7 reasons NOT to visit the Côte d’Azur in winter

Over a century ago, the Côte d’Azur was a destination for those who wintered here for health reasons and old money who holidayed here, drinking red wine and wondering how to magically transport the sky, sea and sunshine back to their own part of the world.

Faced with grey skies and snowfall that encourages marathon Monopoly sessions by the fireplace, many tourists could easily just skip going on a winter getaway, right?  Here’s 7 reasons NOT to visit the Côte d’Azur in winter:

1. Having to decide between the beach or ski resorts

Do you prefer beaches or the mountains?  Well, don’t visit the French Riviera in winter if you need an easy choice because you can do both in one day, if you like.

That’s right, you can be on the slopes in the Alps in the morning and enjoying a late afternoon snack at a coastal cafeteria on the same day.   Sound impossible?  Well, it’s not.  And while swimming in the sea may be out of the question for most and only the brave dip into the Mediterranean during winter, we are very lucky to have the chance to do this!

The French Riviera in winter : it’s possible to enjoy the sea and mountains in one day

The geographical location of the French Riviera stretches from the Mediterranean coast to hinterland communities and Mercantour region that includes alpine towns.   The Alpes Maritimes region has easy access to established ski resorts, and you’ll find no shortage of pistes to ski or snowboard including Isola 2000, Auron, Valberg, La Colmiane and Val d’Allos La Foux.  Gréolières is the closest to the coast and while it doesn’t have the amenities of the other resorts it’s perfectly fun for a day out with the family.

Even if you don’t ski there are many exciting things to do at the mountain resorts such as toboganning, DJ concerts on the pistes or simply visit one of the restaurants for a lovely meal overlooking the mountains.

Of course, if winter isn’t your thing then the mountain resorts can also be visited in warmer months when the wildflowers are in bloom, walking trails are beautiful and other attractions and activities are open such as the zip line at La Colmiane, the luge at Valberg, Vesubia Mountain Park with climbing wall, swimming pool and canyoning, Parc Alpha Wolf Park and the natural pool at Roquebillière.

2. Too many winter options for families

If you prefer to have a relaxing winter with your family, the French Riviera isn’t for you.  How could you possibly decide what to do when there are ski resorts, Christmas markets, ice skating, food festivals and traditional celebrations such as the santon fairs or local events including the Lucéram nativity / crèche displays?

Not to mention, the weather is usually mild throughout winter so you can still play outdoors at any of the numerous French Riviera playgrounds.

Lucéram has a nativity crèche display each Christmas with around 450 displays throughout the town

3. Uncrowded walking trails

It rarely rains for days on end throughout winter on the French Riviera so people simply dress up warmer for their regular promenades through town.

However, it seems the change in weather causes a mass exodus from popular walking routes and hiking trails.   If you prefer busier walking paths (excluding the Promenade des Anglais in Nice and Croisette in Cannes which generally have foot traffic all year), go on holiday elsewhere as you’ll likely have little or no company on many walking trails here during colder months.

4. Seasonal winter food

I do sometimes hear from visitors that the restaurants here are tourist traps churning out average food in high season.  So, if you’re a ‘meat-and-three-vegies’ kind of traveller then don’t come back in winter!

The cooler months kick start some absolutely lip-smackingly good food fairs, the popular truffle season, oyster sales, chestnut festivals, grape harvesting and more.  Also, one of my favourite festive season pastimes is a glass of vin chaud and a slice of pain d’épices at the Marché de Noëls 🙂

Marrons chauds (hot chestnuts) are found at many winter festivals

5. No long queues at tourist attractions

Many of the Côte d’Azur’s tourist attractions close over winter or have reduced hours, but there are still plenty of attractions that are open and you won’t have to brave long queues of tourists to enjoy them.

Drop by one of the French Riviera’s popular museums, visit the gorgeously ornate Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild or take a French Riviera art trail soaking up the sites and landscapes painted by famous artists.

Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild is a year-round attraction worth visiting

6. Quiet hilltop villages

I love the buzz of big cities, but it can be overwhelming to be constantly bombarded with urban noise from traffic, construction and city life!

If you prefer a more sedate experience, you can’t miss visiting some of the towns on the French Riviera during autumn and winter when time moves at a much slower pace.

Go to Eze, St Paul de Vence, Tourrette-Levens, Gourdon or Sainte-Agnès and stroll around appreciating the history, village houses and medieval architecture.

I also find taking photographs is great during colder months because you don’t have other people crowding the background of your panorama, you can get some fantastic photos of daily life without residents feeling they are on show (that perhaps they may feel in high season) and people are generally going about their day at a more relaxed pace.

Sainte-Agnès is exceptionally tranquil during cooler months

7.  Classy festive decorations

Some people love over-the-top Christmas decorations, but you’ll find the Côte d’Azur eases back on the tacky factor and decorations are mostly classy.

Casino Square always has an amazing festive display every year

While Christmas on the coast may be short on snow, you’ll find no shortage of festive imagination.  Expect to see garlands of festive lights, giant Christmas trees and lots of Christmas markets – without the repetitive song of ‘Frosty the Snowman’ 20 hours a day, every shop window crammed with yuletide merchandise from early November and every house decorated excessively with neon lights blinking to synchronised music.

Also, most shops tend to stick to civilised opening hours – you won’t see mass frenzies of late-night shopping at most stores right up to Christmas Eve putting pressure on consumers to grab a late Christmas bargain.

Luxury hotels have elegant displays for Noël, Casino Square in Monaco looks suitably grand during the festive season and who won’t think a torchlight descent down the mountain with fireworks over the snow isn’t a fantastic way to see in the New Year?

Some people prefer grey skies, heavy snow and freezing temperatures in winter, however while the French Riviera may not be an obvious choice for a winter getaway it is a perfectly viable destination to visit with tolerable weather, lots of activities and less crowds.

Photo Credits:  Tyrolienne La Colmiane (Neo Extreme), Lucéram image (Departement06), Marrons chauds (Provence7), Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild (Paris Frivole), Ste Agnès (Notre Provence Group),





4 Family-Friendly Things To Do on the French Riviera this weekend

After a week of rain on and off, it’s time to get out and about and enjoy some of the region’s activities and events.

Here are my suggestions for 4 family-friendly things to do on the French Riviera this weekend:

1.     Monte Carlo Gastronomie Festival

On all weekend, there are plenty of exhibitors with goodies for parents to sample and buy such as organic teas, fine wines, truffles, cured meats, smoked salmon and cheese.

Don’t put off visiting this food show with your kids – they will love the food from exhibitors such as gelato maker Gez Italia, the cookies from Baghi’s,  the chocolate truffle bon bons from Sgambelluri , chocolates from Maison Auer and nougat from Nougaterie Cévenole.

More info :  www.montecarlogastronomie.com/en/


2. Ciné-Récré in Nice – All weekend at various Nice cinemas

Ciné-Récré is a mini film festival for children with films screened at cinemas in Nice for just €3 a ticket for kids aged 3-12 years and their accompanying adult.


Participating cinemas and information about film schedules can be found at their websites:


3. Tchico et le Trésor de Barbe Noire in Nice – Sunday 27 November at 11am

A theatre production for young children.  After the disappearance of the renowned pirate Barbe Noire (Black Beard), an ex member of the crew, Robin Sea the cruel, decides to go in search of his priceless treasure, with the wise advice of a mysterious parrot named Tchico. This one will take him on an adventure filled with unexpected developments combining plots, battles, jokes and curious encounters.

Bookings via:  http://www.spectacles.fr/salle/theatre-bellecour-nice (go to ‘Aout 2016’)


4. Christmas Market in Tourrette-Levens – All weekend

It’s not yet December but the French Riviera Christmas markets are starting to open for the year’s festive season.  This weekend, Tourrette-Levens is hosting their annual Christmas market from 10am-6pm in the Salle des Fêtes and village.  Pop along to see Father Christmas, Christmas stands and eat roasted chestnuts and crepes.



13 Ideas for Non-Toy Gifts for Kids

Christmas is creeping closer and I can already see the stress in the faces of many parents who battle their consciences and budgets to make Christmas enjoyable for their children.

All parents want to make Christmas fun for their kids, but what are some suggestions of gifts for children that won’t create more clutter in your house, break your bank balance and/or are educational or sustainable?

I’m a big fan of recycled toys from charity shops or vide greniers (boot sales, flea markets), and we have donated many bags of good quality clothing, books and puzzles to various local charities but this blog post is intended as a suggestion for parents who may be trying to minimise the toy clutter.

Here are some suggestions for non-toy gifts for kids:

1.  Memberships

Gift your child a yearly membership – an art gallery, animal park etc.  On the French Riviera, the Médiathèques offer annual subscription with access to books, films and kids workshops.  You can also buy an annual pass which includes Aquasplash water park, Kids Island, Adventure Golf and Marineland (conditions apply)

Annual pass for entry to 4 French Riviera theme parks

Annual pass for entry to 4 French Riviera theme parks

2.  Events

Gift your child a movie or theatre ticket, or a ticket to a sports match. Having an event to look forward to is exciting!  Azur Arena, Anthea Theatre, Info Concert for regional event details and Grimaldi Forum in Monaco are a few places to start looking.

AzurArena at night (image: antibesjuanlespins.com)

AzurArena at night (image: antibesjuanlespins.com)

3.  Classes

Gifting classes is a great way to let kids know you are paying attention to their interests.  Music, sailing, dance, horse-riding, art and drawing, karate – choose something they enjoy.  Check with your local mairie (town hall) for available classes in your area.

4.  Recipes, baking and cooking

My son loves helping in the kitchen, and we have weekly baking sessions.  You could choose a special recipe together, print it out and go shopping for the ingredients.  Or, put all recipe ingredients in a jar with instructions and a cute gift tag as a gift idea. One of my super-simple rainy day recipes we make is here

5. Arts and crafts supplies

Make a simple arts and crafts discovery box filled with wooden ice-cream sticks, glitter, old cardboard rolls (toilet paper rolls are fine!), paints, crayons, pipe cleaners, feathers, glue, pom-poms, stick-on adornments like googly eyes, felt, Velcro.  You can pick up super-cheap craft supplies from €2 stores, or for an excellent selection head to La Grand Récre or Cultura.

Create an arts & crafts discovery box (image: imgarcade)

Create an arts & crafts discovery box (image: imgarcade)

6. Restaurant gift voucher

Make a simple voucher to gift your child for a restaurant outing.  They can go to a restaurant for ice-cream, cake, dinner etc and they get to choose a friend to come along. Stick to a budget so it doesn’t get out of hand and you end up ordering from the whole menu (example €10 for both children).

7. Outdoor equipment

Most children love outdoor activities.  Gift them a fishing rod, hiking shoes, tennis racquet, butterfly net, kite, scooter. Decathlon is great for outdoor equipment, or head to one of the local vide greniers.

8.  Science and discovery

If your child is interested in science and/or discovery, how about a small torch, compass, telescope, binoculars, barometer, magnifying glass, bug catcher, solar powered light. Nature et Decouvertes are great shops for science and discovery.

(image: Nature et Decouvertes)

(image: Nature et Decouvertes)

9.  Games and puzzles

This one may be disputed as a ‘toy’, but games and puzzles are a great gift for encouraging problem-solving and concentration.  You can pick up good quality second hand puzzles in the classified sections on Angloinfo, Le Bon Coin or Facebook groups such as ‘Baby and children’s items for sale on the French Riviera’.

10.  Gardening equipment

Encourage the ‘green fingers’ in your child, by gifting them a flower, plant, seeds or shrub of their choice, or a watering can and child-friendly gardening tools.  Carrefour has basic pot plants, and Villa Verde has an extensive gardening selection.

11.  A gift for someone less fortunate

Make a budget of €5-€10 which your child can spend to buy a small gift intended for someone less fortunate.

Explain how not all children are as fortunate to receive gifts every birthday or Christmas, and involve them in the process of buying the gift and choosing wrapping paper, and they get to deliver it to the charity store or homeless shelter.

Vinci holds annual toy collections on the autoroutes near Nice St-Isidore and Antibes, and Century 21 real estate agents also hold toy collections every year (both collections this year have now finished).

Another option, is to donate a few canned (non-perishable) goods to the local mission or food bank as they often hold Christmas lunches for the less fortunate.

Give a gift to someone less fortunate (image: itd.gov)

Give a gift to someone less fortunate (image: itd.gov)

12.  Bedroom redecoration

Tell your child their gift can be a bedroom redecoration to a theme of their choice. Again, rather than a complete overhaul of the décor (walls, soft furnishings, storage) stick to one or two new items.  Pinterest has great ideas for updating your interior decor on the cheap.  Whether they love pirates or princesses they will be excited to see the changes!

13. Books

Books are a lovely gift. We often give books with a preference for books with an educational tone.

Good quality childrens books can be found on local Facebook groups – ‘Antibes Books Buy Sell or Swap’,  or ‘Baby and children’s items for sale on the French Riviera’.

Some brilliant website for free e-books to download to your Kindle, tablet, iPad etc are Oxford Owl, Loyal Books, and Robert Munsch.

I hope you have found my list inspiring!  If so, please share your comments or like this article on Facebook. Thank you

Disclaimer:  I am not affiliated to or a saleperson for any of these websites or products mentioned in my blog article. All opinions are my own, and information is provided as a resource only and I hold no responsibility for 3rd-party links not working correctly.

Christmas Markets on the French Riviera 2014 (Marchés de Noel)

I love Christmas markets.

Drinking mulled wine, eating gingerbread and cute cookies dusted with cinnamon and icing sugar, the smell of chestnuts roasting, the fairy lights and all the festive add-ons that make me realise a Northern Hemisphere Christmas isn’t so bad.

Cannes Xmas market (image: cannes.com)

Cannes Xmas market (image: cannes.com)

French Christmas markets don’t have the stellar reputation of the German, Czech or Austrian markets but they still pack a punch with entertainment, useful (and tacky) festive shopping and decorations to fuel your Yuletide celebrations.

Here is my list of the Christmas Markets for the French Riviera in 2014:

(this alphabetical list is not exhaustive, more dates will be announced closer to December!)


13 Dec: Opening of Xmas entertainment with a concert at 5.30pm at Place de Gaulle from students at the Conservatoire de Musique d’Antibes. 20Dec: Lantern parade departing from Place de Gaulle at 5pm, followed by a light show on the remparts at 6pm retracing 2000 years of the history of Antibes. 13Dec-04Jan: Xmas markets at Place de Gaulle and Place Nationale including fairground rides, Père Noels mailbox, kids workshops, an appearance from Père Noel on 22Dec.  01Jan: New Years Day swim at Salis beach


26Dec-03Jan: Xmas markets

If you fancy a white Christmas, head to Auron (image: winter.auron.com)

If you fancy a white Christmas, head to Auron (image: winter.auron.com)

Beaulieu sur Mer

22-23Dec: Theatre and musical comedy shows. 26Dec-01Jan: Ice skating rink


28Nov: Light parade 28Nov-24Dec: Xmas market, pony rides


07Dec: Xmas market


01Dec: Music and illumination of lights for Advent calendar of shutters on rue Saint Sébastien. 20Dec-03Jan Xmas market, pony rides, kids workshops, Père Noel arrives by horse and cart on the 23rd Dec


13Dec: Xmas market


14Dec: Xmas market and visit by Père Noel

Cagnes sur Mer

13-21Dec: Xmas market, mini iceskating show on 13Dec, kids craft workshops in an igloo at place de Gaulle. 20-21Dec: Marché aux santons.

(image: cagnes.maville)

(image: cagnes.maville)


28Nov-04Jan: Xmas markets, ice skating rink from 06Dec. 31Dec: New Years fireworks

Cannes La Bocca

17-26Dec: Xmas market, wishing tree, photos with Père Noel

Cap d’Ail

20Dec: Horse & cart parade, street decorations, tastings of socca & mulled wine


20-23Dec: Xmas markets, marionette show


14Dec: Xmas market


07Dec: Xmas market, magic show, bouncy castle


20Dec: Xmas market


13Dec: Xmas market


20-21Dec: Xmas market

Golfe Juan / Vallauris

20Dec: Xmas parade from Vallauris to Golfe Juan. Kids workshops on 20-21Dec


06Dec-04Jan : Xmas market

Xmas decorations in Grasse (image: Google)

Xmas decorations in Grasse (image: Google)

Juan les Pins

21 Dec: Père Noel arrives by waterski at 10.30am, followed by a trip on the petit train to Antibes at 11.30am. 01Jan – Viennese concert at the Palais des Congrès 11am-4pm and fireworks at 6.30pm in the bay of Juan les Pins.

La Bollène-Vésubie

14Dec: Xmas market, visit from Père Noel

La Colle sur Loup

14Dec : Xmas market (other Xmas animatinos until 24Dec)

La Gaude

12-14Dec: Xmas markets, post a letter to Père Noel, Xmas shows, kids construction site

La Roquette-sur-Var

13Dec: Xmas market, Xmas songs, roasted chestnuts

La Trinité

29-30Nov : Xmas market

La Turbie

28-30Nov : Xmas market

Le Broc 

06-07Dec : Xmas market, decorate Xmas trees, mulled wine

Le Rouret

07Dec: Xmas market

Le Tignet

14Dec : Xmas market, mini farm, pony rides

Les Adrets-de-l’Estérel

Xmas dates to be advised


14Dec: Xmas market, hot chocolate and mulled wine

Mandelieu-La Napoule

06Dec: Xmas market, Xmas stories, pony rides, Père Noels mailbox


06Dec-04Jan: Xmas displays through the town with a circus theme. Programme here: http://www.tourisme-menton.fr/Noel-a-Menton.html


05Dec-04Jan: Xmas market

Monaco Xmas market (image: Flickr)

Monaco Xmas market (image: Flickr)

Mouans Sartoux

14Nov-24Dec: Santon fair. Also, 06Dec: Lights festival and paper lantern parade on 06Dec followed by free hot chocolate & bonbons; Xmas market 07Dec


06Dec: Creche display, Xmas carols and lights, post a letter to Pere Noel. 13-14Dec: Xmas market and lantern parade


06Dec-04Jan: Xmas markets, bouncy castles, ice-skating rink, ferris wheel. Also, Luna Park Nice will be open these exact dates as well.

Xmas festivities in Nice (image: Nice Tourisme)

Xmas festivities in Nice (image: Nice Tourisme)


14Dec: Xmas market, lantern parade, 13 desserts, Père Noel


30Nov: Xmas market


22-24Dec: Xmas market

Roquefort Les Pins

14Dec: Xmas market, facepainting, mini farm, cooking workshop, magic and circus displays, horse and cart rides, bouncy castle, lantern parade ending with hot chocolate


01Dec: Crèche aux santons. 06Dec : Competition for Xmas decorated doors in the town. 19Dec: Xmas concert. 20Dec : Xmas market and mulled wine. 22Dec: Xmas cinema


20-25Dec: Xmas markets

St Laurent du Var

20-24Dec : Xmas market

St Jean Cap Ferret

07Dec: Xmas concert. 19Dec-06Jan : Xmas market, kids craft workshops, horse and cart rides, yeti hunt, Xmas stories

St Martin Vesubie

13/20/21Dec: Xmas market

St Paul de Vence

17Dec: Marionnette show. 19-21 Dec : Xmas market


13Dec: Xmas market


14Dec: Xmas market


24Dec: Xmas feast and gifts for small children (There is a cost for this)

Tende in winter (image: Panaramio)

Tende in winter (image: Panaramio)


29Nov-04Jan: Creche decorations & display, santon displays


29-30Nov: Xmas markets, bouncy castle, pony rides

Tourrettes sur Loup

13Dec: Xmas concert (there is a cost for this). 14Dec: Xmas market, treasure hunt in the village


24Dec : Torch descent by ESF ski school on the pistes. 28Dec: Truffle market. 01Jan: Fireworks

Valbonne / Sophia Antipolis

16-18Dec: Kids workshop & fireworks. 20-24Dec: Xmas market, kids workshops, mini farm, photos with Père Noel

Valbonne Xmas market (image: Tourisme Valbonne)

Valbonne Xmas market (image: Tourisme Valbonne)


20Dec-04Jan : Xmas market

Villeneuve Loubet

06Dec: Xmas show. 14Dec: Xmas market & concert. 20Dec: Xmas workshop (festive treats) and Xmas stories

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