Anyone who has visited the Cote d’Azur will have fallen under the spell of the region’s unique aroma. A fragrance unlike any other, it has been described as a combination of piney shrubs, spicy herbs and sweet flowers, not forgetting traces of lavender and rosemary.
While the scents of the South of France are too complex and evocative to be captured in a sentence, there is one distinctive aroma often hailed as the signature scent of the province. That belongs to garrigue – bushy, fragrant plants found growing wild on the limestone hills of the Mediterranean coast. It is this vegetation that provides the foundation of the Cote d’Azur’s unique fragrance: a heady mix of juniper, thyme, sage and lavender (with the name garrigue used to refer to them collectively).
It’s no coincidence that garrigue is also a term used today in haute cuisine and wine tasting – so intrinsically linked is the South of France with these indulgences. Garrigue and the intoxicating scents of the South truly do infuse wine, flavour food and infiltrate culture and history, explaining one of the many reasons the region is so special.
“Pleasure is the flower that passes; remembrance, the lasting perfume” – Jean de Boufflers
For those dreaming of the French Riviera, Le Méridien Hotels & Resorts has bravely attempted to bottle up the scent of the region. Named LM002 to resemble an airplane tail number, a nod to the Golden Age of Travel, the perfume combines Atlas cedar, Neroli blossom, black amber, musk, sandalwood bark, caviar lime, fig, Provence cypress, freesia and star jasmine. The scent has been designed to evoke the glamorous golden age of the Cote d’Azur, described as “a lingering aperitif, a refreshing breeze soaked with salt water, the slow rise of jasmine at night – late summer along the French Riviera redolent of relaxed sophistication.”
For those lucky enough to visit or live in the South of France, there is plenty to activate the olfactory sense. Take a trip to the mecca of perfumery – Grasse, where international companies extract raw materials, upcoming perfume designers are trained, and visitors can delight at the many aromatic offerings at the International Perfume Museum or factories from the famous three: Fragonard, Molinard and Galimard. Further afield, discover how L’Occitane harvests and distills its organic ingredients from the area on a sensorial tour of the L’Occitane Factory, high among the lavender hills between Avignon and Nice in Manosque.
In the heart of the French Riviera, soak up the flavours and aromas of the Cours Saleya market in Nice, an ancient city bustling with vivid colours and seductive scents of the fruit, vegetables, and flowers that adorn the market stalls. Later this month, witness nature in full bloom as Antibes comes alive with its fabulous flower festival, Floralies of Antibes (15th – 30th May), in which local gardens will be opened and the most spectacular of plants and flowers will be on display.
By becoming a resident of Les Oliviers, you will enjoy a series of beautifully manicured Provençal style gardens, with two apartments having their own private garden. For botanical enthusiasts, there is a carefully conserved arboretum complemented by indigenous Mediterranean plants including lavender, roses, mimosa and jasmine. Les Oliviers is in fact inspired by the local scents of the South, with each of the apartments named after a sweet-smelling bloom: jasmine, acacia, rose, lavender, orange blossom and lily. Oh the choices!