Smell the Côte d'Azur

  • © Shutterstock

    © Shutterstock

Smell the Côte d'Azur cote d'azur fr

Perfume

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 flavoring. 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…
www.museesdegrasse.com/en

 

Mimosa

Instantly recognisable with its bright yellow hue, mimosa (a member of the acacia family) is also instantly detectable on the breeze on the Côte d’Azur in January and February – you can often smell it as soon as you leave the arrivals hall at Nice airport. It originated in Australia and was first introduced to Europe in the 19th century by aristocratic travellers, thriving on the Côte d’Azur thanks to its mild climate and fertile soil. The delicate golden flowers have an unmistakeable fragrance and have greatly contributed to the growth of the perfume industry in nearby Grasse. Out of a national French production of 18 million mimosa stems per year, 11 million are produced in the department of = Alpes-Maritimes and 6 million in and around the villages of Mandelieu-la-Napoule and Pégomas.


Mandelieu hosts its own mimosa festival every February, featuring over 12 tonnes of flowers paraded through the streets in various forms. There are flower fights and fairytale shows performed on illuminated floats – a true spectacle! But for a quieter way to experience the Côte d’Azur’s mimosa, walk or drive a section of the Route du Mimosa which stretches for 130km from Bormes-les-Mimosas to Grasse.
www.routedumimosa.com

 

Citrus fruit

The last stop on the Côte d’Azur before the Italian border, Menton is famous for its abundance of oranges and lemons, grown principally in the Citronneraie (lemon grove) which is home to as many as 450 trees on the slopes of the Annonciade, 120m above sea level. All the lemons grown here are of the citron de Menton variety, considered the most prestigious of the 80 known species, but there are also orange, mandarin, grapefruit and lime trees, as well as olive trees and cacti. Smell the heady citrus scent as you wander the pathways, through shaded terraces and past fountains. The grove was awarded the status of Jardin Remarquable in 2009 and guided tours are available every third Thursday of the month from December to April. According to legend, the first lemon tree took root in Menton thanks to Adam and Eve. Expelled from the Garden of Eden, Eve took with her a golden fruit. Adam, fearing divine wrath, begged her to throw the fruit away. She agreed, but on the condition that she leave it in the place of her choosing. They crossed mountains, valleys and plains, but nowhere pleased her. Suddenly, the Bay of Garavan in Menton, appeared before them. The beauty of the bay, mild climate and luxuriant vegetation reminded them of paradise, so Eve buried the lemon in the ground – and this is where the town of Menton later sprang up.An annual celebration of the fruit takes place here in February with the Fête du Citron, running since 1934.

Almost 250,000 visitors descend on Menton to see extraordinary sculptures (some reaching a height of 10 metres) and processions involving a staggering 145 tonnes of fruit, both in the gardens and along the Promenade du Soleil. What a way to brighten the end of the winter season!

www.fete-du-citron.com

Point of interest