October is one of the best times to visit the South of France, and it’s one of my favourite times of year living here, despite not being an autumn person. Let’s be very British about this and start by discussing the weather! You can’t mention the South of France and October and not mention the weather. Basically it’s usually lovely. The month starts off with average temperatures of around 22°c and finishes around 17°c with an average of 6 hours sunshine a day. There can be rain but it’s usually not persistent, though it can be dramatic and intense for a day or two. However, official averages don’t really give a feeling of just how lovely those figures feel in what is normally considered an autumnal month.
When I think back on all the Octobers we’ve spent here (this will be our 8th) I think of days on the beach, walks in the mountains, warm days and cool nights. My birthday is in early October and we have always eaten outside on the actual day. The weather on my 40th birthday was truly divine, I’m sure my friends who celebrated with me will agree. Please let’s hope I don’t jinx it this year by being so confident!
The Toussaint school holidays, a two week break from studies, start around the 20th of the month and we often have visitors from England or northern France. Looking back over photos of their visits we are swimming in the sea, wearing shorts and t-shirts, eating al fresco and still looking very summery. I’m not remembering wrong, all the photos in this post are taken in October.
Owing to the fine weather the leaves stay on the trees longer and it’s only by the end of the month that they are beginning to fall. Autumn colours can be seen in the form of berries on hawthorns, cotoneasters and arbousiers but forests stay predominantly green. Markets sell pumpkins, chestnuts and mushrooms, but continue to provide tomatoes, aubergines and peppers well into the month. The thing is, while I know autumn is many people’s favourite time of year, it isn’t mine! I’m a summer person and above all a sunshine person. I need sun, I love light! I don’t hate cold, many of my favourite places are distinctively cold, but I find autumn a little mournful and prefer the optimism of spring and the joy of summer. So seeing as October in the South of France isn’t really autumnal, it’s more “Indian summer”, that’s just fine by me.
October is a great time for cycling and walking. During the high season from June through September it can be too hot to go on long bike rides or hikes, but October temperatures are usually perfect. The days are still long enough to get maximum distance in, heading into the mountains, further afield and still returning in daylight. One of the beauties of living where we do is our proximity to the Southern Alps. We often go for picnics in the mountains where by the end of the month there is sometimes a little bit of snow. One time the kids made a snowman while out for the day in what was for our guests, coming from Yorkshire, for all intents and purposes a summer’s day.
It goes without saying that the summer crowds have long gone from the beaches, restaurants and cultural sites making it easy to park, stroll around tiny hilltop villages and get a table at a restaurant. The craziness of the rentrée is over too and in its place are a few local village fêtes and cultural events. October is the month of an important book fair and the quirky fête de la courge while local vineyards celebrate their harvests. But overall October is a calm month without sooooo much going on that you feel permanently rushed off your feet trying to keep up or guilty at not having made it to yet another event. For me it’s a time just to relax and savour the last of the warm days, to swim in the sea and linger over long lunches outdoors, to walk and explore nearly empty villages and forest trails. It may be October but summer isn’t over!
I don’t know how anyone could not like this time of year on the Côte d’Azur, it offers the best of everything. Do you like to cling on to summer for as long as possible or are you an autumn person? Would you like to visit at this time of year?
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