Gardens of the French Riviera and the Menton Lemon Festival
With elegant gardens, dazzling azure skies and a stunning coastline which inspired a generation of artists, the French Riviera has retained its glamorous allure for over a century. We visit some of the finest gardens that were created here in this sun-kissed playground of the rich including those of Thomas Hanbury and the Rothschilds.
In February, the town of Menton hosts the colourful Lemon Festival, one of the largest and most colourful events on the south coast of France, and a wonderful tonic at the start of the gardening year. Elaborate floats and imaginative sculptures in dazzling shades of orange and yellow are paraded through the Promenade du Soleil in Menton, bringing huge bursts of colour and a lemony zest to the early spring, with a carnival spirit and joie de vivre that is typically French.
In addition to a full day of fruity fun in Menton, we visit some of the finest gardens that were created here in the 19th century. Clos du Peyronnet in Menton is a private garden reflecting the passion of its owner who takes full advantage of the climate to nurture exotic plants, South African bulbs being a speciality. At St Jean Cap Ferrat we visit the exquisite gardens of the Fondation Ephrussi de Rothschild which contain many interesting plants and are surrounded by marvellous sea views.
Just over the border in Italy are the incomparable Hanbury Gardens (La Mortola), arguably the greatest of all the Riviera gardens, in the richness of their collection and the unforgettable power of their presence. We also visit the Jardin Exotique d’Èze, which offers the chance to discover exotic plants and the history and traditions of the village of Èze, along with the Villa Thuret at Cap d’Antibes, Serre de la Madone in Menton, the exotic gardens of Monte Carlo and the tranquil gardens of La Mouissone.
£1,195 (including offers)
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Deposit: £250 Single supplement: £295
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Day 1 -
We fly from London to Nice, where on arrival we will enjoy a lunch in a local restaurant before travelling to the historic garden of Serre de la Madone, created by American Lawrence Johnston, who travelled the world over a 30-year period seeking plants to acclimatise here among the ancient olives. Johnston was also responsible for the quintessentially English garden at Hidcote Manor and the contrast with Serre de la Madone could not be greater. This is a place of luxuriant and exotic beauty, a tropical forest planted on the shores of the Mediterranean. Please note entry to the garden involves an uphill walk with a number of steps.
Following our visit we continue to our comfortable accommodation in Nice. A welcome dinner in a local restaurant is included this evening.
|Hotel||Hotel Le Grimaldi|
|Meals included||Lunch, Dinner|
Day 2 -
This morning, following breakfast, we will visit the Fondation Ephrussi de Rothschild at St Jean Cap Ferrat, a garden 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 and some of the artefacts associated with Marie-Antoinette. The gardens are exquisite, with many interesting tender plants thriving in the favourable climate, surrounded by marvellous views over the sea. Lunch will be included here.
This afternoon we will continue to Jardin Exotique d’Èze. At the top of the perched village of the same name, among the ruins of an ancient castle overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, the “Exotic garden of Èze” is a garden to be experienced. In the midst of several hundred species of exotic plants (cacti, aloes, agaves) the visit is an invitation to discover not only plants, but also themes and art. The different paths are punctuated with spaces where you can relax, cool down or simply immerse yourself in the light and spectacular landscapes, all set against the backdrop of one of the finest views of the French Riviera. Please note that some areas of this garden are very steep.
|Hotel||Hotel Le Grimaldi|
|Meals included||Breakfast, Lunch|
Day 3 -
After breakfast today we visit the private garden of Clos du Peyronnet, Our access to this private garden is a Brightwater exclusive, and a real highlight of our tour. The garden has an enviable position on the slopes above the bay of Garavan, close to the Italian border. To one side of the house is a splendid water garden, where a long canal-like pool runs at right angles to the slope. Exotic flowers and foliage press in from all sides, giving the impression of a jungle only just kept at bay. On the eastern side of the garden is the specialist collection of rare bulbs, William Waterfield’s passion, with over 200 species.
We continue to the gardens of La Mortola (also known as the Hanbury Gardens) just across the border in Italy. Now over a hundred years old, the garden was named after the thickets of wild myrtle on the rocky shore and was planted by Sir Thomas Hanbury, after 1867. It was planned as a botanic collection of outstanding interest and tender exotics from South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and South America were planted and flourished. La Mortola is perhaps the greatest of Riviera Gardens - great in its accumulated years, the richness of its collections, the power of its presence on all who behold it, and not least in the impact it has had all over the French Riviera. Lunch is included here. Please note that some areas of this garden are very steep
This evening we will enjoy dinner in a nearby local restaurant.
Day 4 -
Today following breakfast we transfer to Menton, where you are free to enjoy the Lemon Festival in Menton, a truly magical event filled with colour and imagination. Fruity floats depicting everything from Buddhas to coconut groves glide down the "Promenade du Soleil" and there will be music sets from Brazilian bands, folkloric groups and dance and majorette troops marching between the floats.
What was once a few carts loaded with orange and lemon trees in the early 1930s has turned into a sprawling citrus carnival attracting more than 200,000 people from across the world.
Evening is at leisure.
Day 5 -
We drive to Cap d’Antibes for a visit to Villa Thuret. A botanist and expert on seaweeds, Gustav Thuret lived here and over a period of twenty years he amassed a collection of rare plants – among them the first eucalyptus to be planted on the Côte d’Azur. The interest of the place lies in the great collection of tender woody plants, some 3000 species, which are grown here. In four acres of exotic jungle the visitor may wander at will studying plants rarely seen in any other European collection.
We continue to the garden of La Mouissone, to the east of Grasse. The property is almost unique in this area in being distributed across the slopes of a hillside below le Bois de la Marbrière, with panoramic views of the coast. Spread over three hectares with 250 productive olive trees, the gardens reflect the attributes and restrictions presented by the terrain and the Mediterranean climate. There are tailored lawns and beds around the houses, and wilder grassland and woodland areas on the outskirts. You can also explore the shady bamboo garden, the prairie style garden and woodland walk. Lunch is included here. Please note this hillside garden involves short walks via narrow paths and steps.
This afternoon we visit the village of St Paul de Vence, which has been a haven to writers and artists over the years, including Marc Chagall who is buried in the village cemetery. Within the narrow cobbled streets there are countless art galleries and studios and the viewpoint at the south end of the village offers a memorable panorama.
This evening we will enjoy a farewell dinner in a nearby local restaurant.
Day 6 -
This morning we check out of our hotel and depart for Monaco where we will visit the Exotic Gardens of Monte Carlo. This fascinating garden specialises 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 you. Please note that some areas of this garden are very steep.
We transfer to the airport for our return flight to London.
Tour dates & prices
Included in your cost:
- Meals - as per the itinerary
- Comfortable coach travel throughout
- All visits as outlined in the itinerary
- Services of a professional tour manager
|Tour Departure||Tour ID||Departure date||Return Date||Guided by||Price||Deposit||Single supplement||Offer||Availability|
|16 February 2023||BLEM230216||16 February 2023 (Thursday)||21 February 2023 (Tuesday)||£1,395
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