Nice and the South of France in January
Taking a break in the South of France can be great at any time of the year, however in January the weather is often much better than in northern Europe and it is a lot less crowded than in the summer.
For several years I have spent few days in January in the south of France staying near Antibes. The visits have usually taken place near the end of the month and have always been very lucky with the weather.
Visiting the picturesque village of Villefranche-sur-Mer (located a few kms along the coast to the east of Nice) on a Sunday have seen on the sheltered sandy beach, people in their bathing costumes and other people walking along the road a few metres away wearing fur coats.
Like anywhere there can be exceptional weather conditions, there was thick snow at Antibes on the 24th November 08 and Marseille came to a grinding halt as a result of the snow on the 7th January. Along the coast at Nice it was just wet and windy. Riviera Radio's local French news reported that city authorities were being blamed for the chaos and not being prepared for the bad weather. That sounds similar criticism of local authorities back in England who are often accused of not being prepared!
Last year I went up to Gréolières-les-Neiges which is a small ski resort approximately three quarters of an hour drive from Nice. It was very hot around sixteen degrees in the snow and as you walked along you certainly did not need a jacket. This year although I did not visit the area, apparently the snowfall had been much heavier and for someone wanting to take a ski holiday and many visitors stay closer to the coast and drive up to the resort each day. This means they have the benefit of more choice of accommodation and the towns and beaches along the coast to relax in when not skiing.
The city of Nice is well worth a visit at any time of the year, in January it is ideal for climbing up to the top of Le Château. You can of course take the lift or even drive; however a walk on a mild January day to the top of La Colline du Chateau with the panoramic views of the city, the mountains the sea and the airport in the distance. You can walk around to the other side and look down onto the Port. There are two cemeteries a Roman Catholic and a Jewish one standing side by side. SEE Nice port under restoration - October 2010
The new tram system is now well established. It opened in November 2007 some fifty three years after the old system was closed. The line has been incorporated well into the paving and grass on the streets and offers a very regular service. There is an excellent choice of shops and department stores like Galeries Lafayette.
A visit to the Côte d'Azur would not be complete without a walk from Antibes old town to Cap d'Antibes. Park near the port and walk through the archway into the old town. Walk up to the ramparts and take in the view across to Baie des Anges (the interesting apartments built in a semi circle by the harbour), Nice Airport (Aéroport Nice Côte d'Azur) with the sun setting and walking along the coast past the beaches (The Plage du Ponteil and Le Salis beach ) and start to walk around the Cap. The area is full of expensive property and one such villa was for sale with a For Sale board reflecting the new cliental in the Côte d'Azur. It was written in French, English and Russian.
Left: storm damage at Bordighera
A winter visit to the south of France would not be complete without going across the border into Italy. It takes under an hour to get there via the A8 autoroute and lunch by the sea at Bordighera. This area along the coast suffered a lot during the heavy storms in November with several sea front restaurants being destroyed. Ventimiglia is the first town over the border. There is very large weekly market on a Friday attracting numerous visitors from Italy and over the border from France. The French are also attracted by the supermarkets and drink shops, as the duty of alcholol in Italy is much lower than in France and at the border with Menton there are outlets within ten metres of the border.
Driving back along the coast road in January is a pleasure. It can be very crowded in the summer months, back following the coast via Menton, into Monaco and Nice is great. If you are thinking of going self catering take a look at the selection of holiday homes available at www.jmlvillas.com or www.cotedazurrental.com and of course don't forget your travel insurance particularly if you are skiing from www.jml-insurance.co.uk
Left: Cathedral at Grasse in January
Right: The Hippodrome Nice
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