Christmas cards tell stories of snow-covered roofs and children in woolly hats and wellington boots – but the picture on the Cote d’Azur each year looks a little different. Look out of your window here and you’ll see the magic twinkling on the Mediterranean ocean under bright blue skies and warm winter sunshine.
Christmas day begins on the beach in the south of France. Wake up at Parc du Cap and head down to Nice’s Ruhl Plage in your best festive swimwear for an invigorating dip in the sea. If you’re not so fond of the water in winter you might prefer to relax and watch children test-ride their brand new bikes and roller skates on the promenade. Afterwards, when everyone is warm and dry, stop at Le Negresco to wish the merry-go-round horses on the terrace a merry Christmas while you enjoy a celebratory glass of champagne with an oyster or two.
There’s plenty of space for everyone to enjoy Christmas lunch together back home at Parc du Cap, but first it’s time for presents! You’ve probably enjoyed browsing the local Christmas markets for your gifts throughout November and December; or perhaps you’ve been picking out traditional wooden toys in Antibes’ Bonhomme de Bois and exquisite perfumes in Tanagra, Nice’s tranquil haven of scent. Christmas shopping is always a joy on the Riviera.
If you haven’t already visited, Lucéram would be a magical place to spend Christmas afternoon. This beautiful medieval village north of Nice proudly hosts the Circuit des Crèches every day throughout December each year. Follow a trail of 450 sparkling nativity scenes of all shapes and sizes, each as unique as the last, through the quiet, traffic free streets. The displays are carefully constructed of everything from wool and pinecones to bread, and will delight the whole family. Even the village’s old wash-houses and fountains bear floating crèches throughout the season.
For some of us it’s just not Christmas without snow. If that’s you, fear not: at Parc du Cap you’re within just a couple of hours drive of the spectacular ski resorts of the French Alps.
Isola 2000 is one of the largest resorts nearby, and is very popular with families at Christmas. Indeed it’s one of Santa Claus’ favourite stops on Christmas Eve, being the home of Le Decente de Flambeaux. At around half-past 7 the man himself descends the mountain, guided by a long line of bright torches, to meet the crowd gathered in Centreville. The atmosphere when he arrives tossing candy into the air is unbeatable.
Valberg is another wonderful option for families that dream of a white Christmas. It’s not all about skiing here. Lots of families like to spend their time sledding and building snowmen amongst the pine trees before cosying up in a chalet with a hot spiced wine in the afternoon.
We hope that the festive season brings you and your loved ones pure joy this year. From all of us at Parc du Cap: Joyeux Nöel.
See more from our Life.Style journal and keep up with the region’s sparkling calendar of festivals and events here.