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The Beauty of Provence during Winter

January 31, 2018

It was once common for wealthy Brits to spend the winter in the South of France. The French Riviera was one of the first modern resorts, prized initially for its health-giving and restorative effects, then later for its VIP visitors.Beautiful-french-provence-landscapeWinter-provence-snow-france-limestone

 Tourism began at the end of the 18th century and picked up speed with the arrival of the railway in the mid-19th century. Queen Victoria, Rudyard Kipling, Oscar Wilde and Robert Louis Stevenson were among the aristocrats and notables who over-wintered there.Railway-france-cold-winter-provence

 But attention! We’re talking about Nice and the Côte d’Azur. They are well to the east of Provence proper, where the weather is very different.Provence-beautiful-vew-france-winter-cold

 The climate is much more extreme in Western Provence than on the Riviera. It’s hotter in summer and colder in winter, thanks to the Mistral, a fierce, cold, dry wind from the north or north-west which roars down the Rhône Valley towards the coast.lavender-provence-garden-wintersnowy-provence-nature-trees-

 The Mistral can reach speeds of over 90 km / 56 miles an hour, can last for days and is guaranteed to make temperatures plummet. But it is usually accompanied by the kind of bright blue skies and glorious sunshine guaranteed to lift the spirits, despite the cold.provence-landscapeFrench-provence-castles-limestone-winter

When the wind isn’t up, daytime winter temperatures in (for example) Marseille can edge up to 12 degrees Celsius / 53 degrees Fahrenheit – hardly swimming weather but pleasant enough to have lunch outdoors if you can find a sunny, sheltered spot.Limestone-columns-entryway-ancient-surfaces-provence

 It rarely snows in Southern Provence, though it’s highly likely further north in the Luberon and Haute Provence. The main thing to bear in mind is that the weather can change very suddenly.Provence-centre-snow-ice-beautiful-architecture

 When he wrote A Year in Provenceimage!, Peter Mayle was living near Ménerbes in the Luberon. At the beginning of the book he amusingly recalls planning his first swim of the year on a sunny New Year’s Day – only to find his pipes frozen, then burst, within a few hours.provence-during-winter

 The further east you go, the less severe the Mistral. Toulon can be quite mild, while leafy Hyères was a popular winter playground for wealthy Victorians.Provence-Chateau-limestone-limestone-wall-cladding-ancient-surfaces-winter-snow

 La Ciotat, with the stunning, subtropical gardens of the Parc du Mugel, also enjoys a delicious year-round microclimate.french-provencial-provence-castle-chateau-limestone

 If you are planning to rent a car in Provence, please consider our comparison search engine for all grades of hire car from Smarts to 4x4s and limousines.french-provence



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