Coming to visit and to stay in France awhile is always a good idea, but first do your homework on climate and weather. France has several totally different climates, from the warm and mild Mediterranean in the South, to the “temperate” North and continental climates in the center and East.
Pictures of bikini (or much less) clad nymphs frolicking on the beaches, sun soaked lavender fields in the Luberon and serried rows of vines magicing sunshine into wine are typical of the South in summer, but in winter (from mid November ’till March), you will always need a home with good heating everywhere in France.
Here in the South of France we do not expect snow and ice in winter months, we do occasionally see an early morning frost and even more rarely a sprinkling of snow (the last was in March 2010 and it lasted until 9:30 in the morning when it vanished in the sunshine), but not enough to damage the lemon and banana trees or the mimosa in our garden, however, the log fire and our super central heating is something we would miss and not to have these would make life very unpleasant.
It is hard to realise this in summer when the massive stone walls of our home keep out the heat, ceiling fans are soothing and the air conditioning in our guest rooms is gratefully received. But winter definitely needs heating, even in the south of France.
Holiday home, perfect for summer breaks, is usually uninhabitable in winter. Most are village houses which were only ever used in summer months as accommodation for the temporary workers on the land.
When we bought our first home in France in the village of Nizas sixteen years ago, the previous owner took us out into the countryside and showed us where we could cut wood and which trees we were allowed for to take for firewood from his land. He assumed that we would need a lot of wood to keep the numerous fireplaces going for the winter and was sorry for us that we had not bought about ten acres of woodland to keep us warm. We thought this was quaint at first, but soon found the truth.
By the end of our first winter I had acquired an ancient truck and was adept at driving through muddy fields in my search for wood for the fires. I also became expert at renovating old stoves and fitting steel chimneys into our home. Even now, with full central heating, back-up radiators and reversible heat pumps, Carole and I fill our car with old vines every time we walk our dogs, but this is for the joy of a living open fire in the evenings and it is not essential to heat our home.
We always have winter guests staying with us in Villa Roquette and we know that good heating is vitally important. But many visitors do not realise this and will rent, unseen, a summer holiday home get away from colder climes in Winter and to enjoy our Mediterranean sunshine.
We do get a lot of sun in the South of France, over three hundred days a year on average are sunny in our region of Languedoc, but that still leaves over sixty days with grey skies, mostly from October to April and chilly nights and mornings when a blazing fire and a warm radiator is very welcome.
The South of france is a wonderful place to migrate to in winter, but make sure you have a warm and comfortable nest to stay in.