Provence is synonymous with sunshine, lavender and rosé wine, and can get a little hectic in the summer months (July and August). So we’d like to share with you what we love about Provence the rest of the year, especially in winter!
Firstly, it’s much calmer people-wise. The climate can also be amazing with t-shirt weather during the day, and then enjoying a glass of rosé in front of a crackling fire in the evening. Situated inland, our village is normally colder than on the coast, with some vineyards even measuring -15°C in winter! Snow isn’t a frequent visitor, but adds a magical touch to the rustic landscape when it arrives.
The Côte d’Azur cities remain active all year round, but rural villages become a little sleepy. Many restaurants and cafés close down so that owners can take a well-earned break, or perhaps use this time for some renovation.
It’s also a great moment for us to explore this beautiful part of the world. Here are some tips that include our favourite activities:
Outdoors and Nature
Think of winter in France, and people automatically think of skiing. Not many people know it is possible under a Provence sky! Enjoy this video by the Alps Provence Tourism.
Birdwatching in the Camargue – well known for its horses, bulls and cowboys, the Camargue is an important wetlands area, and is home to the only breeding ground of flamingoes in France. It’s also an essential stopover for migratory birds from Northern Europe to Africa. The Camargue tourism website includes top suggestions for birdwatching (in English) and other activities.
We often take a Sunday drive to the beach, just for an hour or so. The winding roads through the forests are beautiful. And because the trees have less foliage, the views are even better. The Med may be too cold to swim, but the beaches are lovely and you may even get to experience it alone (my definition of luxury).
The coastline is world renowned for towns like St Tropez, but for nature lovers, there are gorgeous walks through nature reserves. It’s lovely that we are expected to practise common sense and are not molly-coddled on hiking trails hugging rugged coastlines. French families traverse the walks, even with their babies, and carry picnics in their rucksacks that include a bottle of rosé! Food and wine and spending time together is such an integral part of French life.
Visiting rural villages
Experiencing quaint villages in the low season gives one the feeling you’re discovering a piece of history (see NY Habitat Top 10 Villages). It’s a great idea to read up about the village beforehand to get the most out of your experience. For example, if you don’t know the colourful history behind this chateau, this 360° video of Lex Baux de Provence could leave you thinking it’s simply a pretty pile of rocks ;-) Make a list of things to see and perhaps include a fun game like geocaching.
Winter markets are often smaller than their summer counterparts, and include lovely root vegetables and squashes, perfect for stews and traditional pot-au-feus. Now is the time for black truffles and Aups is the place to be – do visit the Maison de la Truffe when you’re there (information in French). If it is raining, then the covered market in Avignon is a good place to go. The cities have good shopping malls, where you can also enjoy nice discounts during the annual sales in January/February.
Museums & Festivals
Cold and rainy days call for indoor activities, and visiting museums are a great way to learn more about the rich culture of this region. You could try your hand at glass-blowing in Biot. We enjoyed visiting the Fragonard perfume museum and factory and have got the quarry of lights on our to-do list! The Phoenix Park in Nice is great for kids too, and if they’re bouncing off walls – let them expend their energy at Fun City in Cannes. Or take them to the Confectionary museum to see fruits and flowers being transformed into candied edibles.
Festivals in winter include the Citrus Festival in Menton, the Carnival in Nice and the Mimosa Festival in Mandelieu. Car afficionados get to enjoy the Monaco car rally as well as the Monaco Classic car rally. You may even catch a glimpse of the royal family who are patrons of the Monaco circus held in January.
And last, but not least, combine a wine tasting at Mirabeau with a market visit on Tuesdays! While Cotignac may be quiet, there’s always life at our end of the square. The boutique is open all year round on Tuesdays until Saturdays from 10h until 17h (Wednesdays are 10h-12h30)
We hope you’ve enjoyed these tips and find them helpful. Got good suggestions? Feel free to share them via Facebook or Instagram.