Planning a Trip to Southern France

I woke up this morning to a few inches of snow – the first snow of the year in Santa Fe – and realized that we need to start planning our next trip to Europe. We have been talking about spending two months in France in the winter like we did last year in the Cotswolds. This time we will go a bit later, maybe March and April. This keeps us in Santa Fe for the very cold winter, but would get us to a place with an early spring (spring does not come to Santa Fe until May).

I am reading books about France to figure out where we want to go.

  • France (Eyewitness Travel Guides) gives a good tour book overview.
  • Hot Sun, Cool Shadow: Savoring the Food, History, and Mystery of the Languedoc by Angela Murrills convinced me that we do not want to do this vacation in that region. The book tells the story of a family from Vancouver who travel to the Languedoc frequently and then purchase a house. There are great details about the towns and history of the area, but most of the book is about the food and that is mostly meat (or as I like to say “dead animals”). I just reached chapter 9 “Arugula, Nuts and Fungi,” the first non-meat chapter (except for chapter 6 which is about cheese, cheese and more cheese). The meat and cheese-lovers will love this book. I skimmed the food things and read the descriptions of the towns. The area sounds great, but I don’t want to spend an extended vacation in an area that is all about confit. (If anyone wants this book, email me.)
  • Next on my pile is A Month of Sundays, not by John Updike, but by Ira Spector (subtitle – Villa Life in the South of France) about a couple who rent a villa for a month on the coast of Provence (Cote d’Azur).
  • A couple of years ago I read The Olive Farm: A Memoir of Life, Love, and Olive Oil in the South of France by Carol Drinkwater about buying an old farmhouse in the hills above the Cote d’Azur. I remember enjoying the book and thinking it would be a great area for an extended stay. I will read the book again.

A Month or Two in Nice?

I am not finished my research, but I think I have decided on one or two months in Nice. A few months ago I had this strong craving to spend a month in Paris this winter (like my friend Chris did last spring) but I don’t do well in large cities anymore and I think Nice might be a good compromise. Not as large as Paris and not as exciting, but with a better climate and good train access to a lot of places I would like to explore. Paris has more museums, but in the past few years we have tended to avoid museums and touring historic houses in favor of going for a long walk or sitting in a cafe. We went to so many museums in our years traveling to Italy that we are finished with museums. It sounds crass, I know, but we are not art experts or history buffs. We like to go to Europe for the daily life experiences and I think Nice will have plenty of that.

We won’t need to rent a car and can take trains along the coast: into Italy, into the Languedoc or up into other parts of Provence. We can get an apartment with Internet access so we can both work (we are just starting up this new website and will need to attend to it). The weather will be milder and the prices will be lower.

I am looking at local agencies and rent from owner sites and have come up with a short list, but have not contacted anyone yet.

  • Nice Pebbles, an agency based in the UK but it looks like they have offices in Nice with a lot of apartments in Nice. They have more apartments on their other site Riviera Pebbles.
  • Riviera Rentals, local agency with apartments in Nice and other Riviera locations.
  • Holiday-Rentals.co.uk – Nice Apartment, a good looking rent from owner apartment (they advertise on SlowTrav). I will look through more of these rent from owner listings.

If anyone has any advice or recommendations, please post a comment. I am in the very early stages of planning. We are thinking about one month in Nice, then picking up a rental car and driving into Italy – or getting a flight from Nice to Bristol and spending a month in the Cotswolds. This part of the trip planning is fun!

New Nice Resources

Update to the original post. Marta, who knows France well, sent me some excellent new resources for planning this trip. Thanks Marta!

  • Roz (SlowTrav moderator) has photos from her December 2007 trip to Nice.
  • The Trip advisor forum for Nice area is active and has a lot of good information. People ask about apartments and frequently the agency Nice Pebbles is recommended.
  • Here is a good guide for Nice describing the different parts of the town.
  • For hiking, check out the book 26 Gorgeous Hikes on the Western Cote d’Azur by Florence Chatzigianis.  The author runs a website – Azur Alive.
  • It is not hard to be a vegetarian in this area. There is a lot of Italian influence and pasta and pizza is popular. There is an excellent vegetarian restaurant that I didn’t get a chance to go to. La Zucca Magica.
  • Other interesting villages to stay in: Villefranche, Menton, Beaulieu, Antibes. Those are all on the train and bus lines. I wouldn’t get a car if you are in any of the villages along the seaboard. You only need a car if you go inland.

Thanks Marta!

Winter Weather in Nice

I looked up the weather and the average highs and lows are:

January 55/42 – February 55/43 – March 58/46
April 61/49 – May 67/56 – June 74/62
July 79/67 – August 80/68 – September 75/63
October 68/56 – November 61/48 – December 56/43

They get the most rain in October and November.

I found this real estate site that describes the neighborhoods of Nice – Chez Riviera.

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Pauline Kenny

Pauline Kenny and Steve Cohen are US expats living in Dorset. We moved to the UK in 2010. Read about our move. If you would like to talk about travel, please join us on the Slow Europe Travel Forums.

One thought on “Planning a Trip to Southern France”

  1. Pauline, this is exciting! I like the idea of you and Steve in France– in Nice!– for a few months in the winter. I’ll definitely be following your plans.

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