Gardens in the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild
Gardens in the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild
Limited availability

Gardens of the French Riviera

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 May, we visit Grasse, centre of the French perfume industry since the 16th century and home to an International Rose Festival. The pretty hill town lies about 15 kilometres inland from Cannes but 300 to 400 metres above sea level, making for a very hospitable climate. Its favourite son was Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732-1806), whose decorative paintings suggest his own fascination with flowers. Visitors to the rose festival should expect a variety of fringe attractions, including, naturally, perfume displays. But roses are everything to the exhibitors, who take the competitive aspect very seriously.

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.

Although the activity level for this tour is rated as Moderate, please be aware that some of the gardens have some very steep sections which may not be accessible for the less mobile. These include the Jardin Exotique d’Èze, La Mortola and the Exotic Gardens of Monte Carlo.

What's included?

  • Flights
  • Accommodation
  • Services of a professional tour manager
  • Comfortable coach travel throughout
  • Meals - as per the itinerary

Keeping you safe on your next tour

  • FREE 'Travel Safe' kits for every traveller
  • COVID-19 insurance
  • Enhanced Health and Safety audits
  • Distanced seating on coaches
  • 'Get me home' service and private airport transfers
  • COVID protocols at our hotels, and aboard our cruise ships
  • Packed lunches and flexible dining options
  • Flexible balance payment date and COVID-friendly refund conditions
  • COVID-testing and medical training for tour staff
  • Constant monitoring and post-tour tracing

Today's Price

Deposit: £200 Single supplement: £295

Tour highlights:

  • In February, sit back and enjoy all the colour and spectacle of the Menton Lemon Festival
  • In May, enjoy the fragrant and beautiful International Rose Festival
  • The infectious enthusiasm of the owner of the Clos du Peyronnet
  • Cacti of every shape and size in Monte Carlo and Èze
  • The richness of the plant collection at the Hanbury Garden
  • Marvellous sea views and opulent surroundings in St Jean Cap Ferrat

Tour details

Dates 20 February 2020 - 25 February 2020
Duration 6 days
Today's Price
Deposit: £200 Single supplement: £295 Balance due by 28 November 2019
Activity Level
Tour code BLEM200220

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20 February 2020: Itinerary

We depart from London on a direct flight to Nice. 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 thirty 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.

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

Meals include: Lunch, Dinner

Hotel: Hotel Le Grimaldi

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.

Evening at leisure.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: Hotel Le Grimaldi

After breakfast today we visit the private garden of Clos du Peyronnet, Our access to this private garden, not to mention a personal guided tour by the owner, 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.

This evening we will enjoy dinner in a nearby local restaurant.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Hotel: Hotel Le Grimaldi

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 at leisure.

Meals include: Breakfast

Hotel: Hotel Le Grimaldi

This morning we depart for the Cap d’Antibes and a visit to the 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.

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.

All meals included

Hotel: Hotel Le Grimaldi

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.

We then travel to the airport in time for our return flight back to London where the group will disperse or transfer to regional flight connections.

Meals include: Breakfast

20 February 2020: Additional Info

20 February 2020: Accommodation

This property is a 7-minute walk from the beach. Located in the heart of Nice, Le Grimaldi is a 15-minute walk from Cours Saleya Flower Market and 500 yards from the beach and the Promenade des Anglais. It offers air-conditioned and soundproofed rooms. Free WiFi access is available throughout.

Each room is individually decorated and equipped with satellite TV and private bathroom.

Breakfast is served daily, made with fresh, local produce. In the afternoon Nespresso coffee and tea are available or you can enjoy a drink at the hotel’s bar.

The lively area offers many restaurants and shops.

20 February 2020: Enquiries

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