Spring, or printemps, is an ideal time of the year to visit the French Riviera where people are feeling invigorated with the start of longer days after daylight savings moved the clocks forward the last Sunday in March.
Yachts are preparing ahead for the busy Mediterranean season, with many crossing back from the Caribbean, and the last remnants of winter in the south are slowly fading with dusk.
Spring on the French Riviera
The French Riviera had origins as a winter resort, where convalescing patients would stay for the health benefits of the mild climate, and aristocrats would visit to forget the grey skies of the northern winter. Almost one hundred years ago, luxury yachts were not common place here with the preferred transport being trains especially the Paris-Lyon-Méditerranée (PLM) expresses.
The PLM launched their first-class-only service to the French Riviera in 1922 and Le Train Bleu opened up the region and brought with it distinguished passengers over the years including Winston Churchill, Charlie Chaplin, Coco Chanel, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Somerset Maugham.
The attractions of good weather and sunny skies flipped the coin for the French Riviera as hotels began to extend their season to cater for wealthy visitors – Gerald and Sara Murphy convinced the Hôtel du Cap-Eden-Roc to stay open in summer, and Coco Chanel startled everyone with her suntan when she stepped ashore in Cannes in 1923 from Flying Cloud, the yacht belonging to Hugh Grosvenor, the Second Duke of Westminster.
Today, the French Riviera’s popularity continues – it’s a great destination to charter a luxury yacht year round and while summer is often handed the glory of ‘best time of the year to visit’, spring is just as ideal with less traffic than summer, luxury hotels having off-season specials, attractions reopening after Easter and clear, crisp days perfect for cruising the Mediterranean coast.
Here’s 5 Reasons Why Spring Is Ideal for Yacht Charters:
The Riviera Climate
Winter is usually mild and while there is still snow on the Alps and occasional short bursts of spring rain, less frequent bouts of the mistral winds signal the climate starting to change for the better. You’ll visibly see people coveting the spring sunshine and clinking their glasses of wine or pastis on café terraces; it also heralds the start of al fresco dining on the aft deck.
The French Riviera has a busy events calendar every year, however spring is jam-packed with excellent traditional, cultural or sporting events.
Be wary of peak travel times during Zone B Easter school holidays (02-16 April) or the many bank holiday dates in May (01, 05, 08, 15, 16 May) – outside of these dates enjoying any of these events ashore is a fantastic thing to do. Some of the top springtime events on the French Riviera are:
- MIPTV – 04-07 April, Cannes
- Monte-Carlo Spring Arts Festival – Until 10 April, Monaco
- Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters – 09-17 April, Monaco
- Antibes Art Fair (Antiquités & Art Moderne) – 16 April-02 May, Antibes
- Semi-Marathon International of Nice – 23-24 April, Nice
- Antibes Celebrates Yachting – date TBA, Antibes
- Cannes Film Festival – 11-22 May, Cannes
- Cannes Critics Week – 12-20 May, Cannes
- Grand Prix de Monaco Historique – 13-15 May, Monaco
- Bravades de Saint-Tropez – 16-18 May, Saint-Tropez
- Nuit Européenne des Musées – 21 May, Various locations
- Monaco F1 GP – 26-29 May, Monaco
Queen Victoria visited the French Riviera in the late 19th century and was instantly smitten with ‘the sunny, flowery south’; many species of a botanical nature can be found here growing not far from the marinas.
It’s no wonder Van Gogh painted the almond blossoms of Provence because spring brings the south of France to life in a palette of hues and scent; perched villages with purple-flowering wisteria climbing the height of stone churches, alpine wildflowers unfurl after winter frosts, the maquis and garrigue on the coast burst forth with rock roses, broom, rosemary and thyme.
Some of the prettiest gardens to explore on shore during spring are the Princess Grace Rose Garden in Monaco, the marvellous gardens of Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild at Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, the Botanic Garden in Nice, the International Perfume Museum Gardens in Mouans-Sartoux and the many public gardens in Menton.
Spring is excellent for outdoor activities as there is no summer heat or humidity, less crowds and no park closures because of fire risks. Yacht charter guests can head ashore to enjoy quieter hiking paths, almost deserted mountain bike trails, and golf without queues at the tee off.
Food and Wine
Say au revoir to daube (beef stew) and end-of-season sea urchins with your glass of Cassis, as restaurant menus emerge that highlight the terroir of Provençal food and start to feature the freshness and lighter delicacies you miss over winter with a few opened bottles of rosé to welcome the sun!
Most ports and marinas on the French Riviera are within close proximity to local food markets which are fabulous year round, but spring capitalises on the changing season and the gorgeous regional produce piled on the market stalls gives anyone a good reason to fill their basket with flavour – look for spring asparagus, artichokes, Cavaillon melon, cherries, and the small strawberries from Carpentras.
This article was written by Rebecca Whitlocke, who with over 10 years travel industry experience loves to share ‘must-do’ destination tips and hidden spots to discover in France and beyond.
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