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The Golden Road of the French Riviera

The Mimosa in Winter Bloom, Cote d'Azur They're winter suns, drips of gold along the hillside. They're the February pride of the Massif de Tanneron, the Siagne Valley, the Estérel and the Massif des Maures on the French Riviera.

Imported from Australia in the mid-19C, the Silver Wattle tree is a species of acacia called Le Mimosa in France and by florists (Acacia dealbata). In its adoptive northern hemisphere, the mimosa blossoms in winter between December and March. This winter, Le Mimosa is going wild, shining millions of little suns on the Côte d'Azur.

Since 2003, summers have been dry, winters mild and little rain has fallen in spring and fall. Many plants, acacias included, have suffered from lack of water. This year (2008), winter temperatures have returned to normal and the mimosa is blossoming with a vengeance with yellow puffs sprouting bright like fireworks.

Harvesting the winter suns

The mimosa is not just a stunning dash of yellow, but an industry here on the Côte d'Azur. It is harvested and its stalks sold across Northern Europe, the USA and Japan in particular. Most of the harvesting is done by small family-owned businesses with savoir-faire handed down from generations. Altogether, mimosa plantations spread across approximately 200 hectares of land, with an average production of 500 tons per year. Prices vary by year according to supply and demand, but one kilo of mimosa stalks typically sells for 5 to 6 Euros. This year, mimosa production is up in the Alpes-Maritimes and in the Var thanks to weather conditions. And with volume up, prices are down some 20% from previous years.

So where to see the winter suns?

The Route du Mimosa celebrates the golden flowers across eight villages along an 130-kilometer route, from Bormes-les-Mimosas to Grasse:

130kmmimosa_2

 

  • Bormes-les-Mimosas -- Kilometer 0
    • Mimosalia : Sat 26 & Sun 27 January
    • Corso Fleuri : Sunday, February 24
  • Bormes-les-Mimosas -- Kilometer 0
    • Mimosalia : Sat 26 & Sun 27 January
    • Corso Fleuri : Sunday, February 24
  • Rayol-Canadel -- Kilometer 15
  • Ste Maxime -- Kilometer 42 
    • Corso Fleuri : Sat 2 & Sun 3 February
  • St Raphael -- Kilometer 59
    • Viva Mimosa:  February 09 to 17
    • Grand Corso Fleuri : February 10,3PM
  • Mandelieu-la-Napoule -- Kilometer 108
  • Tanneron -- Kilometer 112
  • Pégomas -- Kilometer 115
    • Corso Fleuri : Sat & Sun, January 26 &27
  • Grasse -- Kilometer 130
  • During these celebrations, floats of yellow flowers circle around town, as do clowns, jugglers, and good cheer.

    If you've missed the above celebrations, or prefer a walk away from crowds, try a hike in the Massif du Tanneron, around Pégomas or in some spots of the Estérel for yellow impressions in the hills.

    For an illustrated guidebook on great short hikes in the western French Riviera, take a look at 26 Gorgeous Hikes on the Western Côte d'Azur. The book is available now online on Amazon!

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