I am a hopeless Francophile, my husband joined me when we married 14 years ago. Any excuse within reason (and a decent airfare from Arizona) and we are on a plane headed to France, especially the Côte d’ Azur. The turquoise sea, rocky cliffs, dazzling sunshine, friendly people, incredible food and wine, it’s sheer bliss. It’s one of the easiest areas to navigate by foot, car or train (trains run frequently, are inexpensive and offer a view of the Med).
February—The perfect time to visit the south of France
While anytime is ideal to visit, (okay, maybe not August) if you must narrow it down, choose February. It’s usually mild with temperatures in the 50s or 60s, sunny, and less crowded, making it easier to get into that restaurant you’ve been eyeing (my husband appreciates that) or that cute shop (I appreciate that). The best reason to visit in February though, are the festivals: Carnaval de Nice and the Fête du Citron in Menton. Both festivals are delightful. The workmanship and detail that go into creating the floats and life size stationary displays will leave you speechless. With yearly themes, the festivals are always ‘new’ and fun.
After spending several days (and nights) alternating between Carnival and the Fête du Citron we are ready to spend a quiet day in Antibes visiting the flea market and wandering the old town and marina. Little did we know, Antibes has its own festival in February.
A fast train to Antibes
Fifteen minutes after boarding the train in Nice, we arrived in Antibes. By 8:30, I was maneuvering between the many market vendors searching for vintage linen while my husband was basking in the sun with a café. With a lighter wallet and several bags in hand, we walked toward the center of town where a large group of people were gathering. That’s when we noticed the sign, ‘Pain, Amour et Chocolat’ and that day was the first day of the festival for Valentine’s Day.
Bread, Love and Chocolate—with a name like that it has to be fun
Italian flags were flapping in the wind (which was a bit confusing since we were in France). Proud proprietors stood in front of their tents, their wares artfully displayed waiting for the crowd to arrive. I was anxious to meander but first the festival had to be officially opened with a ribbon cutting ceremony. After a short speech, the officials cut the tricolor ribbon and announced the festival was open to all.
The festival is free unlike the Carnaval de Nice and the Fête du Citron. It is designed to promote the best of Italian and French foods (bread, chocolate, meats, and sweets) as well as artisan crafts.There’s music, Italian with a French twist, food and wine tastings, and activities for the younger crowd. After sampling, we purchased pain and chocolat (along with cheese, meat and wine for an impromptu picnic). The amour, well, we provided that.
Philosopher Martin Buber once said, “All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” We thought we were heading to Antibes to spend a quiet day, instead we stumbled upon a little bit of Italy in one of the most beautiful cities in the South of France.
Pain, Amour et Chocolat 2018 is February 14th to February 18th. Hours: 10 – 19 (7 pm)
Barb Harmon is a freelance travel writer and hopeless Francophile. She and her husband are looking forward to living the good life in France (fingers crossed). She blogs at www.chasingthenextchapter.com