The Riviera Hillsides Experience is based in the scenic foothills behind the famous French Riviera, just west of Nice and Cannes.
We discover a very different ambiance in the hills above the glitzy beaches of the French Riviera. Dramatic hillsides are dotted with homes and perched villages, with glimpses of the Alps in the distance. The backcountry of the Côte d’Azur shares many of the characteristics of Provence, bathed in sunshine and carpeted in olive groves. The protected micro-climate favors temperate plant species such as bougainvillea, palms and citrus trees and flowers of all kinds.
Populated with Mediterranean gardens, this area has evolved as the center of the world’s perfume industry. The intense light and colors have also provided a playground for artists over the centuries. Just 10 miles above the coast, we’ll discover the surprising and authentic side of the “red carpet” French Riviera: ochre-colored villages, bustling farmers markets, typical café squares, and pétanque players under the shade trees.
We base in a traditional village, inland from the coast and about 15 minutes from the famous town of Grasse. We stay in a beautifully-landscaped, traditional, family-owned hotel where our groups receive a very warm welcome.
This week includes a variety of special activities and experiences unique to this area:
– A day in the enchanting town of Grasse, the perfume capital of the world. We enjoy an immersive visit, learning the history of the artisanal, and now international, perfume industry dating back to the 1700s. We’ll meet a “niche perfumer” making contemporary scents.
– Visits to several hilltop “pre-alpes” villages, including St Paul de Vence, Mougins, and Valbonne. The highest village, Tourettes sur Loup, is the capital of violet flower production, offering farmers and craft markets, tiny French boutiques, and cobbled lanes.
– Visits to lush gardens featuring Mediterranean plants such as roses, mimosa, and fig trees. We visit local flower fields produced by families of perfume makers since 1740. And we hope to include a tour of a very special “jardin remarkable.”
– A day trip with an art theme, exploring the hillsides through the eyes of famous painters, such as Matisse, Picasso and Chagall. We visit several diverse sites such as Matisse’s Chapelle du Rosaire near Vence, the Musée Fernand Léger near Biot, the photography museum in Vallauris, and outdoor installations at Fondation Maeght in St Paul de Vence.
– An excursion to the coast and a cruise to one of Cannes’ offshore islands, Ile St Honorat, with its inhabited monastery. We enjoy a relaxing guided walk, taste the monks’ wines in the olive groves, and relax over a picnic lunch.
– Memorable meals of local specialties in a variety of settings including picnics, bistrot lunches, and a gastronomic dinner.
– Time for relaxing and exploring on your own.
As always with our all-women groups, there’s a unique camaraderie and spirit that’s an important pa