Gardens of Provence and the Cote d'Azur

September 9 - 16, 2019
from £1775.00 (GBP) per person for a shared room (about $2,280 USD)

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Monday September 9, 2019Serre de Madone
Flights from USA to Nice under own arrangement. On arrival we are met by our local coach and transfer 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.

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

Tuesday September 10, 2019
Villa ThuretAfter breakfast today 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 Europe.

We continue with a visit to 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. Here there will be an opportunity for lunch (not included).

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. 

We return to our hotel in Nice, where the evening is free. There is a wide range of restaurants nearby. 

St Paul de Vence

Wednesday September 11, 2019
After breakfast today we visit Clos du Peyronnet, the private garden of William Waterfield, which 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.

Clos du Peyronnet

In the afternoon we visit the gardens of La Mortola 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. 

We return to our hotel where the evening is free.

La Mortola

Thursday September 12, 2019
La MoussoneThis morning we depart for the private garden of La Mouissone in 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 continue to nearby Villa  Noailles. This elaborate garden, with its soft lines and gentle transitions, its musical fountains and its witty use of closed and open space is a delight in the spring. The garden’s heart is a series of seven broad, stonewalled terraces sups supporting ancient olive trees. Wild and rare bulbs turn these spaces to white, gold, or pink carpets.

Evening at leisure.

Friday September 13, 2019
Fondation Ephrussi de RothschildThis 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 including paintings by Monet and Renoir. The gardens are exquisite, with many interesting tender plants thriving in the favourable climate, surrounded by marvellous views over the sea. Lunch will be available here (not included). 

Exotic Gardens of Monte Carlo


In the afternoon we transfer to the independent principality of Monaco where we will visit the Exotic Gardens of Monte CarloThis fascinating garden specializes 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.

Evening at leisure in Nice.


Saturday September 14, 2019
Aix-en-ProvenceAfter breakfast we check out of the hotel and head for Avignon, breaking our journey with a visit to Aix-en-Provence, where there will be an opportunity for lunch (not included) and some sightseeing. In the afternoon we visit the privately owned Jardins d’Albertas near Aix-en-Provence. Dating from 1640, the gardens combine Italian Renaissance style with the spirit of the French style garden as developed by Le Nôtre in Versailles. They are arranged like a theatre with lateral allées framing a succession of terraces and feature ponds, monumental statues and fountains.

Later we continue to our hotel in Avignon, where dinner is served in the evening. 

Sunday September 15, 2019
After a leisurely breakfast we travel north of Avignon on an excursion to the ‘Maison de vin Bouachon’ in Châteauneuf du Pape, where we will have a tour of the cellars followed by a tasting which includes three wines, three AOC cheeses and three artisanal breads. Châteauneuf du Pape is one of the most famous wine appellations in the world, with a distinctive terroir of pebbly soil which retains the heat of the day during the night and hastens grape ripening. We then return to Avignon, and visit the gardens at the Abbey of Saint-André. A mosaic of flowerbeds, parterres and terraces, the gardens are designed in Tuscan Renaissance, Mediterranean and Provençal styles. Rose bushes, wisteria, hundred-year-old pines and olive trees, flowering plants, in short more than 100 varieties of vegetation intermingle between the ruins and the tombs of the former abbey. The remainder of the day is free to shop and sightsee at leisure in this historic city. Sights include the Palais des Papes, one of the largest and most important medieval Gothic buildings in Europe, which from 1309 until 1377 was the seat of the Papacy and the centre of Christianity, and the Pont St Bénezet, the famous truncated bridge on the River Rhône as celebrated in the song ‘Sur le Pont d’Avignon’.

In the evening we will enjoy a farewell dinner with wine in a local restaurant.

Monday September 16, 2019
La Louve

Following breakfast this morning we depart for St Rémy de Provence where we visit the privately owned garden of Les Confines, which combines a classic Jardin à la Française with elements of Mediterranean, Italian and contemporary style. The harmony between space, structure, colour and sensations has created an exceptional garden. In the afternoon we travel into the scenic Luberon region for our visit to the privately-owned garden of La Louve, which features a number of garden rooms laid out over a succession of terraces. This is a complex garden, in harmony with the surrounding countryside – a ‘borrowed landscape’ – with a restrained palette of planting. Local stone and wood is also used to great effect.

Following our visit we will travel back to Nice airport where the evening is free to relax or make own onward travel arrangements. (Accommodation under own arrangement).

Included in the Price

  • Seven nights’ hotel accommodation on a bed and breakfast basis: five nights at the four-star Hotel Le Grimaldi, Nice and two nights at a four-star hotel in Avignon
  • Welcome drink and dinner, farewell dinner with wine and one additional dinner
  • Comfortable coaching throughout
  • Visits to the gardens of Serre de La Madone, Villa Thuret, Jardin Exotique d’Eze, Clos du Peyronnet, Hanbury Gardens (La Mortola), La Mouissone (including lunch), Villa Noailles, Fondation Ephrussi de Rothschild, Exotic Gardens of Monte Carlo, Jardins d’Albertas, Les Confines, La Louve and the Abbey of Saint-André; Maison de Vin Bouachon (including tasting of wine and bread)
  • Services of horticulturalist Trevor Edwards as tour manager

Not included (per person)

  • Single room supplement £665.00 GBP (approximately $850 USD)
  • Insurance
  • Flights

All photos courtesy of Brightwater Holidays.