2nd December 2013… Mimosa has become one of the symbols of the south of France in winter, reminiscent of the sun or of gold because of its bright yellow colour, said to evoke love stories and sensitivity. It is also symbol of good over evil. Today the Route du Mimosa runs all the way from Bormes – les-Mimosa to Grasse – about 130km, which is recommended to be travelled in the January – March period when the temperate climate doesn’t make it an uncomfortable experience.
It was the British who introduced mimosa to the Riviera in the 1880’s, themselves having imported it from Australia to the UK in 1850. The British upper classes holidayed in the south of France in the winter from Victorian times as the warmth was so much more clement than the cold winters back home. From then on mimosa growers multiplied in the region, particularly around Mandelieu, Pégomas, Grasse, Tanneron, Sainte-Maxime, Le Rayol, Canadel and Bormes les Mimosas.
Mimosa belongs to the acacia family and there are 800 species listed – with different species grown for different purposes such as cut flowers, as a rock plant or ornamental, as a wind-breaker or hedge or to help soil or sand erosion. In Bormes, Julien Cavatore is a passionate grower. He is the only grower in France to own a collection of 180 species exported all over Europe and accredited by the National Council for Conservation of Plants and Gardens. Mimosa is also used in the perfume industry, capital of which in France is Grasse. Mimosa is grown in a closed room heated to 25 degrees Celsius and with 85% humidity.
Part of the production is packaged and sold to florists and wholesalers, both in France and further afield. Much is used to decorate many of the parades and festivals taking place all over the area in the winter, even the Nice Carnival itself and the famous Bormes les Mimosa Flower “Corso”, one of the oldest Mimosa “Corsos” of the region. Because of its light, floral scent mimosa has been used in many famous perfumes such as Paris from Yves Saint Laurent, Champs-Elysées form Guerlain, Amariage from Givenchy and Moment Supreme from Jean Patou. Otherwise mimosa powder is used in cooking in the Mimosa Agay white truffle chocolate invented by Didier Carrie, or the Tarte Mimosée created by Francois Raimbault at the two star Michelin Oasis de Mandelieu restaurant. Mimosa has also appeared in some famous paintings as it is so evocative of the area great artists loved it – look at The Workshop with Mimosa by Pierre Bonnard for example.
The Route du Mimosa – principal towns to visit.
Start in Bormes-les-Mimosa – Le Var – sitting at the entrance to the Maures Massif. This is said to be one of the prettiest and most floral villages of France thanks to its scarf of mimosa and the many types of different trees that are grown there such as the Jaracanda, Brasiliana, and Chilean Wine Palm etc. In fact this village, dating back to the twelfth century, has 700 rare vegetal species many exotic and tropical examples having adapted very well to the Mediterranean climate. This seaside resort is close to where the French Presidential summer residence is situated and is home to many gardens open to visitors, the newest being the Gonzalez Park dedicated to an exceptional and unique collection of Australian plants.
Bormes boasts 90 different species of mimosa and is the first town on the Route to celebrate with the Mimosalia Festival on the last weekend of January which is also when the Corso and flowery float procession takes place. This is a ‘must’ event for French gardeners to attend.
Rayol Canadel – Le Var – sits between the exuberant nature of the Maures Massif, and the inlets and sandy beaches of the coast, one of which was used by the Allies in the Second World War landings of 1944. There is a staircase from the centre of the village down to the sea which is like a flowery paradise culminating in The Patec, a circular pergola that has been listed as a historic monument since 1989. The views from here are spectacular with 80% of the area cloaked in heather, mimosa and cork oaks.
The stunning gardens of the Domaine du Rayol are situated here. Created by Gilles Clement and covering seven of the 20 hectares of the Domaine, the gardens show plants from places with similar climates to that of the Mediterranean from all over the world – Chile, South Africa, Australia and California for example.
Sainte-Maxime – Le Var – is an elegant seaside, family resort with a marina that has undertaken to protect the local natural environment. Among things to do and see – the botanical gardens of Myrtes cover three hectares and features Mediterranean plants such as the dwarf palm. There is a lovely walk to the protected Pointe des Sardinaux, known as the Little Corsica, where you can find a Roman breeding pond dug in the rock as well as see plants, seaweeds, crustaceans and shellfish. Also here the Domaine de la Pierre Plantée is the largest olive grove in the Var with more than 3,500 olive trees that give Thierry Olivier an award winning olive oil.
Saint-Raphael – Le Var – is a listed resort at the foot of the Esterel Peninsular. The 20km shoreline is quite exceptional being a protected natural habitat and featuring coves and beaches, many little ports and hidden nooks and crannies. All around the red rock of the Esterel is a blaze of yellow in the winter with mimosa grown in specific areas. You can visit these areas in the company of a National Forest Office agent. There are parades night and day, a carnival for children, visits of the mimosa nurseries by bus and a flower festival in Agay as well during the Mimosa Carnival in February. In fact the volcanic rock of the Esterel covers 32,000 hectares and drops at 614 metres into the blue waters of the Med. It bears 400km of marked trails. It was formed during the Paleozoic era and goes back 300 million years. Part of it detached itself during the Tertiary era – we now call that Corsica!
Tanneron – Le Var– has the largest concentration of mimosa, both wild and cultivated, in the whole of France. It is the most beautiful of the floral villages and is home to yellow forests of mimosa. It is made up of 22 hamlets scattered over the hillsides covered also with strawberry plants, chestnut trees, cork oaks, olives and pines. Their Festival takes place on the first Sunday of February.
Mandelieu La Napoule – Côte d’Azur – lies at the end of the Corniche d’Or and is the principal area of mimosa production on the Riviera, particularly over the Massif du Tanneron. The Route de Mimosa now follows a triangular route via Mandelieu, Tanneron and Pégomas. The various nurseries and gorgeous scenery let you see both the cultivated and uncultivated types of the plant. The Mimosa Festival takes place 14th – 23rd February 2014. Flowers have always been sent all over the country from when the railways arrived here and are also used to decorate the many floats used in the regional winter festivals. Guided tours are arranged by the tourist office.
Pégomas – Côte d’Azur – has the Italians who built the village in the 16th century to thank for their mimosa as it is they who brought it with them when they settled in the area. They also brought vines, olive trees, fruit trees and aromatic plants such as mimosa. Today Pégomas is one of the places to stop on the Route du Mimosa. The gardens are a must to visit and so is a stroll along the Siagne River where nature has taken over! The Leader of the Mimosa Association here is always happy to talk to interested parties about anything to do with this magical plant.
Grasse – Côte d’Azur – is internationally famous for being the centre of the world’s perfume industry but it is less appreciated for its fantastic architecture reflecting its Italian and Provencal roots as well as its economic success thanks to the perfume. The Cathedral boasts paintings by Fragonard, Bréa and Rubens. The Perfume Museum shows us exactly how important the industry has been to the Cote d’Azur and how mimosa has played an integral part in that success. Only three perfume houses exist in Grasse today – Fragonard, Galimard and Molinard, but the town is still very much worth a visit just to wander through the narrow streets, charming squares, typical fountains and picturesque landmarks. There is also a mimosa nursery here and so as you have reached the end of the Route de Mimosa it is time to buy some flowers and have them sent home as a reminder of a truly spectacular and special journey.
Calendar of Mimosa Festivals:
Bormes-les-Mimosas – 24th -26th January 2014
Tanneron– 2nd – 19th February 2014
Mandelieu La Napoule – 14th – 23rd February 2014
Saint-Raphael – 15th – 23rd February 2014
Sainte-Maxime 1th – 2nd February 2014
For a copy of La Route du Mimosa Press Kit please visit: www.visitvar.fr/en/espace-presse.aspx
Sitting on the Mediterranean coast of southern France between the Alpes Maritimes to the east and the Bouches du Rhône to the west, Le Var is where the Côte d’Azur and Provence meet. It is France’s second most forested region with nearly a million acres of woodland. The natural environment is stunning with red porphyry fjords and sandy beaches, discreet coves and islands along the coast then wooded hills, farming plains, lakes, rivers and canyons further inland. A must visit are the Estérel and the Maures Massifs characterised by wild beauty and varied flora and fauna, whilst the spectacular Gorges du Verdon are renowned worldwide. The chalky mountain of the Massif de la Sainte-Baume rises to over 1,200 metres above a remnant of the ‘Millenium Forest’ and the part of the Verdon Regional Natural Reserve here houses the Lake of Sainte-Croix which covers 5,400 acres of almond green waters. Most importantly Le Var is also home to many ‘preserved’ natural sites purchased by the Department, the National Conservatory or Parcs to protect them from disappearing. This mosaic of landscapes offers a plethora of quality leisure activities on offer year round. Le Var is a place to be savoured in every season and easily accessible from the UK by train or plane…Make 2013 the year to visit the Var.
For further information visit www.visitvar.fr
La Côte d’Azur
Stretching from the Italian border at Menton to the Esterel peninsula in the south of France, La Côte d’Azur is a Mediterranean destination that enjoys over 300 days of sunshine a year. La Côte d’Azur has a unique natural environment, mild climate and exceptional light. Not only is there the most stunning coastline offering lovely walking paths around the ‘Cap’s but pristine natural landscapes extending all the way to the Southern Alps. The area to the west of the region was declared the 48th France National Regional Park last year thus is protected to ensure the survival of the natural habitat. The high peaks (over 3,000 metres in places) offer ski runs in winter and trekking, mountain biking, rafting, cycling etc in summer – even high altitude golf courses. The Mercantour National Park is a must for nature lovers – a spectacular landscape shaped by glaciers thousands of years ago. A wide range of leisure activities are on offer as one may imagine from extreme sports to the more sedate. Easily accessible from the UK by plane or train…Make 2013 the year to visit La Côte d’Azur.
For further information visit www.visitcotedazur.travel
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