Each year under clear blue winter skies, a carpet of gold creeps across the rolling hills and quiet stone villages of the French Riviera. As spring approaches, the mimosa trees come into spectacular bloom in the South of France, the sprays of soft yellow flowers vivid against the sparkling Mediterranean Sea.
The Route du Mimosa is a 130 kilometre driving route created to celebrate this extraordinary phenomenon, linking 8 villages and towns famous for their stunning mimosa displays and festivals.
Any visiting Australian will be heard to ask with puzzlement about the mimosa flower. ‘Why’s there so much wattle? How did it get here?’ While the French are often quick to claim the fluffy, soft baubles of yellow flowers as their own, the mimosa tree is in fact the famous wattle tree- Australia’s national flower- imported to France in the 1800’s by visiting British, who thought it would grow well in the sunny climate.
And they were right. By the time the Belle Époque was in full swing and the Riviera was a wintertime resort of glittering parties and grand hotels, the Mimosa tree had transformed the landscape- turning the valleys and forests a burnished gold and becoming the local symbol that winter’s grip was broken.
Which, of course, is a timely reminder that the South of France is a wonderful place to be in the late winter- particularly if you feel like a driving holiday through glorious scenery, stopping at local festivals and quaint villages along the way.
The sweet-smelling mimosa flower blooms from late January to early March and the Route du Mimosa is best driven in February, which is when the majority of mimosa parades and village festivals take place. This is the most pleasant time of year to be driving along the Riviera, avoiding the clogged roads and heavy heat of midsummer- allowing you to enjoy the crisp air, snow on the Alps and the Mediterranean shining in the winter sunshine.
To be honest, you could do this trip at any time of year as it takes in some very pretty towns and countryside, from the foothills of the Alps down to the long white sandy beaches of Saint Raphael on the Gulf of Saint Tropez.