A lot of people say there’s nothing like Paris in the springtime…and they’d be right. But what they’re forgetting is that there’s nothing like it in the fall or winter either. Picture yourself in a cozy apartment overlooking the City of Light, or celebrating New Year’s Eve with the extended family at a sprawling estate in the countryside.
Summer in Europe’s most popular destinations can be overcrowded and overpriced. Not only are low and shoulder seasons far less expensive and hectic, but they’re the best times to live like a local, since they’re when the locals are actually there. Renting a home also helps you achieve that elusive goal of keeping every single member of the family happy.
So stop waiting until summer to take your European vacation. Think French villa rentals and think now. Here are nifty ideas for fall and winter escapes specifically to France—and the gorgeous vacation rentals that are still available there, via our Trusted Travel Expert for France Villa Vacations, Annie Flogaus of Just France. Here are some of her picks:
Thanksgiving on the Riviera
Start a new family tradition by spending Thanksgiving on the French Riviera. Settle the group in at Villa Voile Blanche (it can fit up to ten people), and then hang out by the pool or by the grand piano until it’s time for your feast. “This is a great location, with views toward the Bay of Cannes, the restaurants and galleries of Mougins at your feet, and Cannes just 20 minutes down the motorway,” says Annie.
Christmas/New Year’s in a Paris Apartment
“They don’t call it the City of Light for nothing!,” says Annie. “Paris is especially luminous at holiday time, and the atmosphere is charged as people prepare for family celebrations. While it can be cold and damp, it’s a lot warmer than New York City in December! There are more than enough cafés and salons de thé where you can pop in for a quick warm-up as needed. Though some restaurants are closed on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, many restaurants offer special menus for New Year’s Eve. Should you be lucky enough to witness a snowfall, seeing the unforgettable monuments under a light coating will add another dimension to the stay. Quai de Montebello is a gorgeous property for a couple and has a view of Notre Dame. Square de la Tour Maubourg and Rue du Four are great for families. All have availability for the Christmas/New Year’s period at the moment.”
Spring Break near Dijon
“Our Burgundy properties center around Cluny and Beaune, to the south of Dijon, but are still an easy train ride from Paris. There is a daily TGV to Macon, and Chateau des Arts is less than 30 minutes away at Cluny, within walking distance of the vibrant and historic town. Burgundy has some of the greatest vineyards in the world but it’s not just about wine—there is horseback riding, tennis and cycling, churches and museums, and more than a smattering of excellent restaurants in the cute towns and villages that dot the pastoral countryside. When we visited our nine-bedroom Chateau des Arts again this past spring, it was 75 degrees in mid-April, so having an Easter gathering that involves setting up tents for a big outdoor lunch is a definite possibility.”
Easter or Thanksgiving in Southwest France
“Passing time before a roaring fire with a platter of local foie gras, crunchy bread, and bottle of Cahors red sounds pretty good to me! You’d have the same benefit as on the Riviera—in the Dordogne the river roads get quite congested in the summer months. But in the off season you can explore the castles along the river at will, and the unbelievably scenic towns like La Roque Gageac are all yours.”
Easter on the Riviera
“With a preponderance of sunny days, al fresco lunches will often be possible at this time of year. And the captivating art museums of the region, which can be on the verge of being overrun in the summer months, are yours to explore. Hire a chef to make an Easter feast. Villa Grande Paix would be a perfect choice for an extended family or group of couples.”