Every February in Nice, the arrival of spring is heralded with an incredible carnival. It’s a riot of colour, music and dancing - guaranteed to chase the winter blues away…
Nice Carnival is one of the oldest in the world, records as far back as 1294 mention that the Count of Provence enjoyed “joyous days of carnival”. In those days it wasn’t an organised event, more like an unruly street party. However, in 1830, the King and Queen of Sardinia visited Nice and the city council organised the first carnival parade in their honour. As the royal couple sat on their balcony, fine Niçois ladies and gentlemen, dressed in their most elegant costumes, went past in their highly decorated carriages.
That parade was a tremendous success not just with the royals but with the locals in Nice and it was decided to make an annual event of it. In succeeding years, when the king wasn’t present, some of the locals created their own King out of straw and placed the figure on the royal balcony and the carriages when past before it. In 1882, they decided the make-believe King should participate in the procession and so began the Nice Carnival as we know it, always presided over by a gigantic, kingly character.
Each year brings a different king who sets the theme for the entire event. In 2018 the theme is “King of Space”.
For more than two weeks there are parades every day and night. There are marching bands, musical groups, fabulous dancers costumed characters and performers from around the world. Floats galore make their way along the carnival route in the centre of town. It’s a joyous event, full of fun, laughter, loud music and confetti – a truly feel good outing.
In Nice’s Place Massena, it’s beating heart, seating areas are erected for visitors to enjoy great views and watch the amazing floats and street entertainers, some on sky-high stilts. Drums beat, the music is uplifting, there’s lots of noise and lots of laughs, even if you don’t know your neighbours in the seats at the start – you will by the end.
There are also the famous Flower Battles to enjoy during Carnival time. A procession of bloom-covered floats rolls along the Promenade des Anglais, showcasing the huge variety of flowers grown in this region. Each float is manned by beautifully costumed ladies showering the admiring crowd with colourful blossoms – it’s a fabulous sight.
Any thought of winter weather and grey skies is chased away by the usually warm sunshine and deep blue skies.
Nice Carnival 2018 will take place from 17 February to 3 March.
Why not book one of our fabulous holiday rentals in the south of France and banish those winter blues and enjoy a winter break in the sun and a whole of fun at the carnival.
We recommend you book your Nice Carnival tickets in advance, this is one of the most exciting and popular events of the south of France and we don’t want you to be disappointed by not being able to enjoy it.
Tickets via the Nice Tourist Office
French Connections love to make your holiday dreams come true with their tempting range of holiday homes throughout France…
CREDIT: Christophe Hamm, Strasbourg Tourist Office
Pretty much every town in France holds a Christmas market, some are tiny and last a few hours, some are huge and last for several weeks. We take a look at three of our favourite Christmas venues in France 2015, chosen for their fabulous market or in the case of Vaux-le-Vicomte - sheer loveliness.
The oldest and one of the largest Christmas markets in France, the Strasbourg Christmas market has been going since the Middle Ages and spreads throughout the city. With more than 300 stalls, this is the place to buy great arts and crafts – glass paintings, marquetry, music boxes, embroidered tablecloths and earthenware pottery. The food stalls will certainly tempt you with spiced bread, kugelhopf cake, berawecka cake, traditional bredle cakes, mulled wine and, of course, foie gras.
Every year, in Place Kléber, a Christmas tree, reputedly the largest in Europe, is decorated with colourful ornaments and shimmering lights. The city is adorned in its most beautiful finery and the houses are richly decorated. At nightfall, the magic comes alive. The windows light up and the streets and squares, all connected by a network of light, give off their different scents amid sparkling decors. The “Carré d’Or” is especially spectacular, such as the rue des Hallebardes, with its magnificent crystal chandeliers. Throughout December, Strasbourg is the most illuminated city in Europe.
From 24 November to 31 December 2017; for details see the tourist office website: otstrasbourg.fr/en
CREDIT: Carmen Mora, Reims Tourist Office
Champagne is perfect to toast your friends and loved ones at Christmas and Champagne the region is the perfect place to enjoy a traditional Christmas celebration.
The ‘World Nativity Scene Route’ is an astonishing collection of crib scenes of all shapes, sizes, materials, and origin, from hand-knitted scenes to historic hand-carved figures, all with their own unique charm. The cribs are on show throughout December in and around the churches of 46 towns and villages between the coronation city of Reims, Epernay capital of Champagne, Châlons-en-Champagne and the historic town of Fismes.
Many of the towns and villages taking part also have a programme of fabulous Christmas illuminations, festivities and events, such as Christmas markets, exhibitions, and concerts.
The full programme, including the dates and times of the animations, can be found online at www.champagne-ardenne-tourism.co.uk
The Christmas market at Reims is the biggest in the region and amongst the largest in France with 135 chalets offering a range of gourmet products, arts and crafts and creative gift suggestions. What makes this special is that it’s held in the tree-lined, beautifully illuminated and decorated pedestrian streets around Place d’Erlon and offers spectacular views over the city from a Ferris Wheel.
From 23 November to 27 December 2017; more details: www.reims-tourism.com
CREDIT: Daniel Minca, Vaux-le-Vicomte
The Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte is a baroque French château located in Maincy, near Melun, 55 km southeast of Paris in the Seine-et-Marne department of France and at Christmas this truly lovely castle becomes a festive wonderland.
Wander along a tree-lined avenue festooned with lights. Inside this beautiful chateau you’ll find fairy tale decorations and beautiful garlands adorning the lights, chimneys and tables – 8000 decorations to be precise! Crackling fires keep you warm and cosy and pyramids of sweets and chocolate bring out the gourmet in you. In the centre of the Great Hall instead of the usual 8-metre-high tree, there’s even a Ferris Wheel inside the chateau - giving amazing roof top views!
At dusk, the famous gardens, designed by French gardener André le Nôtre, are illuminated and on some nights theatrical events takes place.
From 25 November 2017 to 7 January 2018; check opening times on the website: www.vaux-le-vicomte.com
Enjoy the festive spirit in France – we’ve got loads of fabulous gites, villas and B&Bs, perfect for two, families and friends…
I’d like to take you somewhere special. It’s a place where deep blue Mediterranean skies slowly bake a rocky green landscape in which you’ll find the medieval town of Uzes.
Uzes oozes charm
Perched on the crest of a small mountain, Uzes will have you falling in love with its ancient streets and beautiful pale limestone mansions which glow in the sun that shines around 300 days a year here in the Gard region. The town is picturesque and authentic, sure tourists visit, but not in their droves as they do to some of the more famous towns in the area. Uzes is at the centre of the sunny Arles-Nimes-Avignon triangle yet somehow this designated historic town and Ville d’art feels like a secret.
What to see and do in Uzes
Sit in the medieval square in the shade of thick-leaved plane, olive, and mulberry trees and simply soak up the ambiance. Stroll those ancient streets, through cool stone arches under the watchful eye of three feudal towers and Le Duché, the resident Duke’s castle. Linger in the central Place aux Herbes, especially on market day. Go on a Wednesday or a Saturday and you’ll be bowled over by the sights, sounds, and scents of this vibrant square, teeming with stalls selling every manner of saucisson and bread, cheeses adorned with herbs and petals, delicious local olives, fabulous flowers and much more.
Uzes Flower market, credit French Ventures
Afterwards, take your seat at a pavement table of a local café and watch the life of this little town unfold before your eyes, all packed up and gone by the end of lunch. In the evening the trees in the square are strung with fairy lights, it’s romantic and alluring, and the perfect place for an aperitif.
If you’ve got a sweet tooth don’t miss out on a visit to the Haribo Bonbon Museum in which of course there is a shop to make you lose your senses when you see every shade of sugar-coated sweets.
And there’s plenty to see around and about. A 15-minute drive will bring you to one of the most famous bridges in France, the Pont du Gard, a Roman aqueduct which once carried water to the Roman stronghold Nimes around a 40-minute drive away by car.
The scented Garrigue, the dry herby countryside surrounds Uzes. There are dozens of enchanting little medieval villages clinging to the hills.
Uzes is intoxicating and memorable, but be warned, go once and you’ll yearn to return, it’s the sort of town that dreams are made of.
French Connections has loads of gorgeous holiday homes in and around Uzes – we love making your holiday dreams come true…
There are special days and national celebrations in France almost every month. Some of them are fixed Public Holidays, some are changeable Public Holidays and some are not holidays at all but treated as special days with friends and loved ones, days when traditions are held, dear. There are eleven public holidays in France every year and several more days that are honoured and celebrated nationally.
January 1: New Year’s Day
April 2: Easter Monday
May 1: Labor Day / May Day
May 8: WWII Victory Day
May 10: Ascension Day
May 21: Whit Monday
July 14: Bastille Day (which this year falls on a Saturday – a perfect excuse to enjoy a weekend in France and join in the fun!)
August 15: Assumption of Mary
November 1: All Saints' Day
November 11: Armistice Day
December 25: Christmas Day
March 20: March equinox
March 25: Daylight Saving Time starts
March 30: Good Friday - Local holiday in Alsace and Moselle
April 1: Sunday Easter Day
May 20: Whit Sunday
June 21: June Solstice
September 23: September equinox
October 28: Daylight Saving Time ends
December 21: December Solstice
January 6: Epiphanie: Fête des Rois
It is a tradition is to serve a special cake called “une galette des rois” which contains a porcelain figurine called a fève. The person who finds the hidden fève in their serving is named king or queen for the day and wears the paper crown sold with the galette.
February 2: La Chandeleur – Candlemas
A day when traditionally crèpes are eaten, a great excuse for a pancake feast!
April 1: Poisson d’Avri l – April Fool’s Day
Practical jokes mark this day for the name Poisson d’Avril is that April 1 marks the opening day of fishing season, which was considered a bit of a joke as very few fish were to be caught so early in the season.
May: Nuits des Musées – European Night of Museums
All over France thousands of museums open their doors for one night in an exceptional free opening to the public on the Saturday closest to 18 May. Many of the venues put on music, theatre, games, films and cuisine to tempt the public to venture out in the dead of night and enjoy the collection in a way not normally available.
June 21: Fête de la Musique – Music Festival
A celebration of the longest day of the year (first day of summer). Musicians of all sorts, both professional and amateur, line the streets of Paris and cities, towns and villages all over France to entertain enthusiastic crowds until near dawn with the joyous Fête de la Musique.
Mid-September: Journées Européennes du Patrimoine – European Heritage Days
Hundreds of historical buildings, famous monuments, Government sites and places of interest – some of which are normally closed to the public, open their doors and welcome in visitors
November: Beaujolais Nouveau – Festival of new wine
The new harvest of Beaujolais wine is celebrated on the third Thursday of November, released at the stroke of midnight!
Enjoy a break in France and treat yourself to one of our fabulous rental properties – we’ve got thousands for you to choose from, making your holiday dreams come true…
There’s never a bad time to visit the French Riviera. With lots going on all year round, the sun shines more than 300 days a year and there are loads of gorgeous towns to visit. Autumn and Winter are great seasons to take a break with plenty to do and see, fewer crowds and some much-needed sunshine.
Glitz and glamour sum up what Cannes is all about. Fine dining restaurants, luxury fashion boutiques, casinos, and VIP nightclubs for those with cash to splash.
The place to go shopping for the biggest haute-couture brands and walking in the film stars’ footsteps is La Croisette. Even if you’re not out to buy, the windows of glamorous shops like Dior, Chanel and Bottega Veneta are beautiful to see.
Head to Rue d’Antibes for a whole range of far less expensive shops - from small hatters to high street stores, cheese shops, and patissiers. At the Forville Market, you can find local products and a more authentic feel for the town. Get lost in the winding streets of the old town all the way up the hill to the Castre Museum where you’ll have the most beautiful views over the city and the bay of Cannes.
Everyone’s heard of the Cannes Film Festival – it’s one of France’s landmark annual events. Want to see the cinema where everything takes place? Climb the famous steps where the red carpet welcomes the stars and visit the Palais des Festivals on one of the Tourist Office’s guided tours.
Treat yourself to lunch at Cannes’ highest rated restaurant - the two Michelin star Palme d'Or, located in the Hotel Martinez on La Croisette. The talented chef even makes his own crockery to make sure everything complements the ingredients used. The Croisette et Gourmandise lunch menu is pricey but worth it at around €78.
Finally, hop on a catamaran to visit the Lerins Islands which takes just 15 minutes from Cannes. You’ll discover a whole new atmosphere in these outstanding areas of natural beauty on the Ile Sainte Marguerite and Ile Saint Honorat which belongs entirely to the Monks that reside and produce wine there. There’s also the smaller Ilot Saint Ferreol and Ilot de la Tradeliere to enjoy.
Not far from Cannes, between the Mediterranean Sea and the mountains of the Mercantour National Park, is the colourful and vibrant city of Nice.
The main beach is stony rather than sandy, a place to see and be seen, but drive 20 minutes (or take a bus) around the coast to find sandy beaches perfect for a swim and snorkel in the aquamarine sea.
Place Masséna on the edge of the old town has a beautiful chequered black and white pathway alongside bright terracotta-coloured buildings. As you wander under the azure sky, towards the Promenade with its fresh green palm trees and the unbelievably turquoise sea, the glittering rays of the sun make the colours intense. Walk through the small windy streets of the old town, take a stroll by the harbour with its beautiful yachts or climb the hill to the Chagall Museum.
Explore the daily market of the famous square known as the Cours Saleya. Antiques and flowers plus stands filled with local specialities such as Socca (pancakes and chips made from chickpea – delicious) and Pissaladière an oniony tart, make this a must-see market. You’ll find homemade jams, organic honey, exotic spices, soothing lavender and local arts & crafts – all in the shadow of beautiful lemon and orange coloured buildings.
Nice has its own language, music, and protected traditions and you’ll notice the street signs in both French and Niçois. The sound of local music fills the air and, if you’re lucky, you’ll stumble onto a show by the famous Ciamada Nissarda – Nice’s traditional association in charge of protecting and promoting the town’s rich cultural heritage.
Though there’s something going on year-round, one of the main events is the colourful, vibrant and fabulous Nice Carnival. The whole town takes on a party atmosphere in February to welcome the spring and it's usually warm enough for T-shirts!
Cassis is on the outskirts of the French Riviera. It’s a small town has a lively fishing port overlooked by the amazing Cap Canaille – the highest sea cliff in France. It towers almost 400 metres straight up out of the sea.
It’s the perfect place for a dip and then afterward to enjoy a few drinks in one of the vibrant beachside bars. West of Cassis is the UNESCO listed Massif des Calanques – chiseled white limestone cliffs that are mesmerizingly beautiful. Here, marine valleys have been cut out of the rock, creating miniature fjords and magnificent natural coves. Take a skippered ride or hire a boat to be able to really appreciate the astounding wild beauty of the Calanques from the deep blue waters. Popular for everything from snorkeling to kayaking, to boating and hiking, this park is an incredibly important and beautiful reserve.
We have hundreds and hundreds of beautiful rental properties in the French Riviera – we love to help you make your holiday dreams come true…
Known as the gastronomic capital of France, Lyon is a feast for the eyes, the soul, and the stomach.
It’s a city that’s perfect for culture vultures, a shopper’s delight and in the old town, almost every other building seems to house a restaurant, bakery, wine bar or somewhere to tempt your taste buds.
Get a map from the tourist office which is in Place Bellecour and from where you can take a guided tour on an open top bus. It stops at 13 key sites and you can get on and off as you like, so you can spend time where you want and it saves you the trouble of buying a one-day travel pass and it’s good value.
From Place Bellecour you can take a stroll over Pont Bonaparte, the bridge that crosses the River Saône and leads straight into the Old Town – a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s a place of medieval towers, Renaissance mansions, cobbled streets, amazing restaurants and has a fascinating history. It’s easy to spend several hours here browsing in shop windows and simply enjoying the views and the ambiance.
credited @ Tourist Office Lyon
There are several museums including the huge, recently opened Musée des Confluences located in the newly regenerated docklands area. Its radical design has raised eyebrows but the exhibition of the story of mankind shown through a collection of two million objects is very popular.
You’re bound to come across the word “traboules” in Lyon. These are a network of medieval covered alleyways and stairs in the Croix Rousse district linking courtyards and houses to the river. Lyon was famous for its silk weaving industry (think Marie Antoinette) and the traboules enabled goods to be transported without getting wet.
Cinema fans will enjoy the fascinating museum dedicated to famous residents of Lyon - Auguste and Louis Lumière, the world's first film-makers, located in their former, art deco home.
The city is famous for its annual Festival of Lights, held in Early December in honour of the Virgin Mary who it was said, saved the city from plague in 1643.
Lyon has a sweet tooth so there's plenty of opportunities to take home some luscious memories, Violette & Berlingot is a sugary feast (52, Passage de l'Argue). Bernachon of Lyon is an institution and a must visit for cake lovers (42, cours Franklin Roosevelt).
You might not be so keen on the local specialty, andouilette, a sausage made from offal, it's a bit of an acquired taste.
Where to eat
It’s hard to know where to start in a place that has more restaurants per head than any other town in France - including 14 Michelin star restaurants. Eating out is a passion and hobby for the Lyonnais and there’s a huge choice. Head to the old town to experience Bouchons, traditional Lyon eateries where you’re likely to hear a chef sing and the details reflect restaurants of old and are seriously charming. Fun dining to fine dining, microbreweries, ultra-posh to gourmet burger – this town has it all, and then some.
Les Cordeliers district is also brilliant for restaurants, especially rue de la Monnaie and Rue Mercier. We recommend you try to book in advance because the good restaurants get packed very quickly as the people of Lyon consider dining out as a compulsory hobby!
French Connections have loads of fabulous holiday rentals all over France, making your holiday dreams come true…
Autumn in Alsace
Thinking of a last-minute holiday in France? As owners offer incentives to fill their Autumn weeks, we have some sensational special offers on holiday homes.
You can find big discounts on family villas, exceptional deals for couples at beautiful gites and apartments, and bargain breaks at larger properties for groups and extended families. And, if you’re lucky enough to take a big break, there are some great long let deals – perfect for winter getaways.
Deals are available in great locations all over France. From Normandy to Brittany, the Dordogne, Languedoc-Roussillon, the Alps and the South of France.
An Autumn market
A gite or villa rental offers excellent value, especially at this time of the year. The markets are filled with local and seasonal produce, just perfect for you to cook your own meals with luscious local food and wine in your home from home kitchen. Sipping hot chocolate at a pavement café, watching a rosy hued sunset, the colours of the autumn leaves on trees vibrant as dusk falls – France in Autumn is utterly fabulous.
Autumn in Conques, Aveyron
Search by date on our last-minute availability pages. Find a property you fancy and explore a new area of France. Discover excellent restaurants, historic towns, traditional markets, glorious countryside, rural parks or theme parks to enjoy and enjoy walks on beaches without crowds.
Find lovely long lets that will make you want to va va voom to your extended holiday in France.