France and festivals go hand in hand.
There’s the Festival of Avignon, Bastille day, Cannes film festival, the operatic Chorégies d’Orange in the city of Orange, and the magnificent festival of lights during Christmas time in Lyon. From history to movies to opera to, well, citrus fruits, France likes a good festival.
On the south coast, along the glorious golden sands of the Mediterranean Riviera, there are two well-known festivals that we think stand out from the crowd: The Nice Carnaval and the Menton Lemon Festival.
Carnaval de Nice: a little backstory
The Nice Carnaval has been in production for centuries, and it is considered one of the world’s major carnaval events alongside the Rio de Janeiro and Venice Carnaval. Held every February, the carnaval is home to a wondrous collection of parades including light parades, flower parades and music parades.
The first reference of a carnaval in Nice was in 1294, when the Count of Provence and King of Sicily, Charles Anjou, mentioned the ‘joyful days of the carnaval’ during a stay in the city. But it wasn’t until 1873, when Andriot Saetone of Nice decided to found the ‘Committee of Festivities’, that the carnaval first entered the city.
Today, Carnaval de Nice attracts more than a million visitors across the winter solstice period and visitors from all across the globe come to witness the mayhem and glory.
Here are 4 things we love about the Carnaval de Nice.
1. It’s themed
It’s tricky to make something truly unique after a time period as long as a century. But by theming the Nice Carnaval, the organisers have managed to keep things fresh and exciting, year after year. The one rule is: Every theme must be chosen for the King to preside over the parade. Previous themes have included:
- 2009: King of the Mascarades
- 2010: King of the Blue Planet
- 2011: King of the Mediterranean Sea
- 2012: King of Sport
- 2013: King of the Five Continents
- 2014: King of Gastronomy
- 2015: King of Music
- 2016: King of the Medias
- 2017: King of Energy
- 2018: King of Space
- 2019: King of Cinema
You better find your best pair of shoes in 2020, because the theme is ‘King of Fashion’.
2. Epic flower battles
Yes, that’s right. Epic flower battles.
By the sea along the famous Promenade des Anglais, flower floats throw bunches of locally sourced flowers into the encaptivated crowd in true splendour. Thousands of beautiful bundles are launched to the eager parade-goers, encapsulating their senses and lifting their parade spirit. Of all the things to be thrown, a bountiful blossom of blooming bunches is by far the best.
3. You can gain free entry to areas if you dress up
If you’re a true carny and you dress up for the occasion, you could find yourself getting free access to certain areas of the festival.
Unfortunately, a simple hat or floral shirt won’t cut it. You’ve really got to dress to impress in a head-to-toe outfit that keeps you standing out from the crowd.
Of course (and we shouldn’t have to say it really), but certain costumes are prohibited at the festival. Helmets, disguises and weapons are a no go, so choose your costume wisely to be in for a chance to save on some dosh.
4. Visit Nice in all its glory
Winter can be a treacherous time.
It’s often dark, gloomy and wet, and sometimes you can feel like the only person in the city when everyone is cosied up indoors. But a February winter along the southern coast of France could be just the remedy you need, and the Carnaval de Nice brings with it a lively, optimistic vibe that will help you through until Spring.
And if one festival wasn’t enough for you, you could always hop, skip and jump along the coast to Menton and attend the Lemon festival, too, which occurs at the same time of year.
Aren’t you lucky?
History of the Lemon Festival
40 minutes up the coast of Nice lies the small town of Menton. With a population fewer than 30,000, Menton isn’t a major city, and given its proximity along the French Riviera – which is home to Cannes, Nice and Monaco – it’s got a lot of competing to do.
But, when the dawn of winter comes, and the sun begins to shine once again along the horizon of the Mediterranean, it outcompetes all other spots along the Riviera, and for one good reason: The Menton Lemon festival.
The Menton Lemon festival takes place between mid-February and early March, attracting roughly more than 230,000 people from all across the world. Marching parades fill the streets, masked dancers bring finesse and flair, and almost every building, bank and street corner is covered with the glorious yellow. It takes a staggering 150 tons of oranges and lemons to create.
Here’s what we love about it.
1. The golden fruit parade
Anything that celebrates food is a win in our books. Every Sunday afternoon, colourful citrus fruit floats glide along the Promenade du Soleil, along with musicians, dancers and lots and lots of confetti.
2. It’s the warmest winter in Southern France
Menton is the last town before the Italian border, and because it is located by the Alps, it is protected from colder winds and the usual winter weather. Consequently, Menton is home to the warmest winter in the South of France.
3. Celebrating what it knows best
Menton used to be Europe’s largest lemon producer, but since the 1930s, production has been in steady decline. That is until 15 citrus growers from Menton decided to preserve and revitalise the tradition. Today, 5000 lemon trees produce more than 150 tonnes of lemons each and every year.
4. They’re just so yellow
There are many varieties of lemon, and many of them are grown in the Menton region. There’s the Santa Theresa, the Villafranca, the Eureka! The list goes on.
But, because of Menton’s land and location, lemons grown here are rich in acid and essence, containing a high essential oil content. That makes them the yellowest lemons in all the land… probably.
Nice and Menton: Where to stay
Given the massive influx of tourists to Nice and Menton each year, finding a comfortable, relaxing and cosy spot in the city to call your own can be a real challenge (especially when lemons literally line the streets…).
But searching for an apartment shouldn’t be cumbersome, and you shouldn’t have to ‘settle’ for a place less than what you deserve when holidaying in the French Riviera. You should be living lavishly and being spontaneous. You should be soaking in that winter warmth – think of the flowers, and those lemons!
To find the right place for you, contact us here.
Equally, if you want to know more about Nice, Menton and even Paris, be sure to read our blog.