February is when the mimosa is in full bloom in Provence. Although not indigenous to France mimosa has taken a liking to the climate. There are over 300 different varieties apparently. Many thrive along the coast. To get a glimpse of it all, I suggest you take the Route des Mimosas which is actually a 130 km stretch of both floral coast line and back country. Driving the entire distance may not appeal to everyone so here are a few not to be missed stops along that drive.
Firstly you must imperatively visit the town of Bormes-les-Mimosas, named after their signature flower in 1968. The old town is perched on a hilltop like so many medieval villages. A series of quaint alleys and passageways will lead you from one fountain to the next in this very floral setting.
The Fort de Brégançon, the official Presidential summer residence, is perched 35 metres above the sea on a cliff in Bormes-les-Mimosas. The original fortress has been there since 118 BC. It was fought over for centuries by various kings. It became the official Presidential summer residence in 1968. Since then Presidents Georges Pompidou, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, François Mitterrand, Jacques Chirac and now Nicolas Sarkozy have had the pleasure of residing there.
Gardening enthusiasts should make a stop at the Domaine de Rayol in Rayol Canadel 15km east of Bormes-les-Mimosas. www.domainedurayol.org . Drive another 15km or so and visit the beautiful village of Gassin which has remarkable views of the Golfe de St. Tropez below. Gassin is one of the Plus Beaux Village de France. www.les-plus-beaux-villages-de-france.org
At this time of year you can even treat yourself to a café on a terrace in St. Trop without having to worry about any crowds.