Gardens of the French Riviera (RHS Package)

6 Days

From £1295pp

  • Exclusive to our February departure, experience a day at the Menton Lemon Festival, where the citrus fruit is king
  • Be transported to the capes of South Africa and the deserts of the American Southwest — all without leaving the Riviera — with visits to a series of exquisite, internationally styled gardens
  • Explore the gardens of the rich and famous — including the notoriously wealthy Rothschild clan
  • Revel in the wonderful landscapes that keep the French Riviera firmly at the top of the discerning tourist's 'must visit' list: olive groves, winding cliff roads, and endless lavender fields

Winding cliff-top roads, bronzed beaches, and lyrical landscapes featuring fields of lavender, maquis-cloaked hills and ancient olive groves... As sun-kissed playgrounds go, the French Riviera is still up there with the very best.

With elegant gardens, dazzling azure skies and a stunning coastline, it isn’t surprising that a generation of artists was inspired by the French Riviera. Over a century on, it still has that same glamorous allure that was captured on canvas. Join us as we explore some of the finest gardens created for the rich and famous, notably the Rothschilds. 

Find yourself in South Africa, realised in Southern France at Clos du Peyronnet in Menton. We have an exclusive tour with the owner, whose passion for exotic plants is reflected in the colour and variety of this fascinating garden. At St Jean Cap Ferrat we visit the exquisite gardens of the Fondation Ephrussi de Rothschild, while a short hop over the border to Italy finds us at the incomparable Hanbury Gardens – arguably the greatest of all the Riviera gardens. We also visit the gardens of Villa Thuret at Cap d’Antibes, Serre de la Madone in Menton, the exotic cactus gardens of Monte Carlo and the tranquil private gardens of La Mouissone.

In February, our tour includes a day at the Lemon Festival in Menton, where dazzling displays of citrus fruit provide a wonderful winter tonic. In May, this is replaced with a visit to the International Rose Festival in Grasse, full of fragrance and colour, while in September we visit the elaborate gardens of Villa Noailles.

 

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Day 1

We depart from London on a direct flight to Nice*. On arrival we travel to the historic garden of Serre de la Madone, created by American Lawrence Johnston, who travelled the world seeking plants to acclimatise here among the ancient olives. Johnston was also responsible for the quintessentially English garden at Hidcote Manor, whose contrast with Serre de la Madone — a tropical forest planted on the shores of the Mediterranean — could not be greater.

Following our visit we continue to our accommodation in Nice — a welcome drink and dinner in a local restaurant are included this evening.

*(other regional flight connections may be available on request)

Day 2

This morning, we visit Villa Thuret, former home of botanist and seaweed expert Gustav Thuret. Over twenty years he amassed a great collection of rare plants, among them the first eucalyptus to be planted on the Côte d’Azur. We continue with a visit to the Château de Gourdon, whose four distinct gardens range from extravagant boxwood topiary to fragrant medicinal herb-planted borders evoking a Medieval apothecary.

Our last port of call today is the village of St Paul de Vence, whose narrow cobbled streets are lined by art galleries and studios, before enjoying some free time this evening.

Day 3

This morning, we visit Clos du Peyronnet, the private garden of William Waterfield with its enviable position on the slopes above the bay of Garavan. Among the gardens many special features, we see a specialist collection of rare bulbs, William Waterfield’s passion, with over 200 species.

This afternoon, we visit the gardens of La Mortola, just across the border in Italy. It was planned as a collection of outstanding interest, and tender exotics from South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and South America have flourished here.

Finally, we return to our hotel, where we have the evening to spend at our leisure.

Day 4

We begin our day with a visit to the International Rose Festival in Grasse, a truly magical event filled with colour and fragrance. There are a variety of fringe attractions, including perfume displays, but roses — of every imaginable colour, variety and style — are the key feature.

(In September, this is replaced with a visit to Grasse's Villa Noailles. This elaborate garden, with its soft lines, gentle transitions and musical fountains, is a delight.)

This afternoon, we continue to La Mouissone. Spread over three hectares, with 250 productive olive trees, there are tailored lawns and beds, a shady bamboo garden, a prairie style garden and a woodland walk.

Day 5

This morning, we visit the Fondation Ephrussi de Rothschild. The garden was designed as a series of compartments, each reflecting a different architectural style. The villa — now a museum — contains the collections of the Baroness de Rothschild, including artefacts associated with Marie-Antoinette, and the gardens are simply exquisite, not least due to their marvellous views over the sea.

In the afternoon we visit the Villa Kerylos, which is the realisation of a dream – that of Théodore Reinach, an archaeologist and French statesman, who was fascinated by Greek civilisation. It is also the fruit of an exemplary collaboration with architect Emmanuel Pontremoli who was passionate about this project. The result is an original reconstruction of an ancient Greek dwelling, designed and built between 1902 and 1908. Its construction uses the most precious materials: ancient stucco, Carrara marble and exotic wood for the furniture. The decoration is sumptuous: mosaics and frescoes inspired by famous scenes, illustrating the great legends of gods and classic heroes.

Day 6

This morning, we check out of our hotel and depart for Monaco. Here, we visit the Exotic Gardens of Monte Carlo, a fascinating garden specialising almost exclusively in succulent plants, making it a prickly paradise for cactus lovers. On a high rocky cliff overlooking the Royal Palace, paths zig-zag downwards through canyons of cacti with extraordinary views of the plants rearing up above us.

Sadly, this is our last visit of the tour. Afterwards, we travel on to the airport in time for our return flight back to London, where the group will disperse or transfer to regional flight connections.

What's Included

  • Five nights’ bed and breakfast at the four-star Hotel Le Grimaldi in Nice
  • Dinner and welcome drink on the first evening
  • Return scheduled flights between London and Nice (other regional flight connections may be available on request at a supplement)
  • Comfortable coaching throughout
  • Visits to the Villa Kerylos and the gardens of Clos du Peyronnet, Château de Gourdon, Villa Thuret, Fondation Ephrussi de Rothschild, Exotic Gardens of Monte Carlo, Serre de La Madone, La Mouissone and Hanbury Gardens (La Mortola)
  • Visit to the International Rose Festival in Grasse (replaced with Villa Noailles in September)
  • Services of a professional tour manager

Supplements Per Person

  • Single room supplement £325.00
  • Insurance £39.00 (under 65); £78.00 (65-74); £117.00 (75-90)    
  • Regional flight connections and/or overnight accommodation before or after the tour
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Departures

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