levels and climate change will require it to be deployed more frequently in the near future.

Shoreham harbour in Sussex

Low tide on the estuary of the River Adur at Shoreham-by-Sea in Sussex. The parish church of St Mary de Haura was founded around 1103 AD by Philip de Braose on his return from the First Crusade (1096–99) in Jerusalem. There’s a new footbridge over the harbour to Shoreham Beach, almost an island, with a nature reserve and beach-houses separated from the mainland by a freshwater lagoon.