The gardens of the Côte d’Azur have significantly contributed to the area’s reputation as a top tourist destination and today harbour an exceptional wealth of botanical heritage. As the playground of the 19th-century aristocracy, botanical enthusiasts wintering in the area had plenty of time on their hands to acclimate many of the species they brought back from their travels to the Mediterranean environment, creating extraordinary gardens in the process. These include botanical gardens, acclimatisation gardens, conservatories of fragrant plants for perfumes and flower gardens. These sites can be found both on the coast and in the mountains, and several have earned the label of Jardins Remarquables.
The first Côte d’Azur Garden Festival will take place between 1 April and 1 May 2017 with the theme ‘Awaken your senses’. Participants will create 200m² temporary gardens in several town centres: Cannes – the Villa Rothschild gardens; Menton – the Biovès gardens; Grasse – the Honoré Cresp Esplanade; Nice – the Albert I gardens on the Promenade du Paillon; and Antibes – the Pinède Gould in Juan-les-Pins. The festival will unite the whole coastline in celebration of its rich and remarkable botanical heritage, with a diverse programme of activities, conferences, exhibits, open houses and guided tours. Visitors will be able to meet growers and horticulturists, many of whom are working towards nomination for UNESCO’s ‘Intangible Cultural Heritage’ lists for perfume expertise in the Grasse area. The gardens will also be celebrated through cuisine, with many related festivities scheduled on the Côte d’Azur throughout the year.
The inland hilltop town of Grasse has been synonymous with perfume since the end of the 18th century, and today produces over two thirds of France’s natural aromas for both perfume and food flavouring. Every year some two million tourists visit Grasse’s perfume museum, learning the origins and history of perfume-making and about its related objects. The museum was restructured in 2008 and centres around four individual spaces: the Pontevès hotel, the former Hugues-Aîné perfumery, the former Pélissier building and an orange garden. Come and discover all the stages of the creation of a perfume including processing the raw materials, distillation and extraction… and after exploring the museum, why not enjoy a guided tour of the factories housing famous manufacturers Fragonard, Galimard and Molinard? Grasse itself is also lovely to explore, full of wonderful architecture, narrow winding streets and typical French boutiques to browse. And if you’re visiting in August, don’t miss the town’s wonderfully fragrant Fête du Jasmin (Jasmine Festival), marking the start of the jasmine harvest. Let your nose guide you…