REBLOGGED from blog at http://www.loumessugo.com
Christmas on the Côte d’Azur is full of fun, often full of good weather and probably a great deal more festive than you might think.
Most towns in the area will have some form of Christmas market, perhaps with a theme, usually only for a day or two and nearly always in the month of December, not before (though there are some exceptions). Here are some of my favourites
Aix-en-Provence: the earliest market in the area. It runs from 19 November – 27 December in the Cours Mirabeau consisting of regular chalet-style stalls selling everything and anything (gift based). There is also a separate market for the traditional 13 desserts of Provence on the 18-24 December in Place François Villon – Les Allées Provençales.
Le Rouret: another November market, this time just for one day on Sunday 29 November. Le Rouret Christmas market is billed as “pure tradition” in the sense of past times/olden days and differs from many others in that it focuses on traditional artisanal crafts with displays of past trades and people dressed up in period costumes. You won’t see much plastic tat here but you will find a lot of lovely produce and live farm animals for children to pet. I’ve written about it in detail here. My advice is to go early, it gets very crowded and parking can be a problem.
Valbonne: one of my favourites, Valbonne Christmas market isn’t a “chalet” market, rather the streets of the old village are filled with market stalls just like every Friday morning but more of them, more christmassy and longer lasting. To get into the Christmas spirit there’s nothing like a wander around this market followed by a drink in the square and a mosey around the seasonal show by the church, town hall and river. Over the last couple of years this has been an incredible display of fire and lights. This year’s programme is not out yet, but it’s sure to be good. The market stays open in the evenings while the shows take place. This year the festivities are from 20-24 December.
Nice: the Christmas market is a classic affair of wooden chalets selling Christmas trinkets, jewellery, food, crafts, clothing and other gifts. It is normally held in Place Massena where you’ll also find the Big Wheel, a children’s area of trampolines and bouncy castles, usually a merry-go-round shaped like a Christmas tree, oyster and champagne bars, vin chaud and a skating rink. (However this year due to the current security issues it will be within the gated section of the Jardin Albert 1er and I’m not sure about the children’s area, best to check online before going and I’ll update when I know). The views from the giant ferris wheel are lovely and the atmosphere is always very festive here. The theme this year is “traditions and folklore” and it runs from 5 December – 4 January.
Monaco: the Christmas market on the port usually has a food theme with plenty of chalets serving delicious seasonal and festive food from around the world. There’s also a big wheel here along with a small fair for children and the wonderful skating rink. The market is open from 4 December – 3 January.
Roquefort les Pins: my town of Roquefort has its own festive celebration showcasing Christmas around the world at its annual “Noëls du Monde”. A quarter of the population of the town is foreign and to honour this countryfolk from places as diverse as Poland, Peru, Holland, Haiti, Australia, Italy, Sweden, UK, Lebanon, New Zealand, South Africa and more come together to share their Christmas traditions with food, crafts and other specialities. This year it takes place on 12 December.
Decorations & Illuminations
Lucéram: one of the highlights of Christmas on the Riviera has got to be visiting the lovely perched village of Lucéram to see the display of hundreds of Nativity scenes (creches/cribs). It’s so very different from regular town Christmas decorations, unique and wonderfully festive. This year the village is decorated from 1 December – 6 January.
Nice: Nice’s Christmas illuminations are always pretty good centering on Place Massena and the water mirror/fountains in the Promenade du Paillon, the streets around Massena, Ave Jean Medecin, Place Garibaldi, the Promenade des Anglais and around Cours Saleya. There’s always a giant Santa opposite Lenval (the children’s hospital) on the Prom for the poor kids in hospital over the festive season to look out at and several large postboxes dotted around town to send Christmas wish lists to Father Christmas.
Shows, pantomimes and carols
The Nutcracker (Casse Noisette) by l’Opéra National de Russie at l’Acropolis Nice, 10 Dec, 8pm
The Nutcracker by The Royal Ballet live cinema screening at CIV cinema 16 Dec, 8.15pm (to find out more about live CINEMA screening and to be in with a chance of winning tiickets click here). Primary school children FREE.
Troïka sur Glace, ice skating show with a Russian theme, Monaco Port, 20 Dec, 5.30pm. FREE.
Valbonne Christmas fireworks and light show – I’m just guessing here and will update as soon as the information becomes available but usually there’s a great spectacle on the lawn between the Mairie and church every evening that the market is on.
Sleeping Beauty panto in English 1st performance 15 Dec Chateauneuf-Grasse then many more shows through December.
Carol Concert by Riviera International Singers, Antibes Cathedral 4 Dec, 7.30pm in aid of the Antibes Lifeboat, and at Valbonne church 10 Dec 8pm + 12 Dec 6pm (Valbonne church has heated pews, this is a luxury I’d never come across before living on the Côte d’Azur!)
Big Blaze Chorus Winter Concert, Holy Trinity Church Cannes 3 Dec, 7pm
Christmas Concert by Sweet Seven, Valbonne church 6 Dec, 5pm.
Skating at outdoor pop-up rinks has become an integral part of Christmas fun in many places around the world and the Côte d’Azur is no exception. My family love the rink at Monaco (the pool on the port is transformed into a rink for 3 months every winter). Skating to the backdrop of sailing boats and super yachts under a bright blue sky in mid-winter is an unbeatable experience! (It’s also rarely crowded, you aren’t limited in time and you don’t have to book.)
Patinoire à ciel ouvert Monaco Port, open every day from 4 Dec – 28 Feb except 20 Dec.
If you want to have a mountain experience, hopefully surrounded by some snow, the pop-up rink in Auronis rather lovely. Open every day from December to the end of March (weather permitting).
Nice Place Massena, 5 Dec – 4 Jan every day from 11am – 8pm (sessions of 90 mins).
If you’re after something typically local to Provence and traditional at Christmas then do take a look at Santons. These are clay figurines that come in many different shapes and sizes from standard Nativity scenes to more original characters from village life. They are used to decorate houses at Christmas time and are available at most Christmas markets and at special fairs “Foire aux Santons” in a number of places. They are highly collectable and make great gifts too.
Here are the dates and locations of some Foires aux Santons on the Côte d’Azur and nearby. The biggest and best is further afield in Marseille.
Mouans-Sartoux 13 Nov – 24 Dec, Mediathèque La Strada
Aix-en-Provence 29 Nov – 30 Dec, Espace Cézanne, Allées Provençales
Valbonne 13 Nov – 24 Dec, Salle paroissiale (church hall) next to St Blaise
For a very thorough programme of festivities in the Alpes-Maritimes check & pay attention to the dates as some information hasn’t been updated for 2015!