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The scent of spring: the inaugural Cote d'Azur Garden Festival starts on April 1st

The scent of spring: the inaugural Cote d’Azur Garden Festival starts on April 1st

On the French Riviera coastline between Monte-Carlo and St Tropez, a full third of people are employed directly or indirectly by tourism.

Just think of all those tour guides, hotel receptionists and staff at Nice Airport, which smashed its record of 12m yearly arrivals in 2016. Plus all those restaurant chefs, café owners and apartment cleaners whose jobs depend on a healthy tourist economy.

That’s why the Côte d’Azur tourism council have launched a breath-taking array of activities for 2017.

It’s certainly working. The number of selfies snapped at the new #ilovenice sculpture overlooking the Promenade des Anglais is in the hundreds of thousands, with millions more in combined likes, views and shares. Not to mention new British Airways flights to Stansted and Manchester, new easyJet flights to Zurich and Faro, and new Germanwings flights to Munich and Vienna.

So what else is new?

Most daredevil is the €99 speedboat rental outfit in Nice Port. Uniquely, you don’t need a license for these low-power explorer boats. Just pack a bottle of rosé plus a mask and snorkel, then putter through the blue to Villefranche-sur-Mer

Not far-flung enough? This April sees the relaunch of direct ferry services from Nice to Sardinia. It’s overnight, allowing you to dine on pasta al pomodoro and Prosecco before an 8am arrival on Italy’s island of beaches. One-way rides start from €39.

There are cool new ways to see the Cote d’Azur coastline too. Nice Car rents three-wheel cabriolets pre-programmed with art, culture or celebrity itineraries for €70 per half day. Happymoov are part-electric, part-peddle rickshaws that offer bespoke tours of the-sun kissed coast.

But the granddaddy of event spectaculars is the Cote d’Azur Garden Festival, which kicks off its inaugural show through April 2017.

Like a sunny version of London’s Chelsea Flower Show, the festival will see ten 200m2 pop-up gardens grace city centre parks in Nice, Cannes, Antibes, Menton and Grasse – all locations 20-minutes apart by train.

The gardens are all free to enter. Best of all, venues like Cannes’ Villa Rothschild are rarely open to the public. Like most of the Cote d’Azur gardens, it was created by 19th-century English aristocrats who had little else to do but import wacky plant species to Europe’s sunniest corner.

That’s not all. A simultaneous fringe event, the OFF Garden Festival, will see exhibitions and open houses at 60 other public gardens along the French and Italian Rivieras. Some 400,000 extra visitors are expected on the coast during April. All of whom may need an apartment to rent.


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