The Riviera Hillsides Experience

Village in the hills above the French Riviera

Village of St. Paul de Vence

2022 Dates: June 5 – 12 (Women’s Week); June 12 – 19

We’re delighted to offer The Riviera Hillsides Experience for the first time in 2022. This trip will base for the week in the scenic foothills behind the famous French Riviera, just west of Nice and Cannes, officially called the “Alpes Maritimes.”

We’ll find 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 escapes the Provençal Mistral wind and 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 also have 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.

colorful village with palm trees

The village of Grasse in the hills above the Riviera

Our host village and accommodations will be confirmed soon. We’ll stay in a traditional, locally-owned hotel in one of the delightful hillside villages inland from the coast, between Grasse and Vence.

Experience the Riviera Hillsides

The Riviera Hillsides Experience will follow the same approach as our other Experience trips, including a variety of special activities and experiences unique to this area:

  • A special day in Grasse, the perfume capital of the world. Grasse is an enchanting town, painted in mixed golden hues, with meandering lanes between tightly-built tall medieval houses. We’ll 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, 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, which contribute their scents to the famous Grasse perfume houses. We’ll 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’ll visit several diverse sites. Possibilities include 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 down to the coast for a different view of the hillsides. We’ll cruise out to one of Cannes’ offshore islands, Ile St Honorat, with its inhabited monastery. On the island we’ll enjoy a relaxing guided walk, taste the monks’ wines in the olive groves, and relax over a picnic lunch.
  • Food-related experiences including a visit to a family-owned olive oil mill and a cooking demonstration and dinner.
  • Optional activities including morning walks, sketching in our hotel’s garden (we’ll supply the materials on request– and you’ll be surrounded by inspiration), and perhaps a spontaneous game of pentanque.
  • 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.

Our “Women’s Week” is a special variation of this Experience trip. We’ll follow the same overall itinerary, with some adjustments based on the interests of the group. As always with our all-women groups, there’s a unique camaraderie and spirit that’s an important part of the week.

As tourism opens up this summer, we’ll be able to confirm all the details for this trip and provide a day-by-day itinerary.

abbey on an island

Lérins Abbey on the island of Saint-Honorat

Arrival and Departure

Our meeting/drop-off point is Nice airport, just an hour or so flying time from Paris or London. Nice is also accessible via a coastal train from Marseille, a trip of less than three hours. We may also offer an additional meeting point at the nearby Nice Ville train station. We’ll meet the group on the first afternoon and drop-off after breakfast on the last morning. (The specific pick-up and drop-off times will be confirmed six months before the trip.)

We always recommend arriving in Europe at least one day before our week begins. This allows you to adjust to the time difference and also provides a buffer in case of any travel delays. We highly recommend spending some time in Nice before or after our week together. The city of Nice walks a fine line between Italian and French cultures, with its colorful old town, laundry hanging between buildings, and animated population. You’ll enjoy strolling along the waterfront on the Promenade des Anglais, the daily flower market, the luxurious aristocratic villas, a choice of art museums, and the blue backdrop of the Mediterranean Sea. From Nice you can easily take public transportation to explore other destinations on the coast.

Leader: Jennifer Dugdale

Prices: $3,950 per person double occupancy; $4,400 single occupancy of a double room