BY LORI MURRAY , Texas Superstar Specialist

This spring, just after Easter, we spent three weeks in France learning about wine and checking a couple things off our bucket lists. We visited nine wineries in Burgundy and Bordeaux and ventured as far south as the French Riviera and the town of Menton (pronounced Men TONE).

The scenery was spectacular along the Cote d’Azur – sparkling water and picturesque cities that seemed to practically rise from the sea itself to reach for the heights, creating villages nestled in the foothills of the French Alps. As we walked along Menton’s sea wall, a sign announced that we were 1000 meters from Italy, and our map showed us that we were just south of Monaco. We were also near the Rothschild Estate, and nothing would do except to hire a car and driver so I could visit the gardens of the Baroness Rothschild.

The drive to the estate was an experience in itself. I can only say that neither one of us would have driven the road on a bet. It was probably no coincidence that our driver was a Formula One fan because he was fearless. He was also very familiar with the road and knew just where the best views could be found. Barely out of Menton we were immediately so high that cruise ships at Monte Carlo looked like tiny boats in a bathtub and the road dropped off so sheerly that sometimes there was a wide red danger line painted along its outer edge. But what a setting for the estate and its gardens!

The house itself is in the foothills of the Alps and sits high above the neighboring area. It has an incredible view of the sea from its terraces.

Topiary, hedgery, statues, and potted plants enhance the grounds while ponds, pools, and walkways draw the eye to beds and unique features of the grounds. The long reflecting pool, easily visible from the house, periodically showcases fountains that “dance” for about ten minutes each hour as music plays from outdoor speakers.

The gardens are multi-leveled, taking advantage of the uneven terrain, and the spectacular views of the Mediterranean are often framed by the plants and the trellises. There are many nooks and crannies full of delightful surprises.

Unfortunately, April was so early in the season that many of the plants were not in bloom, but it didn’t take much imagination to see what it must look like in summer. All in all, the drive (and the added bonus of a return trip through Monte Carlo) made our visit to those gardens a wonderful memory.